Sunday, May 18, 2008

Roger Scruton in Utrecht on higher and lower art

Thursday the 15th of May Roger Scruton gave a lecture on higher and lower art at the Academy building in the centre of Utrecht. It was organised by studium generale.
I attended the lecture with two friends from my reading group. It was great to see Scruton in real life. Years back we read his book 'Modern Philosophy' and it was great to see him in action and hear more about his background and ideas.
Roger Scruton

Central to his ideas is in my opinion the preposition that there are a set of traditional morals and values everybody should aspire to. These morals are strongly rooted in the Christian tradition, with two central pillars: sacrifice and irony. Under irony he classes a broad concept: being able to stand back and view ones attitudes and behaviour with the view of the outsider. As an example he gave the story from the new testament: those who are without sin, throw the first stone.

The reason I am writing about him in this blog, is that he posed a number of very traditional ideas about teaching and learning. Teaching should be available to those that have the intelligence, a pupil is a black box that should be filled with knowledge, the teacher is holder of knowledge and should be respected. He did not support teaching models in which the student should collect information or learn independently. In his set of values a teacher is central to learning.

Truly understanding art requires being taught the information required to fully appreciate the story behind a work of art. Children should be taught to appreciate high art. Strangely enough he could not define what high art was, other than: what has proven to have survived the test of time. On the other hand: what the majority of people appreciate at present does certainly not have to be high art, it often is not. Relativism does not get his support.
Looking back on his lecture my general impression was that his view of the world is looking backward into a small scale, quaint countryside with traditional values. The community is very important. I have trouble applying his ideas to a global society in which various cultures have different morals, information is not strictly bound to persons and groups of people are packed together in geographical space.

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