What is music, what is its value, and what does it mean? In this stimulating volume, Roger Scruton offers a comprehensive account of the nature and significance of music from the perspective of modern philosophy. The study begins with the metaphysics of sound. Scruton distinguishes sound from tone; analyzes rhythm, melody, and harmony; and explores the various dimensions of musical organization and musical meaning. Taking on various fashionable theories in the philosophy and theory of music, he presents a compelling case (...) for the moral significance of music, its place in our culture, and the need for taste and discrimination in performing and listening to it. Laying down principles for musical analysis and criticism, this bold work concludes with a theory of culture--and a devastating demolition of modern popular music. "A provocative new study."--The Guardian. (shrink)
It seems odd to say that photography is not a mode of representation. For a photograph has in common with a painting the property by which the painting represents the world, the property of sharing, in some sense, the appearance of its subject. Indeed, it is sometimes thought that since a photograph more effectively shares the appearance of its subject than a typical painting, photography is a better mode of representation. Photography might even be thought of as having replaced painting (...) as a mode of visual representation. Painters have felt that if the aim of painting is really to reproduce the appearances of things, then painting must give way to whatever means are available to reproduce an appearance more accurately. It has therefore been said that painting aims to record the appearances of things only so as to capture the experience of observing them and that the accurate copying of appearances will normally be at variance with this aim. Here we have the seeds of expressionism and the origin of the view that painting is somehow purer when it is abstract and closer to its essence as an art. Roger Scruton is the author of Art and Imagination, The Aesthetics of Architecture, The Meaning of Conservatism, From Descartes to Wittgenstein, and The Politics of Culture and Other Essays. (shrink)
From Botticelli to birdsong, Mozart, and the Turner Prize, Roger Scruton explores what it means for something to be beautiful. This thought-provoking introduction to the philosophy of beauty draws conclusions that some may find controversial, but, as Scruton shows, help us to find greater sense of meaning in the beautiful objects around us.
Love does not necessarily benefit its object, and cost-free love may damage both object and subject. Our love of animals mobilises several distinct human concerns and should not be considered always as a virtue or always as a benefit to the animals themselves. We need to place this love in its full psychological, cultural, and moral context in order to assess what form it ought to take if animals are to benefit from it.
Is there such a subject as aesthetics? The lack of any pre-philosophical route to its subject matter, the historicity of its favoured concepts and artefacts, and the ideological character of its inception all suggest that the aesthetic is an invented category, which identifies no stable or universal feature of the human condition. Against this I argue that ordinary practical reasoning leads of its own accord to aesthetic judgement, and that the experience in which this judgement is founded is rooted in (...) our nature as rational beings. I go on to give a partial characterization of the experience, and to argue that our inherited concept of art, in which pictures, poems, works of music, and works of imaginative prose all count as works of art, can be vindicated, once we see art as a functional kind, whose function is to elicit aesthetic experiences. (shrink)
Judgments of beauty are neither subjective nor arbitrary, and are a necessary part of practical reasoning in any attempt to harmonise our activities and ways of life with those of our neighbours. The creation of a neighbourhood, a place, a home, or any other settlement in which people of different occupations and views reside side by side involves coordination of a kind that only aesthetic judgment can reliably achieve. And that is why judgment of that kind exists, and why a (...) rational being who has no grasp of it is incapacitated. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's Lectures on Aesthetics contain valuable hints towards an aesthetics of everyday life. They lend plausibility to a broadly Kantian vision of aesthetic judgement and also shed light on the understanding of architecture and related practices.
Benedict de Spinoza was at once the father of the Enlightenment and the last sad guardian of the medieval world. In his brilliant synthesis of geometrical method, religious sentiment, and secular science, he attempted to reconcile the conflicting moral and intellectual demands of his epoch, and to present a vision of humanity as simultaneously bound by necessity and eternally free. Roger Scruton presents a clear and systematic analysis of Spinoza's thought, and shows its relevance to today's intellectual preoccupations.
_A Short History of Modern Philosophy_ is a lucid, challenging and up-to-date survey of the philosophers and philosophies from the founding father of modern philosophy, René Descartes, to the most important and famous philosopher of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Roger Scruton has been widely praised for his success in making the history of modern philosophy cogent and intelligible to anyone wishing to understand this fascinating subject. In this new edition, he has responded to the explosion of interest in the (...) history of philosophy by substantially rewriting the book, taking account of recent debates and scholarship. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's contribution to musical aesthetics is not often discussed, which is surprising, given his rare musicality and musical connections. His distinctive achievement is to have focused on the question of musical understanding, and to have connected this with two other philosophical problems: the nature of the first-person case, and the understanding of facial expressions. Wittgenstein's third-person approach to philosophical psychology leads him to emphasize the role of performance in the understanding of music, and also to introduce an ‘intransitive’ concept of (...) expression. At times Wittgenstein seems to be arguing for an entirely non-relational account of musical meaning; however, a proper analysis of the first-person case shows that his theory of musical understanding might allow that, at some level, you understand a piece of music only if you imaginatively grasp the state of mind expressed by it. (shrink)
There is a real distinction between fantasy and imagination, which corresponds in part to Coleridge's distinction between fancy and imagination. Fantasy seeks substitute objects for a real emotion: it therefore involves the 'realization' of its object in a perfect simulacrum. Imagination seeks unreal objects for unreal emotions, and therefore is thwarted by the presentation of a simulacrum. At the same time, the motive of imagination is to understand what is real, and to respond with emotional alertness to it. The cinema (...) awakens and satisfies fantasy. But it has difficulty in giving full elaboration to an imaginative thought. Its principle is not reality but realization. (shrink)
In Death-Devoted Heart Roger Scruton argues that Tristan und Isolde has profound religious meaning. Blending philosophy, criticism and musicology, he shows the work is as relevant today as it was to Wagner's contemporaries. Scruton's analysis touches on the nature of tragedy, the significance of ritual sacrifice, and the meaning of redemption.
The danger is that people will just get lost in a morass of addictive pleasures and not ask themselves the questions about the meaning of their own lives and not make the effort to make themselves interesting to others, so that human relations begin to crumble. I think we’re actually seeing that. If you look round the society in which we are, it’s not in a happy state.
Kant is arguably the most influential modern philosopher, but also one of the most difficult. Roger Scruton tackles his exceptionally complex subject with a strong hand, exploring the background to Kant's work, and showing why the Critique of Pure of Reason has proved so enduring.
Emphasizing the continuity between his moral and aesthetic doctrines and the metaphysical basis in which they rest, the author explores Kant's relation to Leibniz and Hume, and his attempt to construct a philosophy which was neither rationalist nor empiricist, and could display the limits of human understanding; he shows that Kant was not only a master of philosophical criticism, but the greater defender of the objectivity of human knowledge, in both the scientific and the moral spheres.