Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hello, All -
I am reading some letters from Ruskin to Charles Eliot Norton and I don't know what to make of the following:

JR: "And again - do not confuse my Spiritual Platonism with the Economical abstractions - It is not my Platonism, but a mathematical axiom - that a line is Length without its breadth - nor is it Platonism - but an economical axiom - that Wealth means that which that which conduces life."

I've read about Platonism, neo-Platonism, Christian Platonism..... but I am not sure what JR is saying about his own beliefs here.  Can anyone shed any light?



  1. Spiritual Plantonism probably refers to the belief in abstract entities, viz. the Forms, such as "perfect" circles, which can be easily contemplated just as one admits them to be literal impossibilities. So, they exist in the air, in the theoretical/spiritual realm, but not in reality. JR's concern is, as one who does believe, I take it, in Plato's 'realm of the Forms', that one critical of his economic principles could brush them off as pertaining to "mere theory," with the suggestion that his criticism does not attempt to connect at the literal/societal level.

    tl;dr In this letter to Norton, JR insists that his 'economical abstractions' are not, rather, theoretical substances ala Plato limited to some nether-realm, but existing in reality, as do "mathematical axiom[s]."

  2. Erick sums it up well in that first paragraph. And to put it more bluntly, JR's saying "my economic propositions are not theoretical statements or philosophical speculations, but basic matters of *definition*" -- ie, "axiomatic," as in Euclid. Wealth = "that which conduces to life," and any other definition is simply a misdefinition.

  3. Axiom: A line is defined as an infinite series of points. A point is defined only by its number coordinate placement in a Cartesian grid. The grid exists only in the mind of the perceiver of its formation.So as a point exists only by it's numerical descriptors then a line exists only as a specified limited within the infinity of possible descriptors. Therefore a line has no real existence except as a summation of its descriptors and thus has no width or length unless manifested as a mathematical form between two or more Cartesian grid coordinates.
    Though as a corollary:
    0∞ = 1 that is zero to the infinite power equals one. Making this the exception to the rule so that 1(one infinity) plus 1(one infinity) = 1(one infinity). Hooray for Rene Descartes,pre-quantum theory, and post-Euclidean geometry.

  4. Egads, you people are smart! Very helpful. I love that boiled down, JR is basically saying what he always says, and that is, essentially, "I am just right about this." Thank you!

  5. "zero to the infinite power equals one." How does this work? .999=1, is this the same?