Continuing from part one on Beauty (2009), ch. 1-4. We critically examine Scruton's claim that apprehending beauty is cognitive and never merely sensory, which would rule out, e.g. there being beautiful smells or tastes.
In the full episode, we also go into points from Scruton's chapters on natural beauty, human beauty, and everyday beauty. Appreciation of natural beauty seems to be something that's universal, and so a good thing to bring up against Marxist critics that say that art appreciation is just a bourgeois pastime. Scruton criticizes both the Marxists and evolutionary biologists. We can't merely explain the apprehension of beauty by referring to its alleged social purpose; this would miss the actual experience (phenomenology) of it.
But there is a critique here as well of the idea that beauty is merely an object of contemplation. In the chapter about everyday beauty, Scruton stresses that tastes about human manners, the way we dress and hold ourselves, how we design the ordinary objects we have to interact with, is must more important to our daily lives, even if these things do not transport us to mystical delights.
Relatedly, Kant's insistence that beauty be different from utility is worth scrutinizing. Can't the beauty of a well-made tool be very much tied up in how well that tool functions? ...Such that if we didn't know what it was for, we couldn't even judge its beauty!
Another aspect of this point in Kant is his division between judgments about beauty and desires. Being hungry or horny by looking at the subject of a painting or photograph is very different than seeing its beauty, and likewise, Scruton wants to stress that mere lust for a person's body is different than seeing their beauty, which is necessarily a matter of seeing that person as an embodied free individual. A criterion to test this, with regard to sexual desire or art, would be "could someone replace the object of my gaze with something equivalent without my minding?" The thesis is that if you desire a glass of water, any old water will do, and once you drink it, then you're satisfied. Lust can be like this, but mature sexual desire is for a particular person, wanting them in their totality, such that sex doesn't then really quench the desire, and certainly swapping out a different sexual partner would not satisfy that desire, though it might distract you with a new desire. Similarly, if you're listening to a great piece of music and someone switches it for another one, Scruton claims that you won't be satisfied by that: You wanted that particular piece of music. However, if what you were really looking for was just to feel a certain way, then there might be any number of pieces of music that would do.
Here's a question to test whether people actually read these: I've been talking in present tense about what Scruton "is saying" in the book, whereas in blog posts for the past year or so, I've used strictly past tense like "Scruton said," though I've allowed present tense sometimes like "the doctrine says" or "the book presents a theory." Which of these tenses do you find more natural, or is this just something I shouldn't care about being consistent about?
The other theme in Plato's Symposium that Scruton is concerned with (in addition to lustful desire) is the sacred. For Plato, love makes sexual desire sacred: Through the beloved, we love the divine. Scruton thinks that appreciation of beauty is necessarily adjacent to this sense of divine, and so profane art that flees from transcendence will necessarily be inferior.