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.
I guess I don't understand what you mean by his seeming smug or superior. I didn't get that impression from him anymore than I did from watching Francis Schaeffer's How Then Should We Live
. But then again, I can't say I've ever felt
that some speaker felt
like he was superior to me since I became a William F. Buckley, Jr. fan.
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.
I think the difference is the philosophy that says that an artist can make anything
beautiful (especially by screwing around with what the word "beauty" means) and the opposing philosophy that says a work of art is not a work of art just because someone says
it is, and by declaring that anything can be beautiful, you lose the eyes to discriminate in order to find what is
beautiful. Beauty is anything vs. beauty is everywhere. Scruton is arguing that by asserting that anything can be beautiful, we lose the ability to cultivate what really is beautiful, which is a significant loss, since the beautiful is all around us.
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.
Well, it's certainly fun to think about. When you read, please feel free to contribute. I (and hopefully anyone else) will not be offended if you disagree with anything here. I've enjoyed the discussion more and been forced to think about it more because of some of the disagreements. They're healthy because they force you to think more clearly than before.
In parts 5 and 6, Scruton at least gestures in the direction of my question/complaint:
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?
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)]
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.
Glad you were able to see it, and thanks for taking the time to think and comment about it.
On one point, while it is true that history winnows down art over time, and I'm sure there was plenty of "kitsch" and other non-lasting trinkets back long ago, the difference is a matter of philosophy. Just recently (well, about 100 years) people in the art world are questioning whether there are any objective standards for what is right, and true, and beautiful in a work of art. The philosophy of art taught at universities has changed. Scruton is using older art because the artists back then had an opposing philosophy to the modern artists Scruton is addressing today. Also, our culture has changed - for whatever different reasons - and tends to value art and beauty less. You have a good point though, we don't have to generalize that all modern artists are of the same philosophy.
could we possibly get any more highbrow
Shakespeare could easily be said to be "lowbrow" in his own time period and culture, and yet he is "highbrow" in our time period and culture. What does that say about our culture today?
Edited by Persiflage, 22 December 2010 - 02:58 PM.