Denis Dutton is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He edits the Johns Hopkins University Press journal, Philosophy and Literature and the website Arts And Letters Daily.Denis Dutton is also a co-founder and co-editor of the websites Arts And Letters Daily, ClimateDebateDaily.com and cybereditions.com.
Denis Dutton (born February 9, 1944) is an academic, web entrepreneur and libertarian media commentator/activist.
Dutton is from Los Angeles, California and was educated at the University of California Santa Barbara. He taught at several US universities before emigrating to New Zealand: the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Michigan–Dearborn. As of 2008 he is acting head of the Philosophy school at Canterbury
Dutton is a passionate supporter of public radio. In the early 1990s he founded the lobby group The New Zealand Friends of Public Broadcasting in response to proposals to devolve New Zealand's two non-commercial public radio station.
In 1995 he was appointed to the board of directors of Radio New Zealand, where he served for seven years. After concluding his term as a director, Dr Dutton and Dr John Isles issued a report criticising Radio New Zealand for loss of neutrality in news and current affairs, failure to adhere to charter and opposed to contestable funding of broadcasting.
Dutton used his editorship of the journal Philosophy and Literature to criticise the prose styles of many literary and cultural theorists. In 1995, Bad Writing Contest criticised the prose of Homi K. Bhabha and Fredric Jameson. In 1998, the contest awarded first place to University of California-Berkeley Professor Judith Butler, for a sentence which appeared in the journal diacritics:
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
Dutton said, "To ask what this means is to miss the point. This sentence beats readers into submission and instructs them that they are in the presence of a great and deep mind. Actual communication has nothing to do with it."
Butler challenged the charges of academic pedantry and obscurantism in the pages of the New York Times and the affair briefly became a cause célèbre in the world of academic theorists. Dutton then ended the contest.