1

What does "but" mean here?

If we are able to identify two things (a, b) or two occurrences of a thing, there must be some difference between them, otherwise it would make no sense to say that there are two things, or two occurrences of a thing, but one thing.

Source: On What it Means to ‘Be’ (philosophy blog)

I understand it's saying that we should say there's one thing instead of saying two things or two occurrences of a thing, but the inclusion of but in this sentence seems ungrammatical.

  • puffofsmoke - Please read Why you should cite your source on meta, and follow the guidance there for future questions. Also, as you were told on ELU, do not crosspost identical questions on multiple exchanges. – J.R. Feb 27 at 16:27
-2

It's not "ungrammatical" - it's just extremely "condensed" emphasis.

there are two things, or [there are] two occurrences of a thing, but there's STILL ONLY ONE THING INVOLVED, even if that same thing occurs more than once

Note that the context of the above is we are able to identify (two things, or two occurrences of one thing) as being "different, distinct". It's an unusual context that turns on the fact that in English it's perfectly possible to say "thing1" and "thing2" are the same [kind of] thing from a semantic perspective, even though literally and/or physically they're separate / distinct entities.

Note that citation says otherwise it would make no sense to say [the cited text]. What this means in context is that it does (or at least, can) make sense to say that.


This "syntactic device" is quite unusual, so I can't think of any similar examples that might actually have any real "currency". From the learner's perspective, it's really not worth attempting to "understand" the syntax with a view to using it yourself, since you'll probably not be able to do so successfully. Just accept that the construction is "valid", and move on.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.