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"the mental constitution of crowds is not to be learnt merely by a study of their crimes, any more than that of an individual by a mere description of his vices."

is "any more than that" in this sentence means "besides" or “also”?Saying that the two parts of sentence are juxtaposition?

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  • Sort of. It's putting 2 sets of negatives in parallel. – Lawrence Aug 11 '18 at 12:38
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This is a tricky sentence, and sounds like something written at least 80 years ago from some sort of treatise.

There's some ellipsis in this sentence (it elides words that should be inferrable in order to avoid repetition). The sentence written fully with the elided parts in brackets would be:

"the mental constitution of crowds is not to be learnt merely by a study of their crimes, any more than that (the mental constitution) of an individual (is to be learnt) by a mere description of his vices."

The structure "any more than" here is recognisable as a part that links a first negative statement with a second which it compares to the first. It's of the type:

You shouldn't mistreat strangers any more than you should mistreat family.

It's not right to cheat at chess any more than it is right to cheat at football.

You can't avoid risks in life any more than you can jump into water without getting wet.

He's not Mexican any more than I'm Greek.

All mean respectively:

Mistreating strangers is at least as inadvisable or wrong as mistreating family.

Cheating at chess is at least as wrong as cheating at football.

Avoiding risks in life is at least as difficult as jumping into water without getting wet.

It's at least as wrong to say he's a Mexican than it is to say I'm a Greek.

Let me rewrite the sentence so that it maintains its meaning and is possibly easier to understand:

From a methodological perspective, it's at least as wrong to try to understand the minds of crowds from their crimes as it is wrong to try to understand the mind of an individual from their vices.

As I said, it's a tricky sentence and isn't good reading for someone learning the language.

  • btw, is it common in daily language? – Alex Liu Aug 19 '18 at 4:00
  • @AlexLiu Yeah, it's fairly common. I think it's actually easy to understand from each word of the expression. Maybe a simpler example might be "He's not talented any more than I am." I've looked up this passage and it's from a 1895 book about crowd psychology. So remember that it's quite old and about a specific psychological subject. This might be making it more difficult to understand. – Zebrafish Aug 19 '18 at 4:29

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