LONDON (AP) — Philosopher Roger Scruton, one of Britain’s most prominent conservative thinkers, has died aged 75.
Scruton’s family said in a statement that he died Sunday after a six-month battle with cancer.
A graduate of Cambridge University and long-time lecturer at the University of London’s Birkbeck College, Scruton carved out a role as a public intellectual — a relatively rare thing in Britain — with more than 50 books on morality, politics, culture and aesthetics and regular television appearances.
He was widely respected in eastern Europe for his support for dissidents during Communist rule. He received honors from the late Czech President Vaclav Havel and Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
His views were sometimes contentious. In 1999 the Pet Shop Boys won a libel suit against him after he alleged in a book on pop culture that their songs were mostly the work of sound engineers.
In 2018 he was hired by Britain’s Conservative government as an adviser on improving modern architecture. He was fired several months later after the left-of-center New Statesman magazine published an interview in which Scruton said Chinese authorities were “creating robots of their own people,” disparaged billionaire philanthropist George Soros and called Islamophobia “a word invented to stop discussion of a major issue”.
The magazine later apologized for the way it had promoted the interview on social media, acknowledging that “the views of Professor Scruton were not accurately represented in the tweets.”
Scruton was reappointed to the government post. He said the incident showed there was a “witch hunt” against those on the political right and an “attempt to silence the conservative voice” — though his voice was long prominent in public discussions.
Scruton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2016 for services to philosophy, teaching and public education.
Looking back on his life in December, Scruton wrote in the Spectator magazine that “coming close to death you begin to know what life means, and what it means is gratitude.”
U.K. Treasury chief Sajid Javid tweeted that he was “sad to hear of Sir Roger Scruton’s passing. From his support for freedom fighters in Eastern Europe to his immense intellectual contribution to conservatism in the West, he made a unique contribution to public life.”
Historian Timothy Garton Ash said Scruton was “a man of extraordinary intellect, learning and humor, a great supporter of central European dissidents, and the kind of provocative — sometimes outrageous — conservative thinker that a truly liberal society should be glad to have challenging it”.
Scruton is survived by his wife, Sophie, and children Sam and Lucy.