What is music, what is its value, and what does it mean? In this stimulating volume, Roger Scruton offers a comprehensive account of the nature and significance of music from the perspective of modern philosophy. The study begins with the metaphysics of sound. Scruton distinguishes sound from tone; analyzes rhythm, melody, and harmony; and explores the various dimensions of musical organization and musical meaning. Taking on various fashionable theories in the philosophy and theory of music, he presents a compelling case (...) for the moral significance of music, its place in our culture, and the need for taste and discrimination in performing and listening to it. Laying down principles for musical analysis and criticism, this bold work concludes with a theory of culture--and a devastating demolition of modern popular music. "A provocative new study."--The Guardian. (shrink)
Book Description: First published in 1980, this contribution to political thought is a statement of the traditional conservative position. Roger Scruton challenges those who would regard themselves as conservatives, and also their opponents. Conservatism, he argues, has little in common with liberalism, and is only tenuously related to the market economy, to monetarism, to free enterprise or to capitalism. It involves neither hostility towards the state, nor the desire to limit the state's obligation towards the citizen. Its conceptions of society, (...) law and citizenship regard the individual not as the premise but as the conclusion of politics. At the same time it is fundamentally opposed to the ethic of social justice, to equality of station, opportunity, income and achievement, and to the attempt to bring major institutions of society such as schools and universities under government control. (shrink)
It seems odd to say that photography is not a mode of representation. For a photograph has in common with a painting the property by which the painting represents the world, the property of sharing, in some sense, the appearance of its subject. Indeed, it is sometimes thought that since a photograph more effectively shares the appearance of its subject than a typical painting, photography is a better mode of representation. Photography might even be thought of as having replaced painting (...) as a mode of visual representation. Painters have felt that if the aim of painting is really to reproduce the appearances of things, then painting must give way to whatever means are available to reproduce an appearance more accurately. It has therefore been said that painting aims to record the appearances of things only so as to capture the experience of observing them and that the accurate copying of appearances will normally be at variance with this aim. Here we have the seeds of expressionism and the origin of the view that painting is somehow purer when it is abstract and closer to its essence as an art. Roger Scruton is the author of Art and Imagination, The Aesthetics of Architecture, The Meaning of Conservatism, From Descartes to Wittgenstein, and The Politics of Culture and Other Essays. (shrink)
A compelling defense of the sacred by one of today's leading philosophers In The Soul of the World, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton defends the experience of the sacred against today's fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive—and to understand what we are—is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things. Rather than an argument for (...) the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life—and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are? Drawing on art, architecture, music, and literature, Scruton suggests that the highest forms of human experience and expression tell the story of our religious need, and of our quest for the being who might answer it, and that this search for the sacred endows the world with a soul. Evolution cannot explain our conception of the sacred; neuroscience is irrelevant to our interpersonal relationships, which provide a model for our posture toward God; and scientific understanding has nothing to say about the experience of beauty, which provides a God’s-eye perspective on reality. Ultimately, a world without the sacred would be a completely different world—one in which we humans are not truly at home. Yet despite the shrinking place for the sacred in today’s world, Scruton says, the paths to transcendence remain open. (shrink)
A dazzling treatise, as erudite and eloquent as Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex and considerably more sound in its conclusion - TLS "He is an eloquent and practised writer" - The Independent (UK) When John desires Mary or Mary desires John, what does either of them want? What is meant by innocence, passion, love and arousal, desire, perversion and shame? These are just a few of the questions Roger Scruton addresses in this thought-provoking intellectual adventure. Beginning from purely philosophical (...) premises, and ranging over human life, art and institutions, he surveys the entire field of sexuality; equally dissatisfied with puritanism and permissiveness, he argues for a radical break with recent theories. Upholding traditional morality - though in terms that may shock many of its practitioners - his argument gravitates to that which is candid, serene and consoling in the experience of sexual love. (shrink)
My intention is to show that, starting from an empiricist philosophy of mind, it is possible to give a systematic account of aesthetic experience. I argue that empiricism involves a certain theory of meaning and truth; one problem is to show how this theory is compatible with the activity of aesthetic judgment. I investigate and reject two attempts to delimit the realm of the aesthetic: one in terms of the individuality of the aesthetic object, and the other in terms of (...) 'aesthetic properties'. I go on to argue that aesthetic descriptions must not be thought to ascribe properties to their objects, and I show how the suggestion that they are non-descriptive need not conflict with the empiricist view of meaning. The problem is then seen to lie with the analysis of the 'acceptance-conditions' of aesthetic descriptions. I counter certain idealist objections to this approach, and then present a theory of imagination, in terms of which the acceptance conditions of aesthetic judgments may be described. This theory attempts to explain how the element of thought in aesthetic appreciation may become inseparable from an experience of its object, and how the aesthetic emotions are both like and unlike their equivalents in life. The first part concludes with an analysis of the general conditions of aesthetic experience. I try to show that aesthetic experience can be described in terms of certain 'formal' properties, independently of its material object. In the second part I am concerned to show that this empiricist theory of aesthetics does not, like most empiricist theories, make nonsense of our appreciation of art. First, I attempt to show that 'understanding' art is not merely a cognitive process, but involves certain experiences that can be accounted for in terms of the previous theory. I then analyse the concepts of representation and expression, and in the course of this analysis I attempt to refute what I take to be the most serious rival analysis of our appreciation of art - the semantic theory. (shrink)
Brings together essays on the philosophy of art in which a philosophical theory of aesthetic judgment is tested and developed through its application to particular examples. Each essay approaches, from its own field of study, what Roger Scruton argues to be the central problems of aesthetics -- what is aesthetic experience, and what is its importance for human conduct? The book is divided into four parts. The first contains a resume of modern analytical aesthetics, which also serves as an introduction (...) to subsequent chapters. It also includes an essay that reviews current theories of literary criticism. The second part is devoted to musical aesthetics and contains the theoretical core of the work. Here Scruton describes the contours of aesthetic understanding, and defends the view that the object of aesthetic experience is inherently significant, even when it has no "content" that can be described in propositional terms. He rebuts the view that music is representational, and in the third part goes on to propose a theory of representation whereby to refute the suggestion that photography is a representational art. This third section also contains a study of film. The final part comprises essays relating aesthetic judgment to the understanding of culture, humor, and design. It covers many subjects, including the prose works of Samuel Beckett and the architecture of Leninism. The essays in this book form parts of a single intellectual enterprise, which is to give analytical foundations to the criticism of literature, visual art, music, and culture. (shrink)
From Botticelli to birdsong, Mozart, and the Turner Prize, Roger Scruton explores what it means for something to be beautiful. This thought-provoking 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 around us.
Philosopher Roger Scruton offers a wide-ranging perspective on philosophy, from logic to aesthetics, written in a lively and engaging way that is sure to stimulate debate. Rather than producing a survey of an academic discipline, Scruton reclaims philosophy for worldly concerns.
Is there such a subject as aesthetics? The lack of any pre-philosophical route to its subject matter, the historicity of its favoured concepts and artefacts, and the ideological character of its inception all suggest that the aesthetic is an invented category, which identifies no stable or universal feature of the human condition. Against this I argue that ordinary practical reasoning leads of its own accord to aesthetic judgement, and that the experience in which this judgement is founded is rooted in (...) our nature as rational beings. I go on to give a partial characterization of the experience, and to argue that our inherited concept of art, in which pictures, poems, works of music, and works of imaginative prose all count as works of art, can be vindicated, once we see art as a functional kind, whose function is to elicit aesthetic experiences. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's contribution to musical aesthetics is not often discussed, which is surprising, given his rare musicality and musical connections. His distinctive achievement is to have focused on the question of musical understanding, and to have connected this with two other philosophical problems: the nature of the first-person case, and the understanding of facial expressions. Wittgenstein's third-person approach to philosophical psychology leads him to emphasize the role of performance in the understanding of music, and also to introduce an ‘intransitive’ concept of (...) expression. At times Wittgenstein seems to be arguing for an entirely non-relational account of musical meaning; however, a proper analysis of the first-person case shows that his theory of musical understanding might allow that, at some level, you understand a piece of music only if you imaginatively grasp the state of mind expressed by it. (shrink)
Emphasizing the continuity between his moral and aesthetic doctrines and the metaphysical basis in which they rest, the author explores Kant's relation to Leibniz and Hume, and his attempt to construct a philosophy which was neither rationalist nor empiricist, and could display the limits of human understanding; he shows that Kant was not only a master of philosophical criticism, but the greater defender of the objectivity of human knowledge, in both the scientific and the moral spheres.
A brief, radical defense of human uniqueness from acclaimed philosopher Roger Scruton In this short book, acclaimed writer and philosopher Roger Scruton presents an original and radical defense of human uniqueness. Confronting the views of evolutionary psychologists, utilitarian moralists, and philosophical materialists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, Scruton argues that human beings cannot be understood simply as biological objects. We are not only human animals; we are also persons, in essential relation with other persons, and bound to them (...) by obligations and rights. Our world is a shared world, exhibiting freedom, value, and accountability, and to understand it we must address other people face to face and I to I. Scruton develops and defends his account of human nature by ranging widely across intellectual history, from Plato and Averroës to Darwin and Wittgenstein. The book begins with Kant's suggestion that we are distinguished by our ability to say "I"—by our sense of ourselves as the centers of self-conscious reflection. This fact is manifested in our emotions, interests, and relations. It is the foundation of the moral sense, as well as of the aesthetic and religious conceptions through which we shape the human world and endow it with meaning. And it lies outside the scope of modern materialist philosophy, even though it is a natural and not a supernatural fact. Ultimately, Scruton offers a new way of understanding how self-consciousness affects the question of how we should live. The result is a rich view of human nature that challenges some of today's most fashionable ideas about our species. (shrink)
_A Short History of Modern Philosophy_ is a lucid, challenging and up-to-date survey of the philosophers and philosophies from the founding father of modern philosophy, René Descartes, to the most important and famous philosopher of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Roger Scruton has been widely praised for his success in making the history of modern philosophy cogent and intelligible to anyone wishing to understand this fascinating subject. In this new edition, he has responded to the explosion of interest in the (...) history of philosophy by substantially rewriting the book, taking account of recent debates and scholarship. (shrink)
Kant is arguably the most influential modern philosopher, but also one of the most difficult. Roger Scruton tackles his exceptionally complex subject with a strong hand, exploring the background to Kant's work, and showing why the Critique of Pure of Reason has proved so enduring.
Local warming -- Global alarming -- The search for salvation -- Radical precaution -- Market solutions and homeostasis -- The moral economy -- Heimat and habitat -- Beauty, piety, and desecration -- Getting nowhere -- Begetting somewhere -- Modest proposals.
Benedict de Spinoza was at once the father of the Enlightenment and the last sad guardian of the medieval world. In his brilliant synthesis of geometrical method, religious sentiment, and secular science, he attempted to reconcile the conflicting moral and intellectual demands of his epoch, and to present a vision of humanity as simultaneously bound by necessity and eternally free. Roger Scruton presents a clear and systematic analysis of Spinoza's thought, and shows its relevance to today's intellectual preoccupations.
Discover for yourself the pleasures of philosophy! Written both for the seasoned student of philosophy as well as the general reader, the renowned writer Roger Scruton provides a survey of modern philosophy. Always engaging, Scruton takes us on a fascinating tour of the subject, from founding father Descartes to the most important and famous philosopher of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein. He identifies all the principal figures as well as outlines of the main intellectual preoccupations that have informed western philosophy. (...) Painting a portrait of modern philosophy that is vivid and animated, Scruton introduces us to some of the greatest philosophical problems invented in this period and pursued ever since. Including material on recent debates, _A Short History of Modern Philosophy_ is already established as _the_ classic introduction. Read it and find out why. (shrink)
Love does not necessarily benefit its object, and cost-free love may damage both object and subject. Our love of animals mobilises several distinct human concerns and should not be considered always as a virtue or always as a benefit to the animals themselves. We need to place this love in its full psychological, cultural, and moral context in order to assess what form it ought to take if animals are to benefit from it.
Music may be used to express emotion, to heighten a drama, to emphasize the meaning of a ceremony; but it is nevertheless an abstract art, with no power to represent the world. Representation, as I understand it, is a property that does not belong to music.
Philosophy is one of the most intimidating and difficult of disciplines, as any of its students can attest. This book is an important entry in a distinctive new series from Routledge: The Great Philosophers . Breaking down obstacles to understanding the ideas of history's greatest thinkers, these brief, accessible, and affordable volumes offer essential introductions to the great philosophers of the Western tradition from Plato to Wittgenstein. In just 64 pages, each author, a specialist on his subject, places the philosopher (...) and his ideas into historical perspective. Each volume explains, in simple terms, the basic concepts, enriching the narrative through the effective use of biographical detail. And instead of attempting to explain the philosopher's entire intellectual history, which can be daunting, this series takes one central theme in each philosopher's work, using it to unfold the philosopher's thoughts. (shrink)
I am reluctant to add to the many definitionsof modernity, or to encourage the belief that definitions matter. Nevertheless, a changecameintothe worldwhenpeoplebegantodefinethemselves as modern—as in some way 'apart from'their predecessors, standing to them in some new and self-conscious relationship. And this couldserve as a definitionof modernity:as the conditionin which people provide definitions of modernity. For there is a great differencebetween living in history—which, for rational beings, is unavoidable—andlivingaccordingtoan idea ofhistory, and of one's own place within it.
Judgments of beauty are neither subjective nor arbitrary, and are a necessary part of practical reasoning in any attempt to harmonise our activities and ways of life with those of our neighbours. The creation of a neighbourhood, a place, a home, or any other settlement in which people of different occupations and views reside side by side involves coordination of a kind that only aesthetic judgment can reliably achieve. And that is why judgment of that kind exists, and why a (...) rational being who has no grasp of it is incapacitated. (shrink)