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1.Everything external is subject to life and death. Only the vigorous life force transcends that. 2.Everything external is subject to life and death. Only the vigorous life force transcends both.

The first part of both sentences says "...life and death." If "life and death" is considered to be two separate things, then "...transcend both" in the last part of the second sentence is correct. But if "Everything external is subject to life and death" is considered as the object that "the vigorous life force transcends",the first sentence is correct. I am not sure which one is correct.

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Everything external is subject to life and death. Only the vigorous life force transcends that.

This can be considered correct if you take life and death as a single thing ('life and death' rather than 'life' and 'death'). This makes the that appropriate.

Everything external is subject to life and death. Only the vigorous life force transcends both.

This is grammatically correct, but I think it is semantically wrong. It doesn't convey what you want it to. It implies that that only the vigorous life force transcends both, but other stuff can transcend just one. So a thing can transcend life or death, but not both.

I think the sentence you want is:

Everything external is subject to life and death. Only the vigorous life force transcends those.

In this case, it makes it clear that life and death are two separate things, but that only the vigorous life force can transcend either of them.

  • Excellent answer, upvoted. Only thing is I think your suggested sentence should use "these", not "those". – Astralbee Jul 13 '18 at 8:27
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    Very detailed good answers. Thank you, Omegastick and Astralbee. Is it ok to say: Only the vigorous life force transcends both of them? – Water Jul 13 '18 at 8:31
  • Using both means we're back to other stuff being able to transcend just one. I'd leave the both out. – Omegastick Jul 13 '18 at 8:32
  • @Water Use "these". Imagine you've just shown someone something in your hand, and then you want to refer to it. You'd use "this", not "that". Likewise, you've just introduced "life and death", you'd refer to them as "these". – Astralbee Jul 13 '18 at 8:55
  • If singular it would be the subjugation that is transcended rather than the objects, though it is awkward all the same. "...each of these" also works. Still it is poorly worded for life something to transcend life. – Paul Childs Jul 13 '18 at 12:20
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There appears to be a logical problem with the two sentences that makes them incompatible no matter what wording is used in the second sentence.

If the vigorous life force transcends life and death, then it is not subject to life and death.

Therefore, regardless of what word you use to end the second sentence, the second sentence will invalidate the first sentence.

The only way around this logical impossibility is to rephrase and combine the two sentences:

With the exception of the transcendent vigorous life force, everything external is subject to life and death.

Now, it could be that the vigorous life force transcends life and death because it is not actually external—but internal. In that case, the second sentence doesn't actually contradict the first from a logical perspective. However, it leads to confusion because it sounds as if it does.

If this is the case, then rewording the second sentence is still necessary to avoid this confusion. In doing so, I will use the final word that I think should actually be used rather than that or both:

Everything external is subject to life and death. The vigorous life force, being internal, transcends these.

It's an assumption on my part that the vigorous life force is one of several things that are internal. If that is a false assumption, then that should be explicitly spelled out:

Everything external is subject to life and death. Only the vigorous life force (alone being internal) transcends these.

  • Thank you for your insight. The logical problem also occured to me. In the context of these two sentenses, it is taken for granted that the vigorous life force is internal, as you put it in your second and third corrections. – Water Jul 13 '18 at 10:07

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