A Renaissance Man

“Denis Dutton, a distinguished philosopher, writer and digital-media guru who founded Arts & Letters Daily, one of the first Web sites to exploit the Internet as a vehicle for meaningful intellectual exchange, has died in Christchurch, aged 66,” Margalit Fox writes in a New York Times obituary. “An impassioned polymath, genial contrarian and native Californian, Professor Dutton was at his death a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury, where he had taught since 1984. Although philosophy has a mania for classification, Professor Dutton was demonstrably beyond category. His portfolio ranged over aesthetics (his major field of inquiry was the philosophy of art); evolution (his book The Art Instinct Beauty: Pleasure, and Human Evolution, a Darwinian exploration published in 29, commanded international attention); editing (he founded and edited the journal Philosophy and Literature); obfuscatory prose (he was a publicly sworn foe of same, and ran a competition to honour the worst offenders); plagiarism (as a cultural phenomenon; he was not himself a practitioner); and sitar playing (this he did practice). Professor Dutton was hailed as being among ‘the most influential media personalities in the world,’ as Time magazine described him in 25.” When Arts & Letters Daily was only three months old, the Guardian newspaper called it the best website in the world, and it still receives 3.7 million page views a month. Dutton was also a founding member of the New Zealand Sceptics Society. On December 15, he was awarded a Canterbury University research medal.

Denis Dutton: 9 February 1944 – 28 December 2010

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