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Why be afraid of savage dogs if you can’t be sure they want to hurt you? Just because they’re barking and baring their teeth and running towards you doesn’t mean they’ll definitely bite. And even if they do, it won’t necessarily hurt. Why care about oncoming traffic when you cross the road? Those carts might not hit you. Who really knows? And what difference does it make if you are alive or dead anyway? Somehow Pyrrho managed to live out this philosophy of total indifference and conquer all the usual and natural human emotions and patterns of behaviour.

I find the last sentence is too complex to understand.

Which noun does usual and natural modify? "human emotions" or "patterns of behaviour" or both of them?

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Answer: Both

With the conjunction "and" you should be able to find a way to remove one of the listed items, and still create an understandable sentence, more or less. Let's remove "human emotions", and only leave "patterns of behaviour".

Imagine "usual and natural" is an adjective modifying "human emotions". Then it must also be excluded.

What is the resulting sentence?

Somehow Pyrrho managed to live out this philosophy of total indifference and conquer all (the) patterns of behaviour.

It's fairly confusing to read in that format.

Now, put back "usual and natural".

Somehow Pyrrho managed to live out this philosophy of total indifference and conquer all the usual and natural patterns of (human) behaviour.

It makes more sense.

So, from the perspective of only grammar, this could probably go either way. When considering meaning, the "both" choice is preferable.

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This is an example of ellipsis. There is always some degree of ambiguity with such a construction, but it would more commonly be assumed that the adjectives refer to both nouns rather than to just the first.

If the adjectives were only meant to apply to the first noun, then it would normally be rephrased to make that explicit.

I will simplify the sentence in the following examples:

All the usual and natural human emotions and all unusual and unnatural patterns of behaviour.

Note that I left the out of the repetition, only because it sounds a bit better to me without it—not because it needs to be left out.

Or, without any adjectives applied to the second noun:

All the usual and natural human emotions and all patterns of behaviour.

By repeating all, it's no longer indicated that the phrase preceding the first noun should be assumed to also precede the second noun.


If the adjectives are meant to apply to both nouns, but you find the use of ellipsis too unclear, you can make it explicit through the same repetition:

All the usual and natural human emotions and all the usual and natural patterns of behaviour.

Alternatively, you could rephrase the sentence in a way like the following:

All the usual and natural elements of both human emotions and patterns of behaviour.

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