The Functional Anthropologist, Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton is the greatest living conservative thinker. Well, that’s controversial, you might say. The other great thinkers around these days are more ambivalent about being conservative. Some libertarians, after all, think of themselves as liberals opposing themselves to conservatives. And the French philosopher Pierre Manent, like most American followers of Leo Strauss, thinks of himself as a conservative liberal. But the Buckinghamshire-born Scruton defines himself as a conservative, as opposed to a liberal, although he admits that it might be impossible to be conservative all the time.

What’s a liberal? Someone who “respects . . . individual existence” so much that he “attempt[s] to leave as much moral and political space around every human person as is compatible with the demands of social life.” Liberalism so understood is “the official ideology of the Western world.” It is the ideology of “the free, self-fulfilling individual,” which is equally at the foundation of the thought of Milton Friedman and Karl Marx. For the libertarian and the Marxist alike, utopia, when it arrives, will be marked by perfectly individualistic spontaneity or the immediate and unobsessive gratification of personal preferences without authoritative guidance from social or relational structures, without the limitations that used to be associated with birth, personal love, and death.

For each liberal, as Ronald Dworkin puts it, “rights are trumps,” insofar as nothing trumps the absolute value of my own existence. That’s why, in our time, we talk about “human rights”—it’s a phrase that tells us that the freedom, comfort, and security of each human person is the bottom line and we don’t even have to think about or justify this. It’s also why, in our time, we see individualism, as our friend Peter Thiel explains, culminate in transhumanism. From a radically liberal perspective, being itself depends on my individual existence. Therefore, being itself is extinguished when I am. Therefore, nothing trumps deploying all available means to try to keep me around for an indefinitely long time.

Where do we find liberals these days? We find them in Europe, among those in thrall to what Manent calls a postpolitical, postreligious, and postfamilial fantasy. The fantasy, of course, is that it’s possible to live as a being with a body detached from those institutions or forms of embodiment we designed for beings who were born to know, love, die, and be from somewhere in particular. That fantasy now confronts a stiff challenge from populist parties on the one hand, and the problems of accommodating all those immigrants on the other.

We also find liberalism triumphant in what some call the libertarian convergence of America’s two political parties. That’s a combination of economic freedom and personal freedom that’s tied to the sham diversity of globalization characteristic of Hillary Clinton and our oligarchic crony capitalists (such as the ones we find in Silicon Valley). Anti-liberalism, in this sense, fuels the campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. That’s not to say the anti-liberalism of either Trump or Sanders is actually conservative, insofar as neither candidate is focused on the sustainability of American families or churches or civic or community spirit.

Still, Trump’s beginning point is a conservative rejoinder to liberal cosmopolitanism—“a country is a country”—even if everything he deduces from that first principle is either wrong or obsessive. And Sanders is right that the idea of opening the borders to flood our country with guest workers isn’t an American idea, but one that can be traced to the Koch brothers and to libertarianism. It converges uncannily with President Obama’s boast that he is a citizen of the world more than of any place in particular.

Are most Americans either conservatives or liberals? The answer, as Manent tells us, is that they want to be both. They want to be what he calls human individuals or what Scruton calls both relational and unrelational persons. Strictly speaking, the human individual or unrelational person is an oxymoron, the conservative knows.  The contents of human or personal life come from being relational or not experiencing oneself as individual who’s connected to other individuals only through the calculated modes of contract or consent.

We Americans want all the allegedly autonomous benefits of free individuals while living in a world full of rich and satisfying human contents. We want Lockean freedom—including uninhibited techno-progress and the detachment of even marriage from natural imperatives—but without being restless and lonely workaholics for whom God is dead and sex has become meaningless recreation.

And there’s no denying we do better at achieving both goals than the other sophisticates in the world. Marriage, for example, is actually getting more stable and stronger among rich and well-educated Americans, and the combination of egalitarian autonomy and parental duty is displayed in child-centered marriages, even if there are only one or two kids.

That means that sophisticated Americans don’t have the words that correspond to their longings; what they do is often better than what they say. They don’t understand, Scruton points out, that their irreducibly conservative inclinations are undermined by liberal platitudes. They really believe, for example, that when the Supreme Court talks about relational autonomy, it’s actually making sense. It’s to Scruton that they should turn to discover that our autonomous pretensions are irreducibly dependent on their relational context, and that liberal means inevitably serve conservative ends in some way.

I am a liberal, Scruton explains, insofar as I look at the world from the point of view of the first person — or more precisely, the first person singular. The truth about the first person is reflected in self-consciousness. I have an irreducible perception of my personal identity. Neither any person nor any doctrine—certainly no impersonal neuroscience or evolutionary psychology or other impersonal reductionism, or, for that matter, any modern political ideology—can take my “I” away from me.

The “I ” is the experience of the person. Our scientists can explain a lot about us, but not this.  Scruton thinks it plausible that even the highly abstract and rational Kantian view of the autonomous “I” could legitimately be explained as an evolutionary advantage, and that self-consciousness could legitimately be explained as a mechanism given to members of our species to adapt to change. Its main job is not to foment disruptive innovation, but to manage reform in the interest of social stability. So self-consciousness is a personal quality acquired by members of our species alone, and it’s the emergence of the person that causes liberals to err in thinking that each of us can be viewed as a rational “whole” detached from nature. Scruton seems ultimately not to believe that personal identity is a mysterious birth of freedom, although it remains the case that scientists typically err in trying to account for the person as some impersonal mechanism. Let’s leave it at wondering whether it’s possible to give a non-Kantian account of personal autonomy.

The truth, Scruton concedes, is there are two ways human beings can be viewed as wholes: 1) We are animals, in other words the whole organisms described by the impersonal natural scientists, or 2) we’re also whole persons, with experiences that can’t be reduced to those of animals. We’re stuck, Scruton thinks, with this cognitive dualism. Neuroscientists who describe us from their third-person point of view can’t incorporate the personal experience of the “I” into their descriptions of what each of us is. Their accounts of the “what” don’t account for the “who” — the particular being with a name, a personal identity.

Still, Scruton also thinks that the whole that is the person can’t be detached from our natural being as social animals, even as, for us, social is transformed by self-consciousness into relational. Persons exist in an interpersonal world — a lifeworld (as per Edmund Husserl and Vaclav Havel), a world of customs, conventions, traditions, and other shared historical understandings of interrelated persons that can be distinguished from the environments inhabited by animals. Being personal depends on a world not of one’s own making. Consciousness, including self-consciousness, is always consciousness with others.

The liberal experience of freedom depends on belonging to a particular home. This home can’t be understood as natural in the sense of natural science or as a mere social construction unrelated to our natural capabilities. It is a characteristic of beings such as ourselves, beings with the natural capability for self-consciousness and so for being personal. It’s the self-destructive project of scientism in theory, and of ideologies (including liberal ideologies) in practice, to deprive us of the home or lifeworld that is the condition of personal being.

Is the lifeworld a world of “seeming” or is it one of “being”? Does it depend on what most philosophers and scientists—save Georg Friedrich Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and Husserl—regard as illusions? Scruton does not pretend—and, in his eyes, no real conservative would pretend—to have the authoritative answer to that question. The lifeworld depends on premises about love, personal responsibility, free will, and so forth that are questionable or invincibly open to reductionistic explanations. But the world of seeming or being on the surface is that upon which the “I” depends to live well, even to live in the light of the truth. And it’s a world that produced all kinds of noble and wonderful and aesthetic and reasonable and religious thought and behavior that the scientists can’t explain as characteristic of an organism in an environment.

The problem of the relationship between the lifeworld and the Kantian or liberal theory of autonomy is, Scruton explains, that “it is impossible that I should be a transcendental self; but it is necessary that I should suffer the illusion that I am.” Thus, the conservative “functional anthropologist” observes, “I must belong to a world in which this illusion can be sustained, so that my projects are also values for me, and my desires are integrated into a vision of the good.” So, from the third-person perspective, the benefits of the illusion of the autonomous “I” can be experienced only in a world where they are – by being relationally embedded, in other words not really so autonomous at all – not experienced as an illusion.

The “functional anthropologist,” being a conservative, is to be distinguished from the natural scientist or evolutionary psychologist. The natural scientist is not concerned with sustaining nature itself, but he too becomes an anthropologist when considering the effects of the person on nature. And a conservative has an anthropocentric or functional concern with the interdependence of natural and social ecology.

When thinking about liberals, the functional anthropologist “smiles indulgently.” The liberal thinks he is liberated enough to “question every given fact of community,” but if he really did so, he would be left entirely naked and disinherited. He would have ended up exterminating the world in which the illusion of autonomy is credible. The lifeworld in which we distinguish between good and evil and are capable of sharing joyfully in the truth is constituted by “social artifacts,” including that of “morality itself.” The truth is that people are “born into a web of attachments,” which could never all be validated by personal consent or by detached personal intention.

I didn’t choose or construct the world in which I can experience myself as a confident and responsible “I,” and so my “very existence” as a particular person is or ought to be “burdened with a debt of love and gratitude.” We are born and die debtors, and the burden of being recipients is readily distinguished from what some libertarians call the tyranny of the gift. We can escape only in a limited way from “the absolute claim of the locally given.” A full escape would be from everything that makes freedom more than, as the song said, nothing left to lose.

Not that the conservative always smiles indulgently at liberal pretensions concerning the autonomous liberation of the “I.” Scruton rails against the “oikophobia” (the “repudiation of inheritance and home”) that is the opposite of xenophobia. This ridiculing of “the unconsidered and spontaneous social actions” by which one affirms loyalty to one’s own now disfigures English and American public intellectuals. The reflexes of ordinary people are routinely disparaged or “even demonized by the dominant media and educational system.”

These habits that are mostly unconsidered and unchosen, are yet absolutely indispensable to us: they make up for what might be regarded as an instinctual deficiency in members of our species. The oikophobes have supposedly outed these habits as the behavior of thoughtless suckers. But the spontaneous effectiveness of these habits can’t really be replaced by calculated deliberation about everything or even most things. The wholesale repudiation of loyalty disarms—in theory as well as in practice—such freedom as we really do have.

The irony is that “educated derision” may be capable of extinguishing “the freedom to criticize” that makes educated derision possible. No freedom has a future without people prepared by settled relational inclination to live and die for it. The freedom to criticize, properly understood, is the source of social improvement or adaptation to changing circumstances and technologies. It ministers unto social sustainability.

The alleged sustainability experts, the liberals, do not realize this. “In his own eyes,” says Scruton, the oikophobe is “a defender of enlightenment universalism against local chauvinism.” But it is much clearer what the oikophobe is against than what he is or she is for.

To rebel against one’s own is, to be sure, a natural part of what we now call the adolescent stage of life—the time when young men, as we are told, enjoyed having Socrates expose the ignorance of their elders. These days it might be young men and women enjoying reading Ayn Rand’s tales of singularly heroic creators being dragged down by the parasites surrounding them. Neither our shrinking cadre of socialists nor our growing number of Silicon Valley transhumanists and allied libertarians, though, pauses to consider the effects on relational life that their disruptive innovations have had. They’re about the conquest of nature that makes it impossible to be at home with who we are as both animals and persons, and their obsession with the future is at the expense of loving other persons in the present.

The oikophobia of the young person ends up, in most cases, being chastened by the responsibilities and compensations of becoming a real citizen, church member, friend, spouse, parent, and so forth. They find themselves at home. Unfortunately, some modern intellectuals can get and remain stuck in oikophobic mode. And the more “educated,” the more stuck.

So to be specific, the conservative smiles indulgently at oikophobic kids, who will, most of them, anyway, learn to know better. Nobody expects highly self-conscious or really smart modern kids to be conservatives (there are exceptions), and their default ideology might be libertarian or Marxist. I should add that it is even possible—up to a point—to indulge the liberal intellectuals displaying their arrested development. The trouble is, their pathetically truncated or, in some cases, monstrously deformed personal beings can be the source of theories and movements aimed at emptying out the moral contents of the lifeworld on which we all depend.

It’s the conservative who would interrupt what seems to be an endless modern dialectic between oikophobia and xenophobia—between globalism and fascism—with the mean between those extremes, that being the nation. The nation—and it is not to be confused with the tribe or the church, or even nationalism—is the only place where the protection of human rights can be effective, through law and also through habituation. The nation is where we learn how to treat strangers with the respect we instinctively accord to friends.

Consider how Scruton compares the third-person points of view of the scientist, and that of the conservative. The conservative, like the scientist, is detached from the world of me, we, and you. But unlike the scientist (or idealized philosopher), he’s not too detached. The conservative is the anthropologist “concerned with the welfare of the tribe (albeit a tribe which his own).” Because his tribe—as opposed to tribes in general—is the condition of his personal flourishing, he puts his tribe or community or state before himself. Without it, he, as a particular person, is not. His view is that “insofar as people love life, they will love what gives them life.” And so his anthropology is a labor of love.

That love for what gives us life is what generates patriotism, respect for law, loyalty to leaders, and a willing deference to privilege that “need not be craven or submissive.” So the third-person perspective of the anthropologist shares the “popular self-respect” that good citizens have “for the order of which they form of a part and for themselves as part of that order.” The third-person perspective affirms the common perception that each of us gains personal significance as parts of wholes greater than ourselves. It affirms that common perception while being somewhat detached from it.

Scruton has the questionable opinion that the oikophobia or alienation that appears in those who are particularly self-consciousness is a particularly modern problem. The instinct that propels “social continuity” was once powerful enough, he says, to “ensure” that the distinction between “those who rose to self-consciousness” and “the happier mortals who were never fated to question what they knew” was only over “the smallest items of belief.” The pre-modern experience of individuality was, he asserts, “an artifact, an achievement which depends on the social life of the people.” Self-consciousness was, as evolutionary nature intended, for the adaption of social life, not a derisive repudiation of it.

So his conclusion is that the first-person understanding is “a recent venture of the human spirit.” The modern and self-deceptively liberal person is a “monstrous entity” who thinks of himself as an autonomous “I.” And the conservative must use his mind and his social criticism to restore the monster to a properly personal and relational shape by returning him home. The truth recovered by the conservative anthropologist is that “The condition of mankind requires” that persons can act freely and confidently only when they identify with a particular human society “which they recognize instinctively as home.” How can the mind reinvigorate an instinct from which it believes itself to have become detached? By calling attention to anthropological evidence we can all see with our own eyes.

Along these lines, Scruton interprets religion—including the Christian religion—as one way among the many ways we have to experience the belonging of home. From a full Christian view, however, that seems to be a form of Darwinian reductionism. According to St. Augustine, each of us, through sin, is born to trouble. Each of us free and relational persons experiences himself or herself as an alien or pilgrim in every earthly city. From this view, we are so to speak hardwired for alienation, and shouldn’t try too hard to be at home in this world. And from this view, the arrogantly incoherent aim of modern ideologies has been less to enhance our alienation than to make ourselves through political revolution or economic prosperity or technological innovation fully at home.

Scruton acknowledges, after all, that the most vibrant of the modern nations is the United States, the place where citizenship is reconciled to a remarkable success with otherworldly Christianity.  We are, as G. K. Chesterton says, “a home for a homeless.” But we, at our best, don’t try to be at home, our “lifeworld” is constituted, in part, by our awareness that its satisfactions don’t correspond fully to our longings. Scruton seems more conservative than any American, and, from our view, not realistic enough about who we are or what it takes to sustain our liberal life as free and relational beings born to know, love, and die.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on December 22, 2015 at 17:20:58 pm

It has been said that "You can't go home again."
Is this because home has irrevocably changed or because we are no longer capable of recognizing it as we look through the lens of modern autonomy?

read full comment
Image of gabe
on December 22, 2015 at 20:48:00 pm

My discipline to reject attractive titles in this forum--so that I can have a life--often fails, happily in every incidence. Thank you, Professor Lawler, for a rich post that demands rewarding study.
The first paragraph brought to mind Carl Eric Scott’s “The Five Conceptions of American Liberty,” National Affairs, No. 20, Summer, 2014. The five are: natural rights, classical communitarianism, economic autonomy, progressivism, and personal autonomy, assuming my paraphrase did not change Scott’s meanings.
My work seeks collaboration on a new concept: personal liberty with civic well-being (PLwCWB), where “civic” indicates contemporaneous living in the same land. Land is limited only by mutual agreement to collaborate. Civic collaboration accommodates social associations such as political preferences, religions, philosophies and such.
In civic well-being, each person appreciates the other person’s autonomy. Partnerships are formed by mutual appreciation without submission. Civic contracts do not compromise anyone’s authenticity. The consequence is an over-arching culture of civic morality, made possible by the bedrock of everything: physics.
Physics is energy, mass and space-time which emerged 13.8 billion years ago and could cycle back to its origin, whatever that is. Life emerged on earth 3.8 billion years ago. Evolution since then is discussed in Matt Ridely’s book, Rational Optimist. Humankind discovers what emerges from physics, works to understand how to benefit, and thereby establishes the ethics. Humankind shares the understanding to establish justice.
Discoveries, so far, have not resolved many hypotheses. For example, discovery does not negate the god hypothesis, and, so far, many intellectual constructs some people derive from the god hypothesis seem viable. Neither the idea that soul survives the death of body, mind and person nor the idea that life should be used to perfect the person seems disproved. Each person pursues such questions at their personal pace during their private life, and each personal opinion is valid for that person. Thus, personal opinion cannot be the bedrock for civic morality. Opinion-based ethics is not part of civic collaboration.
Physics-based ethics offers humankind a path to civic morality heretofore unavailable, arriving at the right time for conservatives to recognize their calling: Fiscal viability. Each civic adult’s forty hour work week must earn living, taxes, and savings for investment.
“Otherworldly Christianity” has lost its luster in the face of stark reality. For example, the Bible informs the master and slave relationships even though physics informs every person they would not want their daily labor to be subjected to a Christian master. After some four-hundred years of the Christian doctrine of discovery, black church holds that Jesus was black, the Christian god is black, and the only way a white can save his soul is to help black Americans reign supreme. Opinion pits civic person against civic person and make collaboration for civic morality impossible. However, physics informs humankind, through mitochondrial DNA, that every person alive is a descendant from one woman who lived some 200,000 years ago.

And my conception occurred when a monogamous couple--dedicated to each other for life--made love hoping to share their talents and mutual commitments. The idea that I was conceived in error is alright for some people to think, but don’t let them say it to me. I’ll ask them to put aside their psychological tyranny and collaborate for PLwCWB.

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on December 23, 2015 at 08:48:27 am

Anyone who holds to the muddle-headed premise that "the free, self-fulfilling individual is equally the foundation of thought of Friedman and Marx" is absurd. Marx was absolutely a collectivist who relegated the individual and individual rights to the "common good." That this guy is a "professor" of Government - albeit at a glorified community college - speaks volumes about what is amiss in today's university education.

read full comment
Image of Hominid
on December 23, 2015 at 10:34:36 am

While I too do not always agree with Peter, I must say that your comments are a little "over-the-top."

I doubt seriously whether he was equating Friedman and Marx - but rather was seeking to make a more basic point on the nature / origin of individualism. But he may (elect to) speak for himself.

read full comment
Image of gabe
on December 23, 2015 at 15:52:05 pm

Marx's ideology was that individuals become self-actualized through collective action and devotion to the pure cause. Thus, the statement, “the free, self-fulfilling individual is equally the foundation of thought of Friedman and Marx”, is true . . . from a certain point of view.

read full comment
Image of Michael Towns
Michael Towns
on December 23, 2015 at 16:56:50 pm

I can write our idea so that it mimics ". . . individuals become self-actualized through collective action and devotion to the pure cause."

We think opinion-based law must yield to physics-based ethics. Physics is energy, mass and space-time from which everything emerges--the present universe emerging 13.8 billion years ago and life on earth emerging 3.8 billion years ago.

Physics does not affirm any of the theories humans have built on the god hypothesis, yet has not negated the god hypothesis. Without affirmation of any god theory, a civic people must turn to physics for collaboration. Civic refers to contemporaneous living in the same land and includes all societies. Thus, civic morality focuses on the discovery of the emergences from physics and how to benefit from them. The interrelated system of benefits comprise the ethics a civic people conform to, and people who defy physics suffer any consequential woe.

Collaboration for the benefits establishes physics-based ethics and civic morality. A civic people "become self-actualized through collective action and devotion to the pure cause": benefiting from physics.

Does physics-based ethics seem somewhat Marxist?

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on December 24, 2015 at 14:34:24 pm

"We think opinion-based law must yield to physics-based ethics."

Who is "we"?

read full comment
Image of djf
on December 24, 2015 at 18:30:30 pm

A Civic People of the United States, a Louisiana non-profit educational incorporation, operating the referenced website. There are nine advisors, forty collaborators, and about sixty participants (50% of a local, limited distribution). The blog is followed world-wide, even though posts come infrequently.

We have a meeting scheduled for February 21, 2016 to collaborate on "How physics informs abortion." We feel that collaboration will position us to extend beyond A Civic People of Baton Rouge.

The theory has developed in library meetings in Baton Rouge since April 21, 2014, wherein the initial purpose was to persuade inhabitants to use the literal, civic preamble to the constitution for the USA rather than reference it and brook the erroneous label "secular." Physics-based ethics developed from the collaboration, starting with Albert Einstein's idea that science and ethics have the same source. Science is a study, but physics is energy, mass and space-time from which everything emerges. Humankind discovers how to benefit from physics and thereby establishes ethics. It is expected that not everyone will follow ethics, as now, so law would still be needed.

We write in this forum hoping to find collaborators who see promise in personal liberty with civic well-being, made possible by keeping private pursuits, such as religion, private and collaborating for civic morality using the power every person must understand and comport to: physics. With just a few years practice by 70 % of We the People of the United States, every no-harm social association, including institutional religions would flourish.

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on December 24, 2015 at 22:17:14 pm

Wow, very impressive.

You might want to look into the work of David Hume. I think his thought has some implications for your thesis that ethics can be derived from physics.

read full comment
Image of djf
on December 25, 2015 at 14:52:50 pm

When I got to the last paragraph of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1777, I thought: Wow! I read so much philosophy to arrive at one thought: “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”

I disagree, unless the idea is that all art should be trashed. However, I consider Hume’s opinion only the opposite of Michael Polanyi’s expression in Personal Knowledge, 1958: thoughtful persons represent centers “engaged in the same endeavour towards ultimate liberation. We may envisage then a cosmic field which called forth all these centres by offering them a short-lived, limited, hazardous opportunity for making some progress of their own towards an unthinkable consummation. And that is also, I believe, how a Christian is placed when worshipping God.” Polanyi extols his faith for him and dismisses mine for me (without my objection, as I don’t think he was thinking of an overall culture of a civic people rather he argued competitively for an ideology).

In “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion,” 1776, Hume has Cleanthes say, “The only method of supporting Divine benevolence, and it is what I willingly embrace, is to deny absolutely the misery and wickedness of man.” (my emphasis)

I have no idea what Hume meant—perhaps, as I speculate, man adopts misery and wickedness rather than being born that way—the will versus destiny debate. But it seems close to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s claim in “Divinity School Address,” 1838: “A more secret, sweet, and overpowering beauty appears to man when his heart and mind open to the sentiment of virtue. Then instantly he is instructed in what is above him. He learns that his being is without bound; that, to the good, to the perfect, he is born, low as he now lies in evil and weakness.” RWE suggests that if a person allows natural-will-to-behave to control, he or she has the potential to perfect themselves.

Sam Harris, in The Moral Landscape, 2010, substantially quoted Hume and Einstein less, but neither Emerson nor Polanyi. Online at www.samharris.org/blog/item/my-friend-einstein, Harris states, “Several great physicists have believed in free will, and Einstein got many things wrong, both inside and outside of physics.” He attaches Einstein’s essay, “The Laws of Science and the Laws of Ethics.” In all his wonderful essays on science and religion, Einstein did not penetrate “science,” a study so as to focus on “physics,” energy, mass and space-time from which everything emerges (and returns if it’s a cyclic process). Harris does not recommend replacement of opinion-based law with physics-based ethics to achieve civic morality, as we do.

A Civic People of the United States posits that the humankind-old question—if a god exists what is it like?—while alright for the individual cannot be the quest of a civic way of living. To establish civic morality, persons must collaborate on how to benefit from physics. Understanding the benefits of the emergences from physics constitutes the ethics. If 70% of inhabitants collaborate, by example and the consequential progress, the rest of We the People of the United States will asymptotically join a civic people, yet perhaps never answering the god question.

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on December 25, 2015 at 19:38:51 pm

I had in mind Hume's thesis that you can't derive an "ought" from an "is."

read full comment
Image of djf
on December 25, 2015 at 22:09:38 pm

Hume didn't address human bonding.

Since procreation results when a man and woman bond, fidelity to physics, self, family, and other people goes better if a person commits to heterosexual monogamy.

The ought from this is reaches to personal posterity: children, grandchildren, and beyond, and assures privacy within a civic people.

read full comment
Image of Phil Beaver
Phil Beaver
on December 25, 2015 at 23:13:31 pm

I don't think you're addressing Hume's point, but suit yourself.

read full comment
Image of djf
on January 18, 2016 at 09:32:57 am

[…] via The Functional Anthropologist, Roger Scruton – Online Library of Law & Liberty. […]

read full comment
Image of The Functional Anthropologist, Roger Scruton | nebraskaenergyobserver
The Functional Anthropologist, Roger Scruton | nebraskaenergyobserver

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.