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Denis Dutton, who founded Arts & Letters Daily, dies at 66

December 28, 2010 |  5:13 pm

Denis Dutton, an author, academic and founder of the popular Arts & Letters Daily website, died Tuesday in New Zealand, his family said. He was 66.

Dutton, a professor of philosophy at New Zealand's Canterbury University, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer but continued working until his health deteriorated rapidly a week ago, said his son, Ben.

Dutton was widely known for his Arts & Letters Daily, a groundbreaking early aggregator featuring links to commentary on arts, literature and events.

He established the website in 1998 and continued as editor after selling it to the U.S.-based Chronicle of Higher Education the next year. London's Guardian newspaper described it in 1999 as "the best website in the world."

Born in Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 1944, Dutton was educated at UC Santa Barbara.

His recent work focused on Darwinian applications in aesthetics, explored in his best-selling book "The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure and Human Evolution" in 2009, which he described as a study of art as a product of evolution.

"Whenever you have a pleasure, whether it's a pleasure of sweet and fat or the pleasure of sex or the pleasure of playing with your children, or being in love, that does suggest that there is some kind of Darwinian adaptation that underlies the phenomenon," he said last year in an interview with Radio New Zealand's National Radio.

While at the University of Michigan in 1976, he founded the academic journal "Philosophy and Literature," later taken over by Johns Hopkins University Press.

He became professor of philosophy at New Zealand's Canterbury University in 1984. It was from there that he launched Arts & Letters Daily.

Survivors include his wife, Margit; two children, Sonia and Ben; and brothers Doug and Dave.

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-- Associated Press