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Roger Scruton é sem dúvida um dos mais proficuos intelectuais da atualidade, sua obra cresce

vestiginosaemnte, de modo a fazê-la quase insuperável.

O FIM DA UNIVERSIDADE

As universidades existem para prover os estudantes com o conhecimento, a habilidade e a


cultura que irá prepará-los para a vida, enquanto reforçam o capital intelectual sobre o qual todos
nós dependemos. Evidentemente, os dois propósitos são distintos. Um diz respeito ao crescimento
do individuo, o outro, a nossa compartilhada necessidade por conhecimento. Mas eles também estão
entrelaçados, de modo que o prejuízo de um dos propósitos, seja o prejuízo do outro. É isto que nós
estamos vendo agora, como nossas universidades se voltam cada vez mais contra a cultura que as
criou, e escondendo isto dos jovens.

Os anos gastos na universidade pertencem aos ritos de iniciação estudado pelos antropólogos
vitorianos, nos quais, aqueles nascem dentro de uma tribo e assumem o compromisso de perpetuá-la.
Se nós perdermos isto de vista, a mim parece que, nós estamos em perigo de separar a universidade
de seu objetivo moral e social, que é aquele of handing on both uma reserva de conhecimento e
cultura que dá sentido a isto.

Este propósito tem sido central para a tradição educacional que criou a civilização ocidental. A
Paideia grega considerou o cultivo da civilidade como a parte central do currículo. A prática
religiosa e a educação moral permaneceram uma parte fundamental dos estudos universitários ao
longo da Idade Média, e o ideal renascentista do virtuoso foi a inspiração para o despontar da studia
humaniores. A universidade que emergiu do iluminismo não relaxou o reino moral, mas considerou
a acadêmia como um disciplinado modo de vida, cujas regras e procedimentos colocavam-se a parte
dos negócios cotidianos. Entretanto, isto desde aqueles negóciso cotidianos com a perspectiva de
longo prazo sem os quais nenhuma atividade humana faz sentido provided those everyday affairs
with the long-term perspective without which no human activity makes proprio sentido. Mesmo a
alvoraçada vida de estudante das universidades alemães durante o século XIX, quando, was
contained within formal uniform codes of behavior and collegiate domesticity and devoted to that
peculiar synthesis of moral discipline, factual knowledge, and cultural competence that the Germans
know as Bildung. o duelo tornou-se parte da cultura universitária, estava contido em códigos
uniformes de comportamento e domesticidade colegiada e dedicado a essa síntese peculiar de
disciplina moral, conhecimento factual e competência cultural que os alemães conhecem como
Bildung.

Durante o curso do século XIX, entretanto, as universidades sofreram uma rápida mudança em sua
recepção publica. O declínio do modo de vida religiosa, o despontar das classes médias eager for
social status and political power, e as demandas pela conhecimento e habilidades exigidas por uma
economia industrial all put pressure on the universities to change their curriculum, their recruitment
of students and teachers, and their relation to the surrounding culture. Novas universidades foram
fundadas na América e Britania, uma delas — University College London, dating from 1826 —
com um currículo explicitamente secular, designed to produce scientific minds that would sweep
away the theological cobwebs in which all university subjects had previously been wrapped.
Todos pressionam as universidades para que mudem seu currículo, seu recrutamento de estudantes e
professores e sua relação com a cultura circundante. Novas universidades foram fundadas na
América e Britania, uma delas - University College London, datadas de 1826 - com um currículo
explicitamente secular, destinadas a produzir mentes científicas que varreriam as teias teológicas em
que todos os assuntos universitários já haviam sido embrulhados.

Apesar destas mudanças, entretanto, que forçou as instituições educacionais para uma nova
consciência de sua missão, a universidade conservava seu status como uma guardiã da alta cultura.
Isto foi um lugar onde o pensamento especulativo, investigação crítica, e o estudo de livros
importantes It was a place where speculative thinking, critical inquiry, and the study of important
books and languages were all maintained in an atmosphere of studious isolation. Quando o Cardeal
Newman escreveu The Idea of a University em 1852, it was largely to uphold the old conception of
the university, as a place apart, a quasi-monastic precinct opposed to the utilitarian mindset of the
new manufacturing society. Para Newman, uma universidade existe para moldar o caráters daqueles
que who attend it. Immersing its students in a collegiate environment, and impressing on them an
ideal of the educated mind, helps to turn raw human beings into gentlemen.

This, Newman implied, is the true social function of the university. Within college walls the
adolescent is granted a vision of the ends of life; and he takes from the university the one thing that
the world does not provide, which is a conception of intrinsic value. And that is why the university
is so important in an age of commerce and industry, when the utilitarian temptation besieges us on
every side, and when we are in danger of making every purpose a material one—in other words, as
Newman saw it, in danger of allowing the means to swallow the ends.
Isso, segundo Newman, é a verdadeira função social da universidade. Nas paredes da faculdade, o
adolescente recebe uma visão dos fins da vida; e ele tira da universidade a única coisa que o mundo
não fornece, que é uma concepção do valor intrínseco. E é por isso que a universidade é tão
importante na era do comércio e da indústria, quando a tentação utilitária nos assemelha de todos os
lados, e quando corremos o perigo de tornar cada propósito um material - em outras palavras, como
Newman viu, em perigo de permitir o meio de engolir as extremidades.

Much has changed since Newman’s day. To suggest that universities are engaged in producing
gentlemen is more than faintly ridiculous in an age when most students are women. Newman’s ideal
university was modeled on the actual universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Trinity College,
Dublin, which at the time admitted only men, did not permit their resident scholars to marry, and
were maintained as quasi-religious institutions within the fold of the Anglican Church. Their
undergraduates were recruited largely from the private schools, and their curriculum was solidly
based in Latin, Greek, theology, and mathematics. Their domestic life revolved around the college,
where dons and undergraduates had their living quarters, and where they dined together each
evening in hall, robed in their academic gowns.

Somente uma pequena proporção daqueles que attended as velhas universidades britânicas dos dias
de Newman consideravam o estudo como o proposito real do ser “up” na alma mater. Some were
there to row or play rugby; some were biding time before inheriting a title; some were on their way
to commissions in the army, and were meanwhile rioting with their chums. Almost all were
members of a social elite that had hit on this unique way of perpetuating itself, by coating its power
with a veneer of high culture. And in this protected and beautiful environment you could also take
culture seriously. With money in the bank and time on your hands, it was not so hard to turn your
back on utilitarian values.

Today’s university differs from Cardinal Newman’s in almost every respect. It recruits from all
classes of society, is open equally to men and to women, and is very often financed and provisioned
by the state. Little if anything remains of the poised domestic life that shaped the soul of Newman,
and the curriculum centers not on sublime and purposeless subjects like ancient Greek, in which
there hovers the entrancing vision of a life beyond commerce, but on sciences, vocational
disciplines, and the now ubiquitous “business studies” through which students supposedly learn the
ways of the world.
Moreover, universities have expanded to offer their services to an ever-increasing proportion of the
population, and to absorb an ever-growing amount of the national budget. In the state of
Massachusetts, university education has the largest revenue of any industry. There is at least one
university in every major British or American city, and American state universities may have, at any
one time, upward of 50,000 students. Higher education is offered as a right to all who pass the
French baccalauréat or the German Feststellungsprüfung, and European politicians often speak as
though the work of educational reform will not be complete until every child is able in due time to
become a graduate. The university is no longer in the business of creating a social elite, but in the
rival business of ensuring that elites are a thing of the past.

Under the pretense of providing a “purpose beyond purpose,” its critics might say, the university
extolled by Newman was designed to protect the privileges of an existing upper class and to place
obstacles before the advance of its competitors. It imparted futile skills, which were esteemed
precisely for their futility, since this made them into a badge of membership that only a few could
afford. And far from advancing the fund of knowledge, it existed to safeguard the sacred myths: It
placed a protective wall of enchantment around the religion, the social values, and the high culture
of the past, and pretended that the recondite skills required to enjoy this enchantment—Latin and
Greek, for example—were the highest forms of knowledge. In short, the Newmanite university was
an instrument for the perpetuation of a leisure class. The culture that it passed on was not the
property of the whole community but merely an ideological tool, through which the powers and
privileges of the existing order were endowed with their aura of legitimacy.

Now, by contrast, we have universities dedicated to the growth of knowledge, which are not merely
non-elitist but anti-elitist in their social structure. They make no discrimination on grounds of
religion, sex, race, or class. They are places of open-minded research and questioning, places
without dogmatic commitments, whose purpose is to advance knowledge through a spirit of free
inquiry. This spirit is imparted to their students, who have the widest possible choice of curriculum
and acquire knowledge that is not merely firmly grounded but eminently useful in their future lives:
business administration, for example, hotel management, or international relations. In short, the
universities have evolved from socially exclusive clubs, for the study of precious futilities, to
socially inclusive training centers, for the propagation of needed skills. And the culture that they
impart is that not of a privileged elite but of an “inclusive culture” that anyone can acquire and
enjoy.
That said, however, a visitor to the American university today is more likely to be struck by the
indigenous varieties of censorship than by any atmosphere of free inquiry. It is true that Americans
live in a tolerant society. But they also breed vigilant guardians, keen to detect and extirpate the first
signs of “prejudice” among the young. And these guardians have an innate tendency to gravitate to
the universities, where the very freedom of the curriculum, and its openness to innovation, provide
them with an opportunity to exercise their censorious passions. Books are put on or struck off the
syllabus on grounds of their political correctness; speech codes and counseling services police the
language and thought of both students and teachers; courses are designed to impart ideological
conformity, and students are often penalized for having drawn some heretical conclusion about the
leading issues of the day. In sensitive areas, such as race, sex, and the mysterious thing called
“gender,” censorship is overtly directed not only at students but also at any teacher, however
impartial and scrupulous, who comes up with the wrong conclusions.

Of course, the culture of the West remains the primary object of study in humanities departments.
However, the purpose is not to instill that culture but to repudiate it—to examine it for all the ways
in which it sins against the egalitarian worldview. The Marxist theory of ideology, or some feminist,
poststructuralist, or Foucauldian descendent of it, will be summoned in proof of the view that the
precious achievements of our culture owe their status to the power that speaks through them, and
that they are therefore of no intrinsic worth. To put it another way: The old curriculum, which
Newman saw as an end in itself, has been demoted to a means. That old curriculum existed, we are
told, in order to maintain the hierarchies and distinctions, the forms of exclusion and domination
that maintained a ruling elite. Studies in the humanities are now designed to prove this—to show
the way in which, through its images, stories, and beliefs, through its works of art, its music, and its
language, the culture of the West has no deeper meaning than the power that it served to perpetuate.
In this way the whole idea of our inherited culture as an autonomous sphere of moral knowledge,
and one that it requires learning, scholarship, and immersion to enhance and retain, is cast to the
winds. The university, instead of transmitting culture, exists to deconstruct it, to remove its “aura,”
and to leave the student, after four years of intellectual dissipation, with the view that anything goes
and nothing matters.

The impression therefore arises that, outside the hard sciences, there is no received body of
knowledge, and nothing to learn, save doctrinal attitudes. In The Closing of the American Mind,
Allan Bloom lamented the languid relativism that had infected the humanities—the belief, shared
by students and teachers alike, that there are no universal values, and that we study merely out of
curiosity the works that have come down to us. If we remain indifferent to the moral challenge with
which they confront us, it is largely because we no longer believe that there is such a thing as a real
moral challenge.

True though Bloom’s observation is, it is not the whole truth. Moral relativism clears the ground for
a new kind of absolutism. The emerging curriculum in the humanities is in fact far more censorious,
in crucial matters, than the one that it strives to replace. It is no longer permitted to believe that
there are real and inherent distinctions between people. All distinctions are “culturally constructed”
and therefore changeable. And the business of the curriculum is to deconstruct them, to replace
distinction with equality in every sphere where distinction has been part of the inherited culture.
Students must believe that in crucial respects, in particular in those matters that touch on race, sex,
class, role, and cultural refinement, Western civilization is just an arbitrary ideological device, and
certainly not (as its self-image suggests) a repository of real moral knowledge. Moreover, they must
accept that the purpose of their education is not to inherit that culture but to question it and, if
possible, to replace it with a new “multicultural” approach that makes no distinctions between the
many forms of life by which the students find themselves surrounded.

To doubt those doctrines is to commit deepest heresy, and to pose a threat to the community that the
modern university needs. For the modern university tries to cater to students regardless of religion,
sex, race, or cultural background, even regardless of ability. It is to a great extent a creation of the
state and is fully signed up to the statist idea of what a society should be—namely, a society without
distinction. It is therefore as dependent on the belief in equality as Cardinal Newman’s university
was dependent on the belief in God. Its purpose is to create a microcosm of the future society, just
as Cardinal Newman’s college was a microcosm of the gentleman’s world. And since our inherited
culture is a system of distinctions, standing opposed to equality in all the spheres where taste,
judgment, and discrimination make their claims, the modern university has no choice but to stand
opposed to Western culture.

Hence, despite their innate aspiration to membership, young people are told at university that they
come from nowhere and belong to nothing: that all preexisting forms of membership are null and
void. They are offered a rite of passage into cultural nothingness, since this is the only way to
achieve the egalitarian goal. They are given, in place of the old beliefs of a civilization based on
godliness, judgment, and distinction, the new beliefs of a society based in equality and inclusion;
they are told that the judgment of other lifestyles is a crime. If the purpose were merely to substitute
one belief system for another, it would be open to rational debate. But the purpose is to substitute
one community for another.
But what is the alternative? If the universities do not propagate the culture that was once entrusted
to them, where else can young people go in search of it? Some thoughts in answer to that question
were suggested by experiences that began for me in 1979. The writings of Foucault, Deleuze, and
Bourdieu were then beginning to make waves at the University of London, where I taught. My
students were being told on every side that there is no such thing as knowledge in the humanities
and that universities exist not to justify culture as a form of knowledge but to unmask it as a form of
power.

In response I asked myself what exactly I was trying to teach, and why. By introducing students to
the great works of philosophy, literature, and criticism that I had absorbed at school and university, I
felt that I was offering them the frame of reference, the store of speculations, the paradigms of
insight and allusion, through which to understand their world. I was offering them membership in a
culture, not as a body of doctrine but as an ongoing conversation. And this, I felt, was a form of real
knowledge: not knowledge of facts and theories, but knowledge of what to feel, how to relate, and
with whom to belong. Yet this body of knowledge, as I assumed it to be, was now dismissed as
bourgeois ideology, or—in Foucault’s idiom—as the episteme, the accumulated savoir, of a
dominating class.

One day an invitation came to me, by word of mouth, to address an underground seminar in Prague.
I accepted; as a result, I was brought into contact with people for whom the pursuit of knowledge
and culture was not a dispensable luxury but a necessity. Nothing else could provide them with
what they sought, which was an escape route from the world of lies by which they were surrounded.
And by discussing the Western cultural heritage among themselves, they were marked out as
heretics, who risked arrest and imprisonment merely for meeting as they did. Ironically, perhaps the
greatest intellectual achievement of the Communist party was to convince people that Plato’s
distinction between knowledge and opinion is a valid one, and that ideological opinion is not merely
distinct from knowledge but the enemy of knowledge, the disease implanted in the human brain that
makes it impossible to distinguish true ideas from false ones. That was the disease spread by the
Party. And it was spread by Foucault, too. For it was Foucault who taught my colleagues to evaluate
every idea, every argument, every institution, convention, or tradition in terms of the “domination”
that it masks. Truth and falsehood had no real significance in Foucault’s world; all that mattered
was power.
Um dia, um convite veio a mim, de boca em boca, para abordar um seminário subterrâneo em Praga.
Eu aceitei; Como resultado, me puseram em contato com pessoas para quem a busca do
conhecimento e da cultura não era um luxo dispensável, mas uma necessidade. Nada mais poderia
fornecer-lhes o que procuravam, que era uma via de fuga do mundo das mentiras pelas quais
estavam cercadas. E, ao discutir o patrimônio cultural ocidental entre eles, eles foram marcados
como hereges, que arriscaram a prisão e prisão apenas para se encontrarem como eles fizeram.
Ironicamente, talvez a maior conquista intelectual do Partido Comunista tenha sido convencer as
pessoas de que a distinção de Platão entre conhecimento e opinião é válida e que a opinião
ideológica não é meramente distinta do conhecimento, mas o inimigo do conhecimento, a doença
implantada no cérebro humano Isso torna impossível distinguir idéias verdadeiras de falsas. Essa foi
a doença espalhada pelo Partido. E também foi difundido por Foucault. Pois foi Foucault quem
ensinou meus colegas a avaliar cada idéia, cada argumento, cada instituição, convenção ou tradição
em termos de "dominação" que mascara. A verdade e a falsidade não tinham significado real no
mundo de Foucault; Tudo o que importava era o poder.

Essas questões tem sido trazidas into sharp relief for the Czechs and Slovaks by – Václav Havel’s
essay “The Power of the Powerless” (1978), enjoining his compatriots to “live in truth.” How could
they do that, if they were unable to distinguish the true from the false? And how could they
distinguish the true from the false without the benefit of real culture and real knowledge? Hence the
search for those things had become urgent. And the price of that search was high—harassment,
arrest, deprivation of ordinary rights and privileges, and a life on the margins of society. When
something has a high moral price, only committed people will pursue it. I therefore found, in the
underground seminars, a unique student body—people dedicated to knowledge, as I understood it,
and aware of the ease and the danger of replacing knowledge with mere opinion. Moreover, they
were looking for knowledge in the place where it is most necessary and also hardest to find—in
philosophy, history, art, and literature, in the places where critical understanding, rather than
scientific method, is our only guide. And what was most interesting to me was the urgent desire
among all my new students to inherit what had been handed down to them. They had been raised in
a world where all forms of belonging, other than submission to the ruling Party, had been
marginalized or denounced as crimes. They understood instinctively that a cultural heritage is
precious, precisely because it offers a rite of passage into the thing that you truly are and the
community of feeling that is yours.

There was another winsome feature of the underground seminars, which is that their intellectual
resources were so sparse. Academics in the West are obliged to publish articles and books if they
are to advance in their careers, and in the years since the Second World War this had led to a
proliferation of literature that, if not always second-rate from the intellectual point of view, has
almost invariably been without literary merit—stodgy, cluttered with footnotes, without telling
imagery or turns of phrase, and both ephemeral in content and impossible to ignore. The weight of
this pseudo-literature oppresses both teachers and students in the humanities, and it is now all but
impossible to unearth the classics that lie buried beneath it.

Eu às vezes penso que o maior serviço a nossa cultura foi feito pela pessoa que ateou fogo à
Biblioteca em Alexandria, desse modo, assegurou que nada sobrevivesse daquela massa de
literatura, other than those works considered so precious that each educated person would have a
copy of his own. Os comunistas prestaram um serviço parecido a vida intelectual na
Tchecoeslováquia ao preventing the publication of anything save those works deemed so precious
that people were prepared to produce them in laborious samizdat editions. Estas seriam passadas de
mão a mão and read with eager interest by people for whom knowledge, rather than career
advancement, was the goal. How refreshing this was, after the life among academic journals and
footling footnotes!

Claro, as circuntâncias dos seminários clandestinos eram incomuns e ninguém queria reproduzi-los.
Nevertheless, durante is dez anos que eu trabalhei with others to turn these private reading groups
into a structured (if clandestine) university, eu aprendi duas verdades muito importantes. The first is
that a cultural inheritance really is a body of knowledge and not a collection of opinions —
knowledge of the human heart, and of the long-term vision of a human community. A segunda é que
este conhecimento pode ser ensinado, e que isto não exige um vasto investimento de dinheiro,
certamente, não os $ 50,000 por estudante por ano que é demanded por uma Ivy League university.
Isto requer um handful of books that have passed the test of time and are treasured by all who truly
study them. Isto exige professores com conhecimento e estudantes entusiasmados em adquiri-lo.
And it requires the continuing attempt to express what one has learned, either in essays or in the
face-to-face encounter with a critic. Todo o resto — administração, information technology, lecture
halls, libraries, extracurricular resources — is, by comparison, uma luxuria insignificante.

Quando as instituições são incuravelmente corrompidas, como as universidades foram


corrompidas sob o comunismo, nós devemos começar de novo, mesmo que o custo disso seja
tão alto quanto foi na Europa ocupada pelos soviéticos. Para nós, o custo não é tão alto. O dom
mais precioso de nossa civilização, e aquele que estava sob ameaça durante o século XIX, é a
liberdade para nos associar. Poque esta liberdade ainda existe, e em lugar algum, além da América,
o fato de que nós não podemos ir the fact that we can no longer entrust our high culture to the
universities matters less. O destino de Harvard e Yale é inevitably of general concern; but there are
also places like St. John’s College in Annapolis, or Hillsdale College in Michigan, onde pessoas que
acreditam no velho curriculo são preparadas para ensiná-lo. Há grupos privados de leitura, cursos
online, associações de academicos, think tanks, and public-lecture series. There are institutions like
the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which offers a rescue service for students beaten down by
political correctness. There are journals like this one, which serve as a focal point for discussions
that, after all, do not need a university in order to take place. Isto me parece que nós temos
permitido a nós mesmos sermos intimidados na crença que, porque as universidades tem bibliotecas,
laboratórios, learned professors, and substantial endowments, eles são também indispensáveis
depositários do conhecimento. Nas ciências isto é verdade. But it is no longer true in the humanities.

However, the way forward is not as clear as the defenders of the old curriculum would like it be.
Great Books programs, estudos de nossa herança cultural, o estudo comparativo da arte, música e
arquitetura ocidental, — todas estas são escolhas oóbvias. Mas por quê? What is it that
distinguishes those programs from the courses in pop music, strip cartoons, and gender studies that
so easily step in to replace them? To say that the traditional curriculum contained real knowledge as
opposed to ephemeral distractions is to beg the question. For we don’t know what knowledge really
consists in. Nós sentimos isto, claro, como meus alunos tchecos sentiram. We feel the call of the
culture that is ours, and we want to say that, in responding to this call, we are leaving the world of
opinion and entering the world of knowledge. Mas por quê?

Answers to date are either trivial—as when – Matthew Arnold tells us, in Culture and Anarchy, that
a high culture consists of the “best that has been thought and said”—or else some version of the
Enlightenment view that cultural knowledge involves transcending the particular into the universal,
replacing our constricted loyalties and imagined communities with some cosmopolitan ideal. And it
is a small step from this Enlightenment position to the multicultural and egalitarian curriculum that
espouses the human universal only because everything distinctive of a real cultural inheritance has
been removed from it. Until we come up with something better than those two approaches, we will
not, I suspect, escape the grip of the universities, or feel confident enough to start again without
them.

Roger Scruton is author of Notes from Underground and The Soul of the World.
VIVENCO COM UMA MENTE
Dezembro de 2015

Eu fui educado em uma cultura que não fez nenhum lugar especial para o “intelectual” como
um tipo humano distinto, and which regarded learning in the same way as any other hobby:
harmless and excusable, so long as you kept quiet about it. O indivíduo que estudou os clásicos em
casa, que escreveu poesia na infância, ou que escruou em privado aos quartetos de Beethoeven was,
in my little patch of suburban England, no more to be despised than the expert in tarot cards, the
amateur acrobat, or the breeder of exotic chickens. But if he should begin to display his hobby in
ordinary social gatherings, or to imagine that his knowing the works of Emily Dickinson entitled
him to some measure of respect not accorded to those who had gotten no further than page three of
The Sun, then it was time to put him in his place as a social outcast.

Em nosso estreito mundo, education was neither a disadvantage, as it is rapidly becoming today, nor
a thing to be proud of. Como um jovem educador, eu era de uma “social incast,” tão comum quanto
qualquer outro garoto de minha geração, que foi encorajado a buscar interesses que ele podia
compartilhar com other harmless weirdos, so long as he didn’t mention them in public.

This attitude to learning reflected a long-standing feature of English life. Unlike the French and the
Russians, for both of whom the intellectual has been a recognizable and awe-inspiring phenomenon,
with a distinctive and redemptive role in human affairs, the English have traditionally had no use
for such a category. In the nineteenth century, the scholar and the man of letters were both
acknowledged. So too was the educated person. But none of those was entitled, on account of being
acquainted with books, to any special social privileges. Our leading English thinkers at the time of
Flaubert and Baudelaire were as likely to be respectable as disreputable, and their vices, should they
have any, were not badges of distinction, but simply the run-of-the-mill signs of ordinary human
degeneracy.

O francês tem uma abordagem muito diferente. Para eles, o intelectual was exempt from the normal
standards of moral judgment. Intellectuals moved in circles of their own, fleeing at night to the
rooftops of the city where they would take part in a never-ending Walpurgisnacht of forbidden
pleasures. Sometimes they appeared at the attic windows to pour scorn on the “bourgeoisie” in the
street below. But for the most part, they remained invisible, ghostly observers of ordinary life,
which they condemned in exquisite writings distributed in plain cover editions along the banks of
the Seine.
Seus contemporâneos ingleses, by contrast, included country parsons like Charles Kingsley e
George Crabbe, civil servants like Trollope, and inspectors of schools like Matthew Arnold. They
could rise to the highest office, like the novelist Benjamin Disraeli and the Dante scholar William
Gladstone. But on the whole, their interest in the life of the mind was regarded as a private concern,
of no relevance to their public status. The mind was simply something that occupied them when
more important matters had been seen to.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when literary modernism was brought to England, it was by
the least Bohemian of modern writers: T.S. Eliot, who dressed in a three-piece suit and pursued a
respectable career first as a teacher, then at a bank, and then at a publishing firm, where he
eventually became a director. He even taught for a while in my school, High Wycombe Royal
Grammar School, where formidably upright teachers introduced me to the joys of thinking.

Those teachers, whom I remember with profound gratitude, by and large subscribed to the Victorian
doctrine of mens sana in corpore sano. You exercised your mind in the same way as you exercised
your body: following agreed procedures that shaped you as a useful and responsible member of
society. To detach the life of the mind from the duties of the citizen was to run the danger of
aestheticism, examples of which disease, from Oscar Wilde to Ronald Firbank, were frequently
paraded before us as evident causes of the weakness that had all but cost us the two world wars.

The idea that it was respectable to read old books, listen to old music, and debate the old questions
of philosophy came to me as a liberation. For it opened a path out of the cramped world of my
parents, for whom books were appreciated only for the information contained in them, and music
was at best a background to other and more useful pursuits. I was fully launched, aged sixteen, on
this path through life, reassured by my dutiful teachers that it was by no means unusual to set out on
it, any more than it was unusual to serve as a missionary in Africa, a civil servant in the city, or a
clerk in a bank. More important, my teachers made it abundantly clear, in their behavior as much as
in their explicit instruction, that intellectual enjoyment is an end in itself, which needs no utilitarian
excuse, and which is not to be shunned or condemned merely because it leads to no evident career.
Indeed, even if thinking reduced people to the condition of shabby teachers in provincial grammar
schools, this was irrelevant to its real and intrinsic value. It was just one of the many ways—and -
undoubtedly the best way—of enjoying life.
My school had an unusually high number of such educated teachers, winding down from their
wartime careers in the army, the Church, or the colonial service, and many of their pupils were
drawn to them. As a result, I was not alone in the path I took and was immediately aware that, so
long as you don’t brag about it, thinking is a form of companionship. Ideas beg to be shared, and by
sharing them, you come to know the other person far more intimately than through adventure or
sport. The glowing cheeks of my sporty classmates were of no significance to me beside the radiant
foreheads of my special friends, lit from within by the lamp of inquiry. We knew from the beginning
that we were marked out, not as outsiders, but as people who had embarked on a shared way of life
that would demand much of us, and give much in return. We began to get together in order to read,
to discuss, and to listen, and we regarded no aspect of our experience as exempt from the exacting
test of intellectual relevance. Was it, or he, or she a stimulus to thought, or a distraction from it?
Such was the question with which we addressed every new encounter, every book that fell into our
hands, and every event in the world of politics.

During the half century that followed, I have never departed from that path. All the incidental
endeavors that are necessary to staying alive had, for me, a single aim, which was to permit those
hours at the end of them when I could devote myself to reading, listening, and learning. This, to me,
was the true meaning of leisure, and the Greek word for leisure, schole, is surely an apt reflection
on what the life of the mind has meant down the centuries. Aristotle describes work as ascholia, the
absence of leisure, implying that only schole is really an end in itself, all work being no more than a
means to it.

A visão de Aristoteles led me back, after two years of wandering following my graduation, to
Cambridge University, there to pursue doctoral studies in philosophy. But it also led me to see that
academic knowledge is as much a distraction from the life of the mind as an application of it. This
was vividly brought home to me recently, reading the vast work of academic moral philosophy On
What Matters, by Derek Parfit, in which problems concerning the switching of trolleys from one
rail to another in order to prevent or cause the deaths of those further down the line are presented as
showing the essence of moral reasoning and its place in the life of human beings. Nothing that
really matters to human beings—their loves, responsibilities, attachments, their delights, aesthetic
values, and spiritual needs—occurs in Parfit’s interminable narrative. All is swept into a corner by
the great broom of utilitarian reasoning, to be left there in a heap of dust.

I learned at school that imagination is essential to a well-nourished intellect, and that thinking
divorced from any kind of artistic appreciation is at risk of losing its subject matter. In art, our ideas
are poured into the mold of immediate experience, crystallized as stories, images, dramas—and so
put to the test of sympathy. The life of the mind, deprived of the aesthetic endeavor, remains leaden
and remote. And during my time as a university teacher, it became ever more apparent to me that
ideas were discussed in the academy as though they had no relation to life, whether real or imagined.

This is not to say that scholarship is antagonistic to the life of the mind, or that the academy is
doomed to have a withering effect on it. Our civilization has been successful partly because it has
preserved, at its spiritual core, the idea of disinterested study. The life of the mind is available to be
enjoyed, and enjoyed for its own sake, as an end in itself. Associated with this idea has been that of
the collegiate way of life. I had knowledge of that way of life as an undergraduate at Jesus College
Cambridge, and subsequently as a Fellow of Peterhouse. Those places were arenas of friendship,
spiced by the backbiting that has been characteristic of small communities down the ages.

In twenty years of university teaching, poring over footnotes in journals devoted to the study of
footnotes, attending conferences in which small increments of knowledge are swamped by large
swathes of ignorance, and reading unimportant books about the important books that I haven’t had
time to read, I retained a longing for the ideal of the collegiate life. I envisaged a society of friends
for whom ideas are captured from the world of real experience, and brought to the place of dialogue,
there to be the source and object of our shared interest. But I came to see that it is far easier to
create this society for yourself than to find it in institutions of higher learning.

Hence, when I set out, after long delays, on my independent path through the world of ideas, it was
in order to look for soul mates whose thinking arose from the encounter with life, whether real or
imagined. And I have always thought of them as fellows of a virtual college, people with whom I
could sit down for an evening with a bottle of wine and an intellectual question and use the one to
cast light on the other. In the right company, the right sort of drink is a necessary adjunct to the
collegiate way of life. Its effects compensate for all the sorrows that inevitably come to mind, when
people with firm views about the way things are and should be sit down together to reflect on the
lamentable fact that the world is in other hands than their own.

Early on in my academic career, I had studied for the Bar examinations and conceived a passion for
the English law, and in particular for those branches of it—the common law of tort and the law of
trusts—in which real moral reasoning is brought to bear on everyday conflicts. This study, which
was a powerful antidote to moral and political philosophy as practiced in the university, brought me
into a world in which thinking is shaped by reality, and reality in turn by thought. The English law
is inseparably bound up with the history and structure of the Inns of Court, those ancient collegiate
societies to which, until recently, every barrister had to belong, and which, in my days as a student,
insisted that you could not be called to the Bar without first dining for a requisite number of nights
in the Hall of your Inn.

It was there, as a member of the Inner Temple, that I first became acquainted with the common law
of England, and I was astonished by what I found. The meticulously reported cases, going back
over centuries, were not only an eloquent expression of life as my ancestors had known it, but also
an illustration of thought in action. The laws governing the English, I discovered, have emerged
from the judgments of the courts, and not been imposed upon the courts by government. Those
brought up on Roman law or the Code Napoléon find this amazing, since they see law as a
deductive system, beginning from first principles and working downward to the particular case. But
common law arises as morality arises, from the desire to do what is right, not from the desire to
expound the principle that makes it so. And often the principle eludes us, even when the rightness of
the act is clear. Readers of Jane Austen will not need to be reminded of this. Like morality, the
common law builds upward from the particular to the general. For justice is done in the particular
case, and until tried in the courts, abstract principles have no more authority than the people who
declare them.

The facts of the case may never have been considered before, and the judge may have no explicit
rule of law, no precedent, and no act of Parliament to guide him. But still there is a difference, the
common law says, between a right and a wrong decision. Thus it was in the celebrated case of
Rylands v. Fletcher (1868) in the law of tort, in which water from the defendant’s reservoir had
flooded the mines of the plaintiff and put them out of use. No similar case had come before the
courts, but this did not prevent Mr. Justice Blackburn from giving judgment in the following terms:
“We think that the true rule of law is, that the person who for his own purposes brings on his lands
and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it at his peril,
and, if he does not do so, is prima facie liable for all the damage which is the natural consequence
of its escape.”

Until Rylands v. Fletcher no such rule had ever been formulated. But in Blackburn’s eyes, he was
not inventing the rule; he was discovering a legal truth buried in the heart of things, bringing it to
the surface, and clarifying matters that no politician had yet addressed. He thereby set the standard
for environmental legislation in my country, and laid the foundations for the doctrines of enterprise
liability in American law.
Although I never practiced at the Bar, the discipline of legal thinking helped me to break away from
the closed world of the academic seminar. Equally important was my venture into journalism.
Journalists get a lot of bad press—all of it, as it happens, written by themselves. But there is a kind
of journalism, exemplified in America by H. L. Mencken and George Will, among many others, and
in England by Henry Fairlie, T. E. (“Peter”) Utley and, more recently, the late Christopher Hitchens,
which is as much an application of mind to the world as are the opinions of any common-law judge.
To take the issues of the day, to give them the context that frames them and the arguments that
reveal their importance—to do this in the minimum of space, and at the same time to mount a clear
case for an opinion that you can express in all sincerity and in the hope of persuading the reader, is
to engage in one of the hardest and most rewarding exercises of our reasoning powers.

O mundo do jornalismo é, ou foi, como aquele da lei, a collegiate world, in which you met with
your fellows and rivals to discuss the matters that interested you, and in which words were never
lightly used, and always used in conjunction with the ideas expressed by them. In the 1980s, when I
first became acquainted with Fleet Stre xxxxet, the place where the leading daily papers were then
situated, I discovered that all the editorials and op-eds of note, whether appearing in the left-wing
Guardian, the right-wing Telegraph, or the demure and judicious Times, were composed either at
lunchtime in the Kings and Keys pub under the Telegraph, or in the early evening in El Vino’s, the
wine bar outside the Inner Temple, just a hundred yards away. And those who composed these
pieces rejoiced in each other’s company, not despite their exhilarating differences of opinion but
because of them.

Thanks to the two disciplines of law and journalism, I broke away from the university and made for
myself the circle of soul mates with whom to renew the search for a way of thinking, writing, and
talking that is true to things as they are. But it is hard, in the public world as we know it today, to
find those places where mental activity is not masked and overridden by noise. Modern life is full of
uncompleted gestures, half-formed thoughts, and unplanned explosions of emotion, all occurring in
rapid succession, and each one drowned in the surge of its successor like a wavelet on a beach. We
live with this because it is the price we pay for the fleeting but vital companionship that arises
around us at every moment of the day. But it has a downside, which only the musical can really
appreciate. In the Kings and Keys and El Vino’s, there was no noise besides the clink of glasses and
the raised voices of opinionated people, and of El Vino’s this is still true. But such places are the
exceptions. There is hardly a public place today, hardly a restaurant or bar, that is not awash with
the fragmented and conclusion-less sound of pop.
Graças à duas disciplinas do direito e do jornalismo, rompi com a universidade e fiz para mim o
círculo de almas irmãs com quem renovei a busca de uma maneira de pensar, escrever e falar que é
verdadeira para as coisas como elas são. Mas é difícil, no mundo público como o conhecemos hoje,
encontrar os lugares onde a atividade mental não é mascarada e superada pelo barulho. A vida
moderna é cheia de gestos incompletos, pensamentos semi-formados e explosões de emoção
imprevistas, todos ocorrendo em rápida sucessão, e cada um se afogou na onda de seu sucessor
como uma onda em uma praia. Vivemos com isso, porque é o preço que pagamos pelo companheiro
fugaz, mas vital, que surge ao nosso redor a cada momento do dia. Mas tem uma desvantagem, que
só o musical pode realmente apreciar. Nos Kings e Keys e em El Vino, não havia barulho além do
tocar de óculos e as vozes levantadas de pessoas opinativas, e de El Vino isso ainda é verdade. Mas
esses lugares são as exceções. Há dificilmente um lugar público hoje, dificilmente um restaurante
ou bar, que não é inundado com o som fragmentado e sem conclusões do pop.

Para as pessoas que não gostam de música, ou cuja habilidade musical nunca foi estendida pela
escuta real, essa não é uma provação. Para as pessoas musicais, que não podem evitar seguir o
argumento de qualquer peça que toca no ouvido, essa abundância de ruído sem direção é uma
tortura igual ao método de deixar um prisioneiro insano através de pingos de água caindo
continuamente em sua testa.
For people who don’t like music, or whose musical ability has never been stretched by real listening,
this is not an ordeal. For musical people, who cannot avoid following the argument of whatever
piece sounds in their ear, this abundance of directionless noise is a torture equal to the method of
sending a prisoner insane from constant drips of water on his forehead.

Not only is silence-filling music a maddening distraction, it’s also a lost opportunity. To those who
know and love it, there is no greater and more satisfying exercise of our mental powers than
classical music, which provides imagined movements in an imagined space that work by their own
inner conviction toward closure. Classical music provides us with gestures that do not only begin
but also—rare in the human condition and especially rare in our world today—conclude. They
conclude not because they are cut off, but because they are completed. In listening to serious music,
the mind is both creator and disciple of its object. You yourself create the movement that you hear,
but it is because you follow it that you hear it. If you were to ask exactly what the life of the mind
consists in, there is no clearer answer than to play through the Art of Fugue.
You should be as keen to escape from aimless noise as from footnotes. That is why I no longer live
in the city, and look from my window over green fields and grazing animals. The life of the mind,
pursued in this way in partial isolation, though in the company of my wise, gentle, and practical
wife, has proved so rewarding that the loss of theaters, concert halls, opera houses, and all the other
temples to high culture that I left behind in the city is more than compensated by what I have gained.

The joy of the intellectual life arises partly from the search for truth, toward which the thinking
person turns as a flower to the sun. As you turn it is inevitable that you should question orthodoxies,
be suspicious of opinions that serve the interests of those who adopt them, and explore the problems
that confront us without fear of being proven wrong. To take the life of the mind seriously, therefore,
you may have to reconcile yourself, as Spinoza did, to circulating your thoughts among your soul
mates, and to avoiding their public expression. You may have to recognize that truth is a threat to a
culture created by the mass expression of unexamined opinions, and is best kept to the circle of
those for whom it really matters. Here, in rural Wiltshire, where there are no orthodoxies, I am at
peace with this, as Spinoza was at peace circulating the manuscript of the Ethics among his friends.

This privatization of the life of the mind does not mean you should retreat from writing. On the
contrary, it is only through their expression that your thoughts become clear, and the love of truth
propels us toward the written word. You can exercise your mind effectively through reading and
listening to music. But if you wish to exercise it freely, then you need the medium of expression that
will provide the joints and tendons that hold a thought together and allow it to stand on its own.
Through writing, a thought loses its vague and aspirational quality, and stands fully clothed in
imagery and nuances, a representation not only of the facts that inspired it but also of the person
who gave voice to it. So clothed, a thought becomes what Henry James called “felt life.”

This returns me to the principal lesson that I have learned, since taking that path from the classroom
fifty years ago, which is that thought without imagination lies heavy on the mind that conceives it.
The bulk of academic writing in my discipline is not really writing but a collection of marks on
paper put down in response to similar marks put down in response to other marks put down in
response to . . . The authors of these texts do not have a conception of writing as an art, or of the
need for the imagery, inflection, and rhythm that hold open the mind of the reader so that the
thought can slip past them into his soul. To write in such a way that you are in direct contact with
the soul of the reader is an art that must be learned, and fiction, essay writing, and poetry are
inescapably parts of it.
Equally important is humility: the knowledge that you must earn your reader’s interest, and that it is
not for you to declare your success. In this matter I have learned from the American who first set
out on his journey to becoming an Englishman when he taught in my old school. In all his writing,
but in his poetry especially, Eliot shows his humility before the great achievements of his
predecessors, lamenting his “equipment always deteriorating / in the general mess of the
imprecision of feeling,” lines that deliberately imitate the thing that they describe. At school it was
Four Quartets that first showed us that thinking can be both interesting and beautiful, and that it
becomes beautiful through the work of the imagination. By putting side by side and in a single clasp
things that you would never have known belonged together until the writer connected them, real
literature shapes your world.

The life of the mind is a lifelong recreation, a re-creation of reality, and a way of belonging. That is
the theme of Eliot’s great poem, as I understand it, and it is a theme that connects the world of
books to the world of music. The peace that we create through reading, writing, and discussion is
also portrayed in our music, in which separate voices come together in harmony, and move under
their mutual influence toward a shared destination. You the listener also share this destination, for
“you are the music, while the music lasts.” This image of a fulfillment, achieved through mutuality
and by the exercise of purely mental powers, has remained with me throughout my life, telling me
that, whatever trouble or frustration may come to me, I have only to open a book, listen to a
symphony, or run my pen across a blank sheet of paper, and I will be back home, in the place where
I belong, a fellow of the virtual college that I have spent a lifetime in creating, communing inwardly
with my imagined friends.

Roger Scruton is author of Notes from Underground and The Soul of the World.