Aesthetic Education and Design, by Roger Scruton

ISPA 2016 Keynote lecture, 20 July 2016, 9:00 am.

The notion of aesthetic education introduced by Schiller is of particular importance in the practice of vernacular arts like architecture, where the licence afforded to the ‘genius’ is as likely to be destructive as creative. I argue that aesthetic education is an extension, through practice and dialogue, of the search for agreement and reason-based preference which is the core of the aesthetic attitude, and that it is the foundation of durable styles in architecture. One important result of this education is an understanding of how things ‘fit’: how part fits to part, and how the whole fits into its surroundings; and how the surroundings fit into, and are fitted by, a way of life. Schiller’s view that a kind of civic dignity is implied by the process is not so far from the mark. We may have lost it now; but it is worth remembering that architecture has been, in the past, just as much an art of ‘composition’ as music. I conclude with some critical remarks about Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and other advocates of the hair-dryer paradigm of architectural form.


Schiller, F., On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters, edited and translated by E. M. Wilkinson and L. A. Willoughby, Clarendon Press 1983.

Roger Scruton

Harvard Citation Guide: Scruton, R. (2016) Aesthetic education and design, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 03 June 2016, Available at: [Accessed: 03 June 2016]

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