THE BEAUMONT SCHOOL OF ETHICS & PHILOSOPHY
If we don't want a life that is unitised, sanitized and controlled, what do we want?
A commitment to the search for objective truth via robust debate is essential. The dons at Cambridge University confirmed their own commitment by vote on 9 December 2020. This is necessary for a free and democratic society, but not sufficient - more is needed. We also need to establish what is right and what is wrong (stable moral values) a sense of true & timeless worth (virtue or goodness) and purpose, where individual people matter for themselves, in their own right. The same is true of places, of the land and its history.
Rosie proposes that our intrinsic human appreciation of beauty is a sound initial guide to the timeless worth of something: first an emotional response and then an intellectual enquiry into the matter.
Some things are worth more than other things, their value recognised for generations. Obvious examples include the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven; the poetry, drama and insights of Shakespeare; the art of Caravaggio and Vermeer. The list is very long and for every name known universally there are many composers, poets and artists who created works of extraordinary value, we can call it sublime (or reaching for the sublime) that have been appreciated by successive generations. The Beaumont School of Ethics and Philosophy is predicated on the belief that this should continue, that the last few thousand years of human history has generated vast quantities of artefacts of great importance that should continue to inspire as living culture and not merely as museum pieces (at best) or a footnote to history.
As soon as an attempt is made to define human life, knowledge and the material world in absolute terms, we run into problems, contradictions and paradoxes. Rather than, on the one hand say nothing and lose all, on the other hand to subscribe to any one belief system, the Beaumont School of Ethics and Philosophy sets up a
space within which such difficulties can be contained, discussed and practical answers developed, as well as a system of priorities and guide to decision-making that can be used by individuals or by groups or by society as a whole (should they chose to do so).
Wittgenstein changed his mind, Heidegger revolutionised philosophy (and the German language), and both the Frankfurt School and the Vienna Circle were in full swing. Matthew Sweet is joined by Wolfram Eilenberger, David Edmonds and Esther Leslie. Plus, a report on the plight of the Lukacs Archive in Budapest.
Wolfram Eilenberger's book Time of the Magicians, translated by Shaun Whiteside, is a group portrait of four young philosophers in the aftermath of World War I. He is the founding editor of Philosophie Magazin and broadcasts regularly in Germany.
David Edmonds is co-author with John Eidinow of Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers. He produces the podcast series Philosophy Bites with Nigel Warburton
Esther Leslie is the author of Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism. Her translations include Georg Lukacs, A Defence of History and Class Consciousness. She is Professor in Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck University of London.
You can find conversations about Mary Midgely, Boethius, French philosophy and spies and Kierkegaard if you delve into our playlist of Free Thinking on Philosophy:
Roger Scruton - The True, the Good and the Beautiful
13 April 2017
Ethics distinguishes between right and wrong, evaluated by considerations of benefit or harm done to society as a whole and individuals, those alive now and those not yet born. To tell the truth and avoid deceit, for example, has a clear general benefit in a functional society.
Western Civilisation draws its notions of the ideal and of right and wrong from many roots and sources including: Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt and the heroic traditions of Scandinavian societies transmitted to us and developed by Ancient Rome, practical and physical engineering solutions to the problems of existence, Jewish and Christian traditions and texts, literature and the arts, scholarship and reverence for the poets and thinkers of former eras, love of the beauty of mathematics, sound analysis and logical reasoning, the concepts of heroism, chivalry and romance.
Much of this tradition has been transmitted in religious language through the concept of a god or gods. The Beaumont School of Ethics and Philosophy has no quarrel. Our members cover a range of religious and spiritual beliefs, hopes and understanding and we recognise that the god-concept can be beneficial as:
(1) A narrative vehicle
(2) A stable system of moral values
(3) A system of accountability and authority, where even the most powerful individuals in society recognise an authority over themselves, to whom they must account for their actions and decisions. Their personal opinions are of less consequence than those of God's. [Where 'god' can be viewed as people in general including future generations, as well as the land and other creatures. The attributes given to 'god' determine the nature and the stability of that society, for good or ill.]
(4) Above all, the belief that each individual is a creation of God and made in his image is foundational in Western civilisation. From here we gain all our notions of a fundamental equality of personness and respect, the sovereignty of the individual, Individual mind, freedom, reason, decision-making, responsibility, accountability and the reality of existence. From here follow most of our traditional ethical codes, for example that murder, rape, physical and mental harm, violation and damage are moral wrongs.
(5) A secondary foundational belief is that of a fresh start, that God's love is new every morning. From here we gain (develop) concepts of justice, proportional punishment/reparation, rehabilitation and reconciliation. Errors are allowed and mistakes can be corrected. Opinions and beliefs may be changed. An individual's personness is distinct from their opinions. Related concepts of healing, repair, moving on - filtration, distillation, digestion, composting - and for the most difficult cases, transfiguration.
(6) Individual freedom of choice is constrained by wider social and long-term considerations.
(7) Various concepts of sacred space, boundaries, and incarnation regarding humans, animals, communities, places and the land itself.
The role of engineering (civil, mechanical and electrical) is usually ignored despite its foundational importance in the development of society. Engineering has transformed life from one of hard labour for most people and fragility for all. Clean fresh water, sewerage, safe homes and bridges, flood defences, transport and mechanised food production enable long and healthy lives with steady supply of food. Human-scale engineering connects people to the material world where accuracy and precision matter and the long-established laws of physics relied upon.
The concept of adoption is also important. Two different meanings:
(1) A person born outside of a culture, community, family or belief system can become fully a member through adoption;
(2) An individual can adopt or take up a position or opinion, which may be distinct from their private opinion or belief, as a practical means to resolve or accommodate paradoxes and differences. There are multiple ethical distinctions and issues as regards external honesty and personal integrity.
Our School considers that all the above are essential goods or benefits of Western Civilisation that should be retained within a renewed structure of ethical standards and decision-making, of stable language and moral values and priorities. All the founder members are European by location, culture and ethnicity and we write as such, already a very broad perspective in terms of space, history and wealth of human creativity. We communicate with one another in English and in German, to a lesser extent in French. Rightly and inevitably our work is influenced and informed by writers and thinkers in other languages and more distant cultures, two examples being Miguel de Cervantes, 1547 - 1616, and Vikram Seth, b. 1952.
All of the above is in sharp contradistinction to the ideas and beliefs of technocracy and scientism.
Two practical examples:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWahKIG4BE4 The Power of Truth Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace. Important lecture about the denial of science (the truth about how the material world operates) over decent decades, 8 February 2019
https://www.coronababble.com/post/the-ethics-of-using-covert-strategies-a-letter-to-the-british-psychological-society The ethics of using covert strategies - an open letter to the British Psychological Society led by Gary Sidley, 13 December 2020
from Rosie, 18 December 2020