Denis Dutton has passed away. He was a professor of the philosophy of art at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and founder and editor of the journal Philosophy and Literature. But he is most known for creating the indespinsible website Arts & Letters Daily, co-creator of the website Climate Debate Daily, as well as the author of the recent book on bio-aesthetics, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution.
Of course I never knew him, but I truly admired him from afar. A&L Daily is always the first website I check everyday after firing up my browser. If you are not a vistor, do yourself a favor. I like what Theodore Dalrymple (aka Anthony Daniels) has said,
The agenda of the English-language press, upon which the sun never sets, was driven to a startling degree by Arts and Letters Daily, produced in Christchurch. I once published an article in an excellent cultural journal of limited circulation about a subject of interest to few of my compatriots. I had forgotten about it; but suddenly, a frenzy of interest erupted in it. In the space of a few hours, at least 20 radio stations contacted me, wanting to talk about the article. I found this utterly mysterious until I discovered that Arts and Letters Daily had posted it shortly before.
A man, however, is not to be measured wholly by the quality of his achievements. I wish only that I were able to turn as fine a compliment of Denis Dutton as Doctor Johnson turned of Sir Joshua Reynolds: that he was the most invulnerable man that he knew, for if he should quarrel with him, he should find the most difficulty how to abuse him. Denis Dutton was of that ilk.
In speaking of Charles Darwin in the introduction of The Art Instinct, Dutton said "I hope I have done justice both to him and to the great artists whose achievements so captivate us." Dutton has done justice to more than just Darwin and the artists that inspired him, he has done justice to the "humanities and sciences" and honest inquiry in the chaos of the interwebs, and we are better for it.
And last, but not least, he had a great sense of humor. From his visit on The Colbert Report:
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