Beauty

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Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference. In this Very Short Introduction, the renowned philosopher Roger Scruton explores the concept of beauty, asking what makes an object--either in art, in nature, or the human form--beautiful, and examining how we can compare differing judgments of beauty when it is evident all around us that our tastes vary so ...
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Overview


Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference. In this Very Short Introduction, the renowned philosopher Roger Scruton explores the concept of beauty, asking what makes an object--either in art, in nature, or the human form--beautiful, and examining how we can compare differing judgments of beauty when it is evident all around us that our tastes vary so widely. Is there a right judgment to be made about beauty? Is it right to say there is more beauty in a classical temple than a concrete office block, more in a Rembrandt than in an Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can? Forthright and thought-provoking, and as accessible as it is intellectually rigorous, this 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 that fill our lives.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In this short work, Scruton (philosophy, Inst. for the Psychological Sciences; England: An Elegy) uses the writings of Plato and Kant along with specific artistic works to create a philosophical explanation of beauty. According to Scruton, when we say that an object is beautiful, we are making a rational judgment about the object that is based on our contemplation of its appearance. He explains that beauty is not a subjective preference but a universal value, founded on reason and our value system, to which all rational agents should agree. Scruton examines four kinds of beauty-human, natural, everyday, and artistic. He is not concerned with defining the qualities of beauty; he works to show how the experience of beauty is similar to religious experiences in that it allows us to "look with reverence on the world." The book's tone is scholarly, yet it remains highly accessible and offers readers a unique and well-argued approach to the concept of beauty. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
—Scott Duimstra

The Barnes & Noble Review
Aesthetics as an independent academic discipline may have faded with the 19th century, but in Roger Scruton's vigorous, decidedly unfashionable little book, Beauty, it's as timeless as ever. An investigation into the nature of the ineffable -- how, and what, shapes our experience of beauty -- his treatise is more an inquiry than an answer. Scruton is, by training and by temperament, a philosopher, and he approaches his analysis with a logician's steady reason. Beginning with a series of platitudes -- "Beauty pleases us," "Beauty is always a reason for attending to the thing that possesses it," and so forth -- and continuing through its pages, he tries to distill what exactly is meant by this vexing term. Beauty is, for Scruton, a rational but almost spiritual process of encounter between beholder and beheld -- be it a landscape, a painting, a simply arranged table. "When looking on the world disinterestedly," he writes, "I don't just open myself to its presented aspect; I bring myself into relation with it, experiment with concepts, categories and ideas that are shaped by my self-conscious nature." But it's easier to say what Scruton thinks beauty isn't. He's at his most passionate (and least cogent) when on the attack, lashing out at contemporary art and postmodern desecration. Scruton can come across as curmudgeonly and prudish (a British academic could not sound more uncomfortable talking about "the 'convict' style of black American 'gangstas' "), and, despite all his logical contortions, a bit imprecise. But then, it's only because he has picked, pointedly, the one subject that defies rational explanation. --Amelia Atlas
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199559527
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/25/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Scruton is Research Professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, in Arlington, Virginia.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. Judging beauty
2. Human beauty
3. Natural beauty
4. Everyday beauty
5. Artistic beauty
6. Taste and order
7. Art and Eros
8. The flight from beauty
9. Concluding thoughts
Notes and Further Reading

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The sense of beauty is one of the most fundamental human univers

    The sense of beauty is one of the most fundamental human universals. No one is immune to aesthetic appeals, and it seems that the appreciation of the beauty is an exclusive human characteristic. This very short introduction aims to introduce the general reader to some of the fundamental intellectual underpinnings of this essential concept. Unfortunately, the book falls short with respect to this objective.




    I am a huge fan of Roger Scruton's writings, and have read many of his articles and books, and have reviewed several of his books (including his other book in this series [[ASIN:0192801996 Kant: A Very Short Introduction]]). He is extremely erudite and insightful, and he is able to find a new, fresh, perspective on many of the ageless topics. However, I think that with this Very Short Introduction he has widely missed the target. He makes no bones about the fact that this is an exclusively philosophical outlook on beauty, which is extremely disappointing considering all the great insights that the psychology has given us in recent decades on that topic. At the beginning of the second chapter Scruton attempts to give some evolutionary backing for the sense of beauty, but after just a few pages that approach fizzles away and transforms into various philosophical speculations and musings on sexuality.




    In his philosophical musings Scruton doesn't seem to be grounding much of his ideas within the overarching western philosophical tradition. He mentions Plato and Kant a few times, and maybe on a few occasions some of the other prominent philosophers. For the most part, though, one gets a sense that the material in this book has been wrought whole-cloth out of Scruton's own omphaloskepsis. Scruton is indeed a great thinker, and many of his ideas are extremely interesting, but after a while I got really bored with all the self-indulgent writing.




    The book is very long for a very short introduction, and at 164 pages it is one of the longest ones that I had read. It could have used a fair amount of editing for content length.




    If you are interested in some interesting philosophizing on the topic of beauty, then this book may appeal to you.  However, this is far from being an authoritative and up-to-date account of our understanding of beauty as a concept.

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