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The sentence in question is:

Everyone always talks about the process of grief, which is as much the activity that is going on below the surface as above.

As far as I know, this should mean that the activity that is going on below the surface has the same amount as the activity that is going on above the surface.

However, it's not logical and definitely not what the author states immediately after the sentence, which is:

The image often used to illustrate it is an iceberg: what we see above the waterline -- our words, our appearance, our expressions -- is only a third of the whole.

Is it that I misinterpret the first sentence?

  • It is just a general statement on the importance of what is above and below the surface. It would be clearer to write "Everyone always talks about the process of grief, which is as much about the activity that is going on below the surface as above. – user3169 Jun 9 '17 at 3:17
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    The flaw in your reasoning is that "as much...as " does not imply the equality of the things being compared—only that one is at least as great as the other. – P. E. Dant Jun 9 '17 at 3:49
  • We can say "as much as and perhaps more than X". And the idea the author is trying to convey is that grief is an activity that goes on both above and below the surface. much doesn't refer necessarily to quantity but to some other comparable attribute, here "having an aboveness" and "having a belowness". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 9 '17 at 11:38
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As with any other language, some people will write well, and others will write things without really thinking them through.

Your interpretation of the first sentence is correct -- by using "as much as", the author implies that what is going on "beneath the surface" is roughly the same as that going on "above the surface". However this is contradicted by the second sentence and its iceberg comparison, where there is more going on below than above.

It's a minor discrepancy, though, and shouldn't detract too much from your opinion of the writer. Still, it would have been better to have written:

... grief, which is more (about) the activity going on below the surface as above.

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It is true that as much as implies a form of equality. But I have as much sugar as salt can mean that have exactly the same amounts, or that that I have at least the same amount of sugar as salt. If I wanted to make it absolutely clear that I had exactly equal amounts, I would say I have as much sugar as salt and no more.

This might have been clearer:

Everyone talks about grief, which is at least as much about the activity going on below the surface as above.

The writer is beginning with the assumption that the external manifestations of grief are more obvious than the internal ones, and is saying that the internal ones are at least as important as the external ones.

  • And this is a bad answer because....? – BobRodes Jun 9 '17 at 16:51

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