At the end of the year 1864 Ruskin delivered at Manchester a new series of lectures - not on art, but on reading, education, woman's work and social morals - the expansion of his earlier treatises on economic sophisms. This afterwards was included with a Dublin lecture of 1868 under the fantastic title of Sesame and Lilies (perhaps the most popular of his social essays), of which 44,000 copies were issued down to 1900.
Having invented four arguments all immeasurably subtle and profound, the grossness of subsequent philosophers pronounced him to be a mere ingenious juggler, and his arguments to be one and all sophisms. After two thousand years of continual refutation, these sophisms were reinstated, and made the foundation of a mathematical renaissance, by a German professor, who probably never dreamed of any connexion between himself and Zeno.
But what were the distinctions and sophisms of the theologians for, if they could not remove such contradictions, and convict their opponents of heresy?
It is not difficult to lay one's finger upon very many obliquities, self-deceptions and sophisms in Tertullian in matters of detail, for he struggled for years to reconcile things that were in themselves irreconcilable; yet in each case the perversities and sophisms were rather the outcome of the peculiarly difficult circumstances in which he stood.
This was at once his strength and his weakness: his strength, for as a professional pleader he had learned how to deal with an adversary according to the rules of the art - to pull to pieces his theses, to reduce him ad absurdum, and to show the defects and contradictions of his statements, - and was specially qualified to expose the irregularities in the proceedings taken by the state against the Christians; but it was also his weakness, for it was responsible for his litigiousness, his often doubtful shifts and artifices, his sophisms and argumentationes ad hominem, his fallacies and surprises.