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J.A.A. Purves

Why Beauty Matters

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Regarding public art in particular, though, I think whatever consensus(es) may exist regarding excellence and worth should be taken into account.

Unfortunately (or not if you are the recipient) it seems more governed by the one with the money.

Joe

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That's funny. When I see that (and I have seen that on a local basis) all I can think is "My daughter is going to blow the walls off! I can't wait when she sets the new standard!"

Unfortunately, "setting the new standard" turns out to matter largely in terms of money and fame, not meaningful achievement. Also, the political element comes to the fore, and as Perciflage points out the question becomes less about merit than PR skills. Your daughter might have the talent, but someone else has the connections, and what is talent anyway?

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That's funny. When I see that (and I have seen that on a local basis) all I can think is "My daughter is going to blow the walls off! I can't wait when she sets the new standard!"

Unfortunately, "setting the new standard" turns out to matter largely in terms of money and fame, not meaningful achievement. Also, the political element comes to the fore, and as Perciflage points out the question becomes less about merit than PR skills. Your daughter might have the talent, but someone else has the connections, and what is talent anyway?

Well, since I am a connection, my daughter has that in her favour. :D

I do agree that PR can accelerate attention, but I am a firm believer (and i do think it bears out, at least in my experience) in slow and steady wins the race and many things become self evident, at least in the world of dance. I have told my daughter, I'll do what I can to open doors for her, but it is up to her to prove herself.

But if my daughter has the capacity to set the standard, then she chooses instead to stay in the background or limit her exposure, then her realm of influence will be small. It might build over time as people start to tell others about what they learned from her. If that's all she wants, I'm OK with that.

Joe

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Like KShaw pointed out, many movements came about specifically to take art out of the hands of the elite, the galleries and museums and critics and the ones who think they can say what is and isn't art, and put it back in the hands of the everyday people.

Has modern art actually put art "in the hands of everyday people"? Is art that just anyone can produce art that just anyone can enjoy? Which is more elitist, a world in which few make art but anyone can appreciate it, or in which anyone can make art but only a few can appreciate it?

I did note the irony where they present this new art to 'everyday people' who then tell them they don't want it. But I think this binary is misleading, not least of all because of that fact that artmaking tools have become available to everyone in a way that's historically unprecedented. So anyone CAN make art now, and those opportunities will just grow over time as the technologies to do so get cheaper and cheaper. That's just the world we live in. At the same time, most of our professional artists still come through the academy, avant garde or not. Nowadays, anyone can make art and few make art; both your categories apply.

Paint has been around forever, sure, but inventions like the printing press, the camera, the video cam, and the computer have all trickled down to the masses. We've been working with paint all this time because it's what we've had. Now that the boundaries of art have expanded exponentially within a short period of time, we might expect the art being produced to start looking quite different as well.

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Which is more elitist, a world in which few make art but anyone can appreciate it, or in which anyone can make art but only a few can appreciate it?

Great question.

Or, perhaps, a world where anyone can make art as long as they have the right PR skills to get backed by, oh say, the National Edowment for the Arts?

You know, I don't want to get too deeply into the arts policy boondoggle, since it is my day job. But I do need to just state for the sake of clarity: The NEA doesn't make any grants to individual artists. "PR Skills" do not factor into the NEA's decision making.

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Other negatives from the past. I think Scruton and Manet would probably have some issues considering one of Manet's quotes “that an artist has got to move with the times and paint what he sees”"

Here are some reviews from an early Impressionist showing.

"When the human figure is involved, it is another matter entirely: the aim is not to render its form, its relief, its expression - it is enough to give an impression with no definite line, no colour, light or shadow; in the implementation of so extravagant a theory, artists fall into hopeless, grotesque confusion, happily without precedent in art, for it is quite simply the negation of the most elementary rules of drawing and painting. The scribblings of a child have a naivety, a sincerity which make one smile, but the excesses of this school sicken or disgust."

Some notes from a critic who seems to have been taken to task for a negative review:

"Even the word 'Gothic' came out of a jibe. Renaissance writer Giorgio Vasari, looking down on artists living across the Alps from him for their highly ornamental stonework, referred to them as 'these Goths, these barbarians untutored in the true classics.'"

History is riddled with the likes of Scruton. I have no doubt he won't be the last.

Joe

Edited by jfutral

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It would be interesting to know what makes something beautiful. Studies have been done that show children are more attracted to faces that are more symmetrical. Is symmetry beauty? Then Beauty is a mathematical function.

I did take a bit of offense in the whole rumpled bed scenario. Why is a painting of a rumpled bed beautiful and symbolic but the actuall rumpled bed not? Wasn't the artist's own rumpled bed beautiful to him? Does, therefore, distance make beauty?

Living in Chicago, I've been to the Art Institute many times. The new modern wing is a place I like to visit. The Modern European wing is a place I like to go. The modern US American wing, though, I avoid. Why do I want to look at panels painted white (The cards say there are different values of white in them) with metal framing? I like ideas but I like my ideas to be expressed in a way that makes them concrete. What about the work there where a person saw a fallen tree and was mesmorized by it? What did he do? He cut it up in chunks and sent them to Japan to be carved out of wood. He destroyed the object that arrested him to make a facsimile. Then he didn't even do the work but put his name on it. Is that Beautiful? I don't know. It doesn't speak to me the way a real fallen tree would.

The idea that something is art because I say it is is kind of Post Modern. The referent is always the self. Everybody has something to say and everyone has the right to be heard. Not everyone is right. Why should I listen to one person's idea over another? Why should I open myself to anyone's idea? There is nothing more dangerous than an idea. Once it is in your head it is there for good. (Or for ill.) Should one person's idea take presidence over the ideas of generations past? If personal belief is all important, then what about the personal beliefs of a group that are different?

I'm rambling now. Sorry.

PEace and good.

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It would be interesting to know what makes something beautiful. Studies have been done that show children are more attracted to faces that are more symmetrical. Is symmetry beauty? Then Beauty is a mathematical function.

No no no. Beauty does not equal attraction. (Not that you said it did, but you did ask the question.)

One can argue (and I would) that symmetry (or analogues in other arts like rhyme and harmony) matter, and are very good, while simultaneously accepting that beauty can emerge outside of them. :)

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So, I'm still only halfway through Scruton's book, Beauty, but here's some relevant excerpts to the discussion -

pg. ix -

... how can a standard erected by one person's taste be used to cast judgement on another's? How, for example, can we pretend that one type of music is superior or inferior to another when comparative judgements merely reflect the taste of the one who makes them?

pg. 2 -

There is an appealing idea about beauty which goes back to Plato and Plotinus, and which became incorporated by various routes into Christian theological thinking. According to this idea beauty is an ultimate value - something that we pursue for its own sake, and for the pursuit of which no further reason need be given. Beauty should therefore be compared to truth and goodness, one member of a trio of ultimate values which justifiy our rational inclinations. Why believe p? Because it is true. Why want x? Because it is good. Why look at y? Because it is beautiful.

pgs. 5-6 -

It would help to define our subject, therefore, if we were to begin a list of comparable platitudes about beauty, against which our theories might be tested. Here are six of them:

(i) Beauty pleases us.

(ii) One thing can be more beautiful than another.

(iii) Beauty is always a reason for attending to the thing that possesses it.

(iv) Beauty is the subject-matter of a judgement: the judgement of taste.

(v) The judgement of taste is about the beautiful object, not about the subject's state of mind. In describing an object as beautiful, I am describing it, not me.

(vi) Nevertheless, there are no second-hand judgements of beauty. There is no way that you can argue me into a judgement that I have not made for myself, nor can I become an expert in beauty, simply by studying what others have said about beautiful objects, and without experiencing and judging for myself.

pg. 32 -

When I describe something as beautiful I am describing it, not my feelings towards it - I am making a claim, and that seems to imply that others, if they see things aright, would agree with me. Moreover, the description of something as beautiful has the character of a judgement, a verdict, and one for which I can reasonably be asked for a justification. I may not be able to give any cogent reasons for my judgement; but if I cannot, that is a fact about me, not about the judgement.

pgs. 58-59 -

Kant followed Shaftesbury in supposing that taste is common to all human beings, a faculty rooted in the very capacity for reasoning that distinguishes us from the rest of nature. All rational beings, he relieved, have the capacity to make aesthetic judgements; and in a life properly lived taste is a central component. However, many people seem to live in an aesthetic vacuum, filling their days with utilitarian calculations, and with no sense that they are missing out on the higher life.

pg. 63 -

If we cannot justify the very concept of the aesthetic, except as ideology, then aesthetic judgement is without philosophical foundation. An 'ideology' is adopted for its social or political utility, rather than its truth. And to show that some concept - holiness, justice, beauty, or whatever - is ideological, is to undermine its claim to objectivity. It is to suggest that there is no such thing as holiness, justice or beauty, but only the belief in it - a belief that arises under certain social and economic relations and plays a part in cementing them, but which will vanish as conditions change.

pg. 76 -

Planning law in Europe has always been sensitive to the threat that buildings pose to natural beauty, and has tried, with limited success, to control the style, size and materials of buildings in the countryside, in order to safeguard our shared aesthetic inheritance.

pg. 98 -

If anything can count as art, what is the point or the merit in achieving that label? All that is left is the curious but unfounded fact that some people look at some things, others look at others. As for the suggestion that there is an enterprise of criticism, which searches for objective value and lasting monuments to the human spirit, this is dismissed out of hand ... The argument is eagerly embraced, because it seems to emancipate people from the burden of culture, telling them that all those venerable masterpieces can be ignored with impunity, that TV soaps are 'as good as' Shakespeare and Radiohead the equal of Brahms, since nothing is better than anything and all claims to aesthetic value are void. The argument therefore chimes with the fashionable forms of cultural relativism, and defines the point from which university courses in aesthetics tend to begin - and as often as not the point at which they end.

pg. 99 -

Good taste is as important in aesthetics as it is in humour, and indeed taste is what it is all about. If university courses do not start from that premise, students will finish their studies of art and culture just as ignorant as when they began. When it comes to art, aesthetic judgement concerns what you ought and ought not to like, and (I shall argue) the 'ought' here, even if it is not exactly a moral imperative, has a moral weight.

Edited by Persiflage

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Do you think it is possible for an artist to produce a work of art that, if I don't like or appreciate it, there is something wrong with me?

That's a loaded question! smile.gif I happen to think there is something wrong with everyone ...

Joe

Well yes, obviously there is something wrong with everyone. That something is called the sin nature. But that doesn't mean that some people with the sin nature can occasionally get a thing or two right, while others (with the same sin nature) can get an identical thing or two wrong.

So the simple question still goes, is there something specifically WRONG with me if I dislike or fail to appreciate ... oh say "The Well-Tempered Clavier" by Johan Sebastian Bach? the Venus de Milo statue? the Potala Palace in Tibet? Michelango's "Universal Judgement" in the Sistine Chapel? "The New World" by Terence Malick? or what about just the Grand Canyon?

Edited by Persiflage

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How do people define art these days?

I'd humbly suggest using an English dictionary.

art: (1) the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

(Webster's Dictionary of the English Language, 2001, Random House, Inc.)

Edited by Persiflage

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So the simple question still goes, is there something specifically WRONG with me if I dislike or fail to appreciate ... oh say "The Well-Tempered Clavier" by Johan Sebastian Bach?

Maybe.

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How do people define art these days?

I'd humbly suggest using an English dictionary.

art: (1) the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

(Webster's Dictionary of the English Language, 2001, Random House, Inc.)

I am on board with using a dictionary to help define words (or even draw a baseline so that a group can be on the same page) but "art" is rather subjective, even in definition. This definition really only proves the subjectivity by using a variety of highly subjective words and thoughts. "Of what is beautiful?" of what is appealing?"

I haven't read over this entire thread yet but I am both looking forward to it and feeling rather anxious about it. However, I am leaning in the direction of changing the title to "Why understanding individual perspectives about beauty matters."

Here I go...

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Do you think it is possible for an artist to produce a work of art that, if I don't like or appreciate it, there is something wrong with me?

That's a loaded question! smile.gif I happen to think there is something wrong with everyone ...

Joe

Well yes, obviously there is something wrong with everyone. That something is called the sin nature. But that doesn't mean that some people with the sin nature can occasionally get a thing or two right, while others (with the same sin nature) can get an identical thing or two wrong.

So the simple question still goes, is there something specifically WRONG with me if I dislike or fail to appreciate ... oh say "The Well-Tempered Clavier" by Johan Sebastian Bach? the Venus de Milo statue? the Potala Palace in Tibet? Michelango's "Universal Judgement" in the Sistine Chapel? "The New World" by Terence Malick? or what about just the Grand Canyon?

Still a loaded and not so simple a question. There could very well be something wrong with you if you dislike or fail to appreciate anything. So what?

Since you are more read on Scruton than I am at this point, how would you compare Susan Sontag's essay "An argument about beauty" to what you have read of Scruton so far?

(an excerpt):

"Beauty defines itself as the antithesis of the ugly. Obviously, you can’t say something is beautiful if you’re not willing to say something is ugly. But there are more and more taboos about calling something, anything, ugly. (For an explanation, look first not at the rise of so-called political correctness, but at the evolving ideology of consumerism, then at the complicity between these two.) The point is to find what is beautiful in what has not hitherto been regarded as beautiful (or: the beautiful in the ugly)."

After this discussion I am real close to giving my dance organization the tag line "Out to destroy beauty!"

Joe

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Still a loaded and not so simple a question. There could very well be something wrong with you if you dislike or fail to appreciate anything. So what?

Since you are more read on Scruton than I am at this point, how would you compare Susan Sontag's essay "An argument about beauty" to what you have read of Scruton so far?

(an excerpt):

"Beauty defines itself as the antithesis of the ugly. Obviously, you can’t say something is beautiful if you’re not willing to say something is ugly. But there are more and more taboos about calling something, anything, ugly. (For an explanation, look first not at the rise of so-called political correctness, but at the evolving ideology of consumerism, then at the complicity between these two.) The point is to find what is beautiful in what has not hitherto been regarded as beautiful (or: the beautiful in the ugly)."

Hey Joe,

Well alright, I agree the question is loaded. That's why I asked it. So there could be something wrong with me? But I'm willing to make statements a little more straightforward than that. I say there is something wrong with me if I don't like listening to Bach, or if I don't like looking at Peter Paul Rubens, or if I don't like reading Shakespeare. Not only that, but I'd say there is something wrong with me if I "appreciate" or claim that I see the beauty in something that is clearly not beautiful.

I'll read Sontag's whole essay asap, but as far as that one excerpt goes - well, I would completely reject the idea that "beauty defines itself as the antithesis of ugly." This is because I believe beauty, like truth and goodness, is an objective good. Something that comes from and was created by God. Just as C.S. Lewis argued that evil cannot create for itself ex nihilo, that all evil is only good twisted. I'd think that beauty is what God intended, and all true ugliness is only beauty defaced. Of course, some people use the adjectives "beautiful" and "ugly" in a subjective manner. But that doesn't mean that "beauty" as a noun is not something objectively real, that was intended by God to appeal to the soul of every human being.

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Hey Joe,

Well alright, I agree the question is loaded. That's why I asked it. So there could be something wrong with me? But I'm willing to make statements a little more straightforward than that. I say there is something wrong with me if I don't like listening to Bach, or if I don't like looking at Peter Paul Rubens, or if I don't like reading Shakespeare. Not only that, but I'd say there is something wrong with me if I "appreciate" or claim that I see the beauty in something that is clearly not beautiful.

Boy am I in trouble then. Bach is my least favourite classic music to the point I do not enjoy listening to Bach. Rubens is also one of my least favourite painters to the point I do not enjoy his work in the slightest. And I abhor reading Shakespeare. I enjoyed lighting Julius Caesar when Jomandi Theatre produced the play set in the nation of Islam. I guess that means there is something wrong with me. But again, I ask, so what?

Joe

(edit to add: One thing I haven't touched on because I am holding out hope that my suspicions are unfounded. Does Scruton dare venture beyond this Western view, seemingly bordering on colonialism, of art and beauty? Does he allow that what other cultures find beautiful may differ? For instance he derides the bejeweled skull (which I thought was lovely), yet many cultures decorate and decorate with skulls for a variety of reasons. What of architecture beyond Western influences? I only keep seeing him and reading you use Western art as somehow the exemplar of art/beauty. In many ways Modern minimalism existed long before Modernity in other cultures.)

Edited by jfutral

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Scruton is quite the interesting fellow to research. Here are a couple articles on a debate from 2009 in which he participated:

'Britain has become indifferent to beauty'

The last paragraph pretty well sums it up for me:

"...in despair at their negativism, cynicism and defeatism, I asked Starkey and Scruton: "Why is it I like what you like (which is to say: medieval, renaissance and Victorian), but why you are so limited and snitty and crabby you see no value in what I like?"

and this editorial from the Guardian/Observer:

Beauty is our antidote to cynicism

Joe

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I haven't read over this entire thread yet but I am both looking forward to it and feeling rather anxious about it. However, I am leaning in the direction of changing the title to "Why understanding individual perspectives about beauty matters."

Here I go...

So ... has the anxiety passed?

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Boy am I in trouble then. Bach is my least favourite classic music to the point I do not enjoy listening to Bach. Rubens is also one of my least favourite painters to the point I do not enjoy his work in the slightest. And I abhor reading Shakespeare. I enjoyed lighting Julius Caesar when Jomandi Theatre produced the play set in the nation of Islam. I guess that means there is something wrong with me. But again, I ask, so what?

(edit to add: One thing I haven't touched on because I am holding out hope that my suspicions are unfounded. Does Scruton dare venture beyond this Western view, seemingly bordering on colonialism, of art and beauty? Does he allow that what other cultures find beautiful may differ? For instance he derides the bejeweled skull (which I thought was lovely), yet many cultures decorate and decorate with skulls for a variety of reasons. What of architecture beyond Western influences? I only keep seeing him and reading you use Western art as somehow the exemplar of art/beauty. In many ways Modern minimalism existed long before Modernity in other cultures.)

I don't believe we can just discount his arguments because he discusses mostly "Western" examples of art. Of course, he (and we) know more about the art of Europe and the West because we are from the West. I don't see how his arguments are distinctively Western or "colonial" when pretty much ALL the "alleged" works of art he is criticizing are all Western (all from America or Europe). Scruton isn't arguing for the superiority of European art over, oh say, African or Eastern art. He's mostly arguing the superiority of older art over the modern (99% because of the difference in philosophy that is behind the two). He is also arguing that Christian theology drastically affects what you believe and appreciate about t beautiful.

On page 64, he wrote -

It is true that the word 'aesthetic' came into its present use in the eighteenth century; but its purpose was to denote a human universal. The questions I have been discussing in this book were discussed in other terms by Plato and Aristotle, by the Sanskrit writer Bharata two centuries later, by Confucius in the Analects and by a long tradition of Christian thinkers from Augustine and Boethius, through Aquinas to the present day. The distinctions between means and ends, between instrumental and contemplative attitudes, and between use and meaning are all indispensable to practical reasoning, and associated with no particular social order. And although the vision of nature as an object of contemplation may have achieved special prominence in eighteenth-centure Europe, it is by no means unique to that place and time, as we know from Chinese tapestry, Japanese woodcuts, and the poems of the Confucians and of Basho.

As far as there being something wrong with you if you don't like Bach, Rubens or Shakespeare, it's not necessarily something morally wrong with you. But I can distinctly remember a time in my life where I didn't like classical music when I was younger - and THAT meant something was wrong with me (my education, my lack of culture, my lack of broadmindedness, etc). There was also a time when I thought Shakespeare to be dreadfully dull - a time when part of my soul was asleep and I was a cultural barbarian. So yes, if you cannot enjoy listening to Bach or if you abhor Shakespeare, then you are in trouble.

Scruton is quite the interesting fellow to research. Here are a couple articles on a debate from 2009 in which he participated:

'Britain has become indifferent to beauty'

The last paragraph pretty well sums it up for me:

"...in despair at their negativism, cynicism and defeatism, I asked Starkey and Scruton: "Why is it I like what you like (which is to say: medieval, renaissance and Victorian), but why you are so limited and snitty and crabby you see no value in what I like?"

Looks like the entire debate is available here at IntelligenceSquared. You have to become a member to watch it though. That last paragraph was written by Stephen Bayley who was in the debate against Scruton. Unfortunately, he doesn't give Scruton's answer. But of course, anyone trying to argue that beauty has any objective worth, and that therefore it is something to value over other things that are not beautiful, is going to be easily accused of intolerance. It's an old debate trick to accuse the advocate stuck with the position of advocating limits of not being broad-minded enough. But I think it was Chesterton who would argue that it's the very limits that make any definitions, work, progress, thought, or meaning possible. If everything can be art, or if anything can be beautiful, then the words "art" and "beauty" are about as meaningless as they could be. When Scruton argues that our modern day culture is losing it's sense for beauty, he is fighting for that which touches the soul against that which deadens the soul and lamenting modern culture's tendency towards the latter. He is trying to point out that there is a difference between a work of art that awakens inside you the search for meaning, and between a "work of art" produced to satisfy material appetites. Of course there are different tastes and subjectivity involved here, but there are also universals involved here. This entire discussion is about how to distinguish between the two.

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From the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers. With Groucho as Spaulding, of course:

Chandler: Well, I've always tried to do what I could, especially in the world of art.

Spaulding: Art. Well, I don't know how we drifted around to that, but what is your opinion of art?

Chandler: I am very glad you asked me!

Spaulding: I withdraw the question! This fellow takes things seriously, it isn't safe to ask him a simple question. Tell me, Mr. Chandler, where are you planning on putting your new opera house?

Chandler: Oh, I thought I should like to put it somewhere near Central Park.

Spaulding: I see. Why don't you put it right in Central Park?

Chandler: Could we do that?

Spaulding: Sure, do it at night when no one is looking. Why don't you put it in the reservoir and get the whole thing over with? Of course, that might interfere with the water supply. But after all we must remember that 'art is art.' Still, on the other hand, water is water, isn't it? And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like apple sauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.

Sorry. I couldn't resist.

I've listened to the first half of Scruton's program and, although it's potentially an interesting topic, his air of smug superiority is tough to take. It's as though until he's been able to educate us as to what beauty is, us plebs have no chance. A lot of life-long academics suffer from this fault, but Scruton seems to have a heapin helpin of it.

Then too, the following self-contradiction is so glaring, I can't believe the director or the editor or somebody didn't point it out to Scruton - save the man some embarrassment:

Michael Craig-Martin: A work of art is a work of art because we think of it as such. I honestly think it's important to say that the notion of beauty has been extended to include things that would not have been thought of... that's part of the artist's function is to make beautiful - make one see something as beautiful - something that nobody thought was beautiful up until now.

Scruton: Right. Like a can of sh*t. [and Scruton visibly smirks]

...

Scruton [not 20 minutes later, and in all sincerity]: ... beauty is an ordinary, everyday kind of thing. It lies all around us. We need only the eyes to see it, and the hearts to feel.

Edited by tenpenny

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I haven't read over this entire thread yet but I am both looking forward to it and feeling rather anxious about it. However, I am leaning in the direction of changing the title to "Why understanding individual perspectives about beauty matters."

Here I go...

So ... has the anxiety passed?

I don't think the anxiety will ever pass. So much beauty in anxiety ;)

Actually, this sort of discussion is always a lot for me to process. I continually shift between anger (or frustration) and a sympathetic ear of partial agreement. The problem is that my sympathy is more often due to the context I create for his comments about art, beauty, propaganda, etc.

I need to finish up the videos. However, reading through the posts requires the need for fresh air and time away.

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From part 4 of Scruton's program:

Scruton [in voice-over - the scene is of a baby in a stroller with a woman cooing over it, with ethereal music playing softly in the background]: Consider the joy you might feel when you hold a friend's baby in your arms. You don't want to do anything with the baby. You don't want to eat it [!], to put it to any use, or to conduct scientific experiments on it. You want simply to look at it, and to feel the great surge of delight that comes when you focus all your thoughts on this baby, and none at all on yourself. That is what Kant described as a disinterested attitude. And it is the attitude that underlies our experience of beauty. To explain this is extremely difficult because if you haven't experienced it, you don't really know what it is. But everybody listening to a beautiful piece of music, looking at a sublime landscape, reading a poem which seems to have contained the essence of the thing it describes, everybody in an experience like that says yes, this is enough.

I think this is true, and well said, but I don't see how it can be the whole truth about beauty and art. It seems too one-sided. It seems too self-absorbedly static and satisfied. It seems to leave no place for art that hauls you off by the scruff of the neck and says, look at this, although you may not want to. Art, for example, like John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath, or this

written by Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman.

In short, is there a place in Scruton's conception of beauty for "rough" art that wants to get people up off their complacent asses and moving? Art that wants everybody to say yes, but this is not enough. Or would Scruton call that propaganda, and not art?

I'm off to watch parts 5 and 6 now...

Edited by tenpenny

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I still remember a graduate assistant in theology at CUA telling us that his understanding of the Eucharist changed when he and his wife had their first baby -- because, he said, he loved his baby so much he just wanted to eat it up. Nom nom nom ;)

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In parts 5 and 6, Scruton at least gestures in the direction of my question/complaint:

Scruton: From the beginning of our civilization it has been one of the tasks of art to take what is most painful in the human condition and to redeem it, in a work of beauty. [This is followed by a fragment from Cordelia's death scene in King Lear - could we possibly get any more highbrow? (g)]

So I suppose he'd accept the two examples I gave of "rough" art within his definition of beauty, although he'd probably point out that both are now some sixty or seventy years old. Scruton's beef with modern art and architecture appears to be of more recent vintage, although his exact boundary line (as to when things went to hell in a handbasket) is not well defined. For someone so consumed with looking backward in time, rather than forward, he doesn't seem to consider how history winnows art over time. I think he unfairly compares great art from the past - "tip of the pyramid" stuff - with "carefully chosen for maximum shock value" art from the present. Would Scruton really have us believe that all modern artists are "desecrators" and that all modern architects are "vandals?" Or that plenty of "kitsch" wasn't also produced when the great masters were alive and painting?

I do agree though with a lot of what Scruton has to say about the connections between religion and beauty.

Thanks, Persiflage, for posting Scruton's program, and to you and jfutral and others for an enlightening discussion.

Edited by tenpenny

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