Roger Scruton on “Why Beauty is not a Luxury but a Necessity for a Life Worth Living” Soeterbeeck Instituut, June 12, 2009


My pleasure in being here, at the Studiecentrum Soeterbeeck, to discuss the book Roger Scruton wrote on beauty, is twofold. It so happens that I am finishing a book on facial expression and facial beauty, and the chapter I sent to Roger to request his comments, resurfaced unopened in my own mail box, last week. Apparently something went wrong in the mail. Today I might get some of those comments. Secondly, reading Roger’s book, an impression of a kindred spirit has stuck with me throughout.1) Sometimes, though, something like an ungrounded preference surfaces, which for Roger, clearly has intuitive force, maybe even the force of a conclusion, but for me this doesn’t always ring true. I only mention two instances where my own preferences would be different. One is, where after rightly criticising the reverence allotted to Duchamp’s Fountain, in a single sentence (on p. 98) both Radiohead and Brahms are mentioned, in an obvious effort to disqualify the former. The other is where he defends film as an art by comparing it to traditional art, by pointing to shots from an Ingmar Bergman movie, which “would sit on your wall like an engraving, resonant, engaging and composed.” (p. 102). What the incidental surfacing of such preferences makes available to us is that doing aesthetics is not a merely technical philosophical endeavour, but involves art criticism, from time to time. If you don’t love art or its core values, how could you do aesthetics? And there is a deeper thought behind this in Roger’s writings: that the use of taste belongs to the good life.2) All this, also, indicates my predicament, here and now. I feel most inclined..



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Rob Van Gerwen
Utrecht University

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References found in this work

The Aesthetics of Music.Roger Scruton - 1997 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The Aesthetics of Music.Gary Iseminger - 1997 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 57 (3):374-375.
Pictorial Style: Two Views.Richard Wollheim - 1979 - In Berel Lang (ed.), The Concept of style. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. pp. 183--202.

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