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Beauty [Hardcover]

by Roger Scruton
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)


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Book Description

May 25, 2009 019955952X 978-0199559527 1
"Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane," writes Roger Scruton. "It can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It is never viewed with indifference: beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks to us directly like the voice of an intimate friend."
In a book that is itself beautifully written, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton explores this timeless concept, asking what makes an object--either in art, in nature, or the human form--beautiful. This compact volume is filled with insight and Scruton has something interesting and original to say on almost every page. Can there be dangerous beauties, corrupting beauties, and immoral beauties? Perhaps so. The prose of Flaubert, the imagery of Baudelaire, the harmonies of Wagner, Scruton points out, have all been accused of immorality, by those who believe that they paint wickedness in alluring colors. Is it right to say there is more beauty in a classical temple than a concrete office block, more beauty in a Rembrandt than in an Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can? Can we even say, of certain works of art, that they are too beautiful: that they ravish when they should disturb. But while we may argue about what is or is not beautiful, Scruton insists that beauty is a real and universal value, one anchored in our rational nature, and that the sense of beauty has an indispensable part to play in shaping the human world.
Forthright and thought-provoking, and as accessible as it is stimulating, this fascinating meditation on beauty draws conclusions that some may find controversial, but, as Scruton shows, help us to find greater meaning in the beautiful objects that fill our lives.


Editorial Reviews

Review

As always with Scruton, his prose is exquisite and wonderfully clear, which fact together with the illustrations make his book a thing of beauty itself. A. C. Grayling, The Art Newspaper Careful and absorbing. A. C. Grayling, The Art Newspaper This is a fascinating and thought-provoking little book. A. C. Grayling, The Art Newspaper Roger Scruton has moments of great insight and clarity in this attractively slim volume. Sebastian Smee, The Observer A fascinating book, which I heartily recommend. Bryan Wilson, Readers Digest Short, fast paced, and wide ranging. Michael Tanner, Literary Review

About the Author


Roger Scruton is research Professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences based in Arlington, Virginia. His previous academic affiliations have been Professor of Aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London, and subsequently Professor of Philosophy and University Professor at Boston University. His most recent books are On Hunting (1998), An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture (1998), Spinoza (1998), and England: an Elegy (2000).

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (May 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019955952X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199559527
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #558,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
82 of 87 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Roger Scruton is a moral philosopher whose work is for many of us a source of reassurance and hope. He stands against the modern and especially post- modern trend which suggest that Truth , Goodness and Beauty are not values, but forms of oppression which must somehow be violently opposed and devalued. In a sense his heart is that of an Enlightentment Rationalist who argues that our Thought and our Art are meant to enhance our understanding of the world, and our appreciation of Life. In seeking in a sense to give us back our sense of how Beauty enriches our life Scruton does a service not only to Aesthetics but to the way we live in our everyday world.
I find his work among the most persuasive and inspiring philosophical writing that is being done today.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful! October 26, 2009
Format:Hardcover
Few books have fulfilled my expectation as well as Roger Scruton's Beauty. Many decades ago, I entered college intending to become a graphic artist. Going into publishing instead, I became disgusted with art as it succeeded in its efforts to be disgusting. Scruton reconnected me with what I once valued so much - its transcendence. It was a pleasure to read someone who takes art more seriously than most artists do. I strongly recommend this book. -- [...]
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66 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Contra Post-Modernist Sacrilege" May 31, 2009
Format:Hardcover
In this brief volume, Roger Scruton persuasively comes to the aid of those of us eager to hear nowadays, say, a Mozart opera or a Shakespearean play but who to do so have to endure the by now conventional shenanigans of Regie directors bent on defaming clearly admirable characters and setting noble works of Western Culture in brothels or other tiresome dens of iniquity. Scruton makes an unanswerable case that such post-modern exemplars are engaging in a predictable, frankly adolescent sort of sacrilege, not so transgressive in fact as just merely and less glamourously repetitive of their own peers' practice. Post-modern "rebellion," reminiscent of teenage behavior, is a rebellion by its numerous advocates marching in embarrassing lockstep. If his book were to be widely read, it would surely influence younger artists to innovate, moving out of the dead-ends of such trite postmodern practice.

Scruton's central thesis is that while Beauty is something that must be individually experienced, nevertheless it is essentially rational and thus connected to Truth and Goodness, rather than being a mere preference one cannot expect other rational selves ever to agree upon. Scruton's knowledge of aesthetics, ranging from Plato and Plotinus down through the centuries to contemporary theorists and artists is undeniably impressive. His is a work to reread and savor.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Philosopher's View of Beauty July 30, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 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.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty - Yesterday and Today January 23, 2010
By Flippy
Format:Hardcover
Although Scruton doesn't come out and tell us what Beauty is he does manage to write a superb and provocative book on the subject throughout history. His chapters include: Judging Beauty, Human Beauty, Natural Beauty, Everyday Beauty, Artistic Beauty, Taste and Order, Art and Eros, The Flight from Beauty and Concluding Thoughts.

Before reading Beauty I had long felt that much of the art of the twentieth century has suffered from a nefarious need to ruin beauty. Scruton, with this book, is preaching to my choir and I was immediately sympathetic.

For those who are disgusted by the shock theatrics of modern opera directors, the pseudo story-lines and characters of kitsch romanticism, the prevalence of garden gnomes and the porn-horror of the Saw genre, this book is for you. Scruton begins by discussing how we judge beauty, quoting Kant and Plato. He then explores the realms of Human, Natural (i.e. landscapes), Daily and Artistic beauty. From the human body to gardens, to the beauty of the mundane (a wife setting her table) and to the works of artists, he covers the gamut succinctly and stylistically. Art and Beauty concern expression, style, thought, philosophy, love and appreciation.

Beauty is closely related with the sacred and for Scruton we live in a loveless culture wherein beauty is desecrated because people are afraid to love. The rise of Kitsch he notes is closely aligned with the rise of the Holocaust and the Gulag where the human being is like a doll we kiss in one moment and throw away the next.

Considering we live in an ipod world where everything is at our fingertips, art is fast disappearing, either through the morass of entertainment or the cheap effects of modern artists striving to stir as oppose to inspire thought. This book is an essential read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars An Elitists Guide for Looking Down on People
Scruton wants to turn beauty into an objective subject where his tastes are not just better or more refined than others but actually right and true. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Matthew S. Mitchell
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I've been waiting for for 40 years
Aesthetics went into the doldrums when Andy Warhol appeared. This book represents its return. Not that this is Professor's Danto's aesthetics-- far from it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by trastevere
4.0 out of 5 stars Many Dimensions of Beauty and the Beautiful
It is a fine introduction to the philosophy of beauty, sometimes erroneously called "aesthetics. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Alexei Fyodorovich
4.0 out of 5 stars Roger Scruton's Very Short Introduction to Beauty
Broad and complex subjects may be approached in many ways. The subject of Roger Scruton's "very short introduction", "Beauty" (2009), for example, might have been written as an... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Robin Friedman
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a good book
I would recommend this to anyone who needs it. This will be a great book for anybody who needs this for school.
Published 7 months ago by Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars This Inspiring Distillation Dazzles
Roger Scruton's Beauty: A Very Short Introduction is a brilliant distillation of the history of western thought on a subject central to pleasure, aesthetics, morality and truth. Read more
Published 11 months ago by John Paul Caponigro
5.0 out of 5 stars This Inspiring Distillation Dazzles
Roger Scruton's Beauty: A Very Short Introduction is a brilliant distillation of the history of western thought on a subject central to pleasure, aesthetics, morality and truth. Read more
Published 11 months ago by John Paul Caponigro
3.0 out of 5 stars A Philosopher's View of Beauty
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... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
5.0 out of 5 stars Summary
Great book. The concept of beauty has been something that should be studied by anyone interested in philosophy. Great topic
Published 12 months ago by Reform Christian
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a cool glass of water on a hot day.
Roger Scruton's book is such a refreshing study. Much of the contemporary art that has been lauded as "great art" is in reality ugly, disgusting, meaningless, or a... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Taylor O.
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