Intrinsic Value


The quiet home, with his imaginative father and deeply religious mother, the ancient university at which he passed his most formative years, kept him apart from those freer and less exalted minds who advanced more rationally and patiently to their conclusions. But yet, the spirit of his time awakened within him, as a seed germinates in the warmth ‘of spring.

He apprehended facts which, equally from vehemence of spirit and from lack of specific training, he was unable to state with precision. For him, intuition supplied the place of genuine knowledge, as we may learn from even casual reference to his writings. As an example of his intuitional power in economics, may” be cited a passage of the “Munera Pulveris,” in which he assigns “values” with apparent waywardness. It reads:

“Intrinsic value is the absolute power of anything to support life. A sheaf of wheat of given quality and weight has in it a measurable power of sustaining the substance of the body; a cubic foot of pure air a fixed power of sustaining its warmth; and a cluster of flowers of given beauty, a fixed power of igniting or animating the senses and heart.”

In the old school of economists, such statements could not do otherwise than to excite mirth and contempt; for air and beauty were barred out from the things representing wealth.

Irene Sargent, “John Ruskin: a word regarding his life and public service”, The Craftsman November 1901 p. 3-4