To this question physical science gives an answer, somewhat incomplete it is true, and in part still very hypothetical, but yet deserving of respect so far as it goes. Physical science, more or less unconsciously, has drifted into the view that all natural phenomena ought to be reduced to motions. Light and heat and sound are all due to wave-motions, which travel from the body emitting them to the person who sees light or feels heat or hears sound.

Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell, Chapter III

How could I understand the bold text? I think I would write it like this: It is true that physical science answers this question in a somewhat incomplete way . Is it correct?

2 Answers 2


I think there's a subtle difference between your interpretation and the original text. Your interpretation makes the incompleteness of the answer the main point and focus of the sentence, while in the original text, the incompleteness is just an aside. In fact, the whole second half of the sentence is more or less an aside.

Asides / Parenthetical Expressions

As for what an aside is -- the term "aside" is equivalent to "parenthetical expression". The below excerpt does a good job of explaining the purpose of asides:

A parenthetical expression is a phrase or clause that’s inserted within—in effect, it interrupts—another phrase or clause. The larger structure is complete without the smaller structure, which could be an adverb clause, as in the following four examples, or an added comment or remark that has no syntactic function in the clause. [...] The idea is to add information rather quietly (a brief definition or comment, for example), so as not to distract the reader from the rest of the sentence [...].

Reinterpreting the example sentence

A more faithful re-interpretation of the text would be something like:

Physical science gives an answer to this question. True, that answer is somewhat incomplete and in part still very hypothetical, but it [the answer] is still deserving of respect, so far as it [the answer] goes.

(words in brackets are just added for clarification of what "it" is referring to)

Edit: added link/quote and explanations of asides


To this question physical science gives an answer, somewhat incomplete it is true

There is a question.

physical science gives an answer.

The answer is somewhat incomplete. incomplete, that is true.

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