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Beauty Hardcover – May 25, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0199559527 ISBN-10: 019955952X Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


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).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019955952X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199559527
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #858,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Edward Styles on 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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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Flippy on January 23, 2010
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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74 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Stanley H. Nemeth on 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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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 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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