The Metaphysician

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Until the publication of The Seven Lamps of Architecture in 1849, John Ruskin published anonymously. For the first two volumes of his Modern Painters (1843, 1846), Ruskin was identified only as a “Graduate of the University of Oxford,” in order to garner respect although he was only twenty-four years old when volume one appeared in print. Similarly, he had used another pseudonym to publish The Poetry of Architecture in The Architectural Magazine (serialized from 1837 to 1838) at the tender age of eighteen. However, this pseudonym, “Kata Phusin,” which translates from Greek as “according to nature,” had a deeper meaning for Ruskin. The desire to learn from Nature inspired his lectures and writings on a wide range of subjects and his particular interest in the ability to train oneself and others to truly see Nature. In The Poetry of Architecture, Ruskin compared an architect to a metaphysician and as such to one who perceives the relationship of being to the environment:

The Science of Architecture, followed out to its full extent, is one of the noblest of those which have reference only to the creations of human minds. It is not merely a science of the rule and compass, it does not consist only in the observation of just rule, or of fair proportion : it is, or ought to be, a science of feeling more than of rule, a ministry to the mind, more than to the eye. If we consider how much less the beauty and majesty of a building depend upon its pleasing certain prejudices of the eye, than upon its rousing certain trains of meditation in the mind, it will show in a moment how many intricate questions of feeling are involved in the raising of an edifice; it will convince us of the truth of a proposition, which might at first have appeared startling, that no man can be an architect, who is not a metaphysician.

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