Arts & Letters Daily, Denis Dutton RIP

by Jay Cross on January 1, 2011


A moment of silence, please.

Denis Dutton, a philosophy who founded the pioneering website Arts & Letters Daily, has died in Christchurch, New Zealand, at the age of 66.

Arts & Letters Daily broke new ground went it came online in 1998. The site’s archive shows what grabbed people’s interest back then. Here are entries from the first edition:

Television is indifferent to approval or love. It pursues its only goal with unblinking zeal: to be watched … [more]


Even if the people who made cigarettes or cheap handguns were moral monsters, Wendy Kaminer argues, that wouldn’t mean they were criminals … [more]


Chance and necessity don’t account for everything. Without discarded teleologies, entelechies, and vitalisms, we can still opt for intelligent design, argues William Dembski … [more]


Computer-based learning is a high-priced sham, bound to stunt the emotional and intellectual growth of our children, argues William Rukeyser … [more]


Playing fast and loose with Thomas Jefferson: a Library of Congress exhibit falsifies Jefferson’s view of Christian theology and clergy … [more]


Academic freedom has been twisted into a narrow, self-serving claim to privilege, power, and easy access to the public treasury, argues Thomas Sowell … [more]


Everyday justice: a junior barrister of the Greenwich Magistrates Court helps his client apply for bail … [more]


Riley Weston is 19 years old, though, here as elsewhere, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is. Mark Steyn reports … [more]


Media and public have fallen in love with the hucksters of acupuncture, homeopathy, chelation therapy, herbal concoctions, magnetic placebos … [more]


Filling in the black holes of a college education means forgetting the postmodern ironists and returning to the library, says Camille Paglia … [more]


Nude photos of Dr. Laura mark the fall of a grasping Tartuffe. Never mind: this yenta’s credibility was built on shrewish hectoring, not morality … [more]


Escape from Pleasantville! Sven Birkerts wonders if we can ever get back to reality … [more]


Planning that Dream Wedding? If you think the ultimate joy is a day spent being the center of a big party, you’re too young to get married … [more]


Do electronic books spell the end of paper as the preferred book medium? Any optimism on behalf of trees is premature, says the Economist … [more]


History belongs to everyone and to no one: hence its universal authority. This claim will be contested. But without it, we are in trouble … [more]


Isaiah Berlin was a fox who’d rather have been a hedgehog. The themes of freedom and its betrayal were the obsessions of his life … [more]


Corporate nomads: are the virtues of public and private life being corroded by the demands of a more ruthless economy? … [more]


Richard Dawkins might have been a superb drill instructor, perhaps like the vicious Marine sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, murdered by a conscript he drove insane … [more]


In their own eyes, the Stuarts were quite as modern as the Spice Girls. So what exactly is modernism? … [more]

The notion of an aggregator with intelligent selections was a breakthrough. I corresponded with Dutton, thanking him for making and maintaining such a great resource. This was pre-Google. RSS didn’t get real until 2000. Arts & Letters Daily’s teasers and links gave access to smart stuff on the web.

Until I read Dutton’s obit in the Times this morning, I hadn’t realized that ALD was still around. I may well become a dedicated reader again although I note it’s now a service of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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