Euclid, Carroll & Political Satire

lewis-carroll-in-numberlandI have been researching the work of Lewis Carroll, and just now found a remarkable piece of Carroll’s wit in Robin Wilson’s book Lewis Carroll in Numberland (2008).  Carroll, a professor of mathematics and logic at Oxford, was very familiar with Euclid’s Elements, the classic Greek text on geometry which was used to sharpen the minds of students in Victorian England.

Euclid’s first three postulates are:

Euclid1) Let it be granted, that a line may be drawn from any point to any other point.

2) That a line may be lengthened to any extent.

3) That a circle may be drawn about any point, and at any distance from that point.

Carroll, mocking the politics of parliamentary elections, produced these three:

Lewis Carroll1) Let it be granted, that a speaker may digress from any point to any other point.

2) That a finite argument may be lengthened to any extent.

3) That a controversy may be raised about any question, and at any distance from that question.

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