In London, before collecting his degree from the Royal College of Art, Scorsese, 54, said the time was past for an Oscar.
"The films I made in the 1970s would have been the ones to win for best director. Someone from the Academy once told me they would love to give me an award ... if I made more humanistic films," he said.
"As far as I can see, Raging Bull was a humanistic film. I realised that from Taxi Driver onwards I wasn't going to win. It freed me up to make the pictures that I really wanted to make.
"That's the real award for me and throughout my career I have made what I like without hindrance and unscathed by anyone."
Scorsese is probably best known for his brutal yet glamorous portrayals of mobsters, although he has made a couple of surprising departures, with films like The Age of Innocence, an adaption of Edith Wharton's society novel, and the controversial Last Temptation of Christ.
Since he made Mean Streets in 1973, Scorsese has not been afraid to show the violent world that mobsters inhabit. The director had first-hand knowledge of Mafia gangs growing up in New York's Little Italy. Even the father of Scorsese's best friend was a "wise-guy" - a gangster. "It was a very closed-off community, where the main authority was organised crime," Scorsese once said. "Gangsters were the first people I knew."
One of his most recent films, Casino, which starred Sharon Stone and Robert De Niro, was a return to that world, featuring grim scenes of violence.
Scorsese makes no apologies, however. "It happens, you show it - it's as simple as that. It's part of life as I know it and I'm not going to make it pretty. Violence is not glamorous."
The Royal College of Art has awarded a number of honorary doctorates to film makers. Scorsese joins Sir David Lean, David Lynch and Terry Gilliam.