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Seen from this perspective, the tension in chapter five dissolves, but Mill is scarcely out of the woods because much then turns on the determination of relevant harm.

The Moral Foundation of Politics by Ian Shapiro [pp. 62]

For this sentence I have got some questions:

  • What does much refer to? (woods?)
  • What does then means? Just what it says or taken with "much" like much then?
  • And most importantly: What does turns on means?
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According to the Cambridge Dictionary, much means "a large amount", and then means "at that time" or "next", and turn on means "depend on" in this context.

Seen from this perspective, the tension in chapter five dissolves, but Mill is scarcely [out of the woods/safe] because [much/a large amount] then [turns on/depends on] the determination of relevant harm.

It is not clear from this short sentence whether then refers to the situation at the end of chapter five [at that time], or what might happen in chapters six, seven, etc [next]. It is probably more likely to mean next.

| improve this answer | |
  • I think "much" refers to "much of these woods(problems)". Am I right? – Abbas Mübariz Mar 6 at 18:34
  • Woods are not problems- they are a place where problems exist- problems like bears, the risk of accidental injury or getting lost, etc. When you are 'out of the woods', it means that you have escaped safely from a dangerous place. In this sentence, much does not refer to problems- it refers to what might happen next. – JavaLatte Mar 7 at 5:49
  • Thank you very much – Abbas Mübariz Mar 7 at 7:11
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Seen from this perspective, the tension in chapter five dissolves, but Mill is scarcely out of problems/danger (out of the woods) because [Mill] in that situation rather/in fact (much then) activates (turns on) the determination of relevant harm.

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    I think that you are mistaken about the interpretation of turns on. See the dictionary definition I provided in my answer. – JavaLatte Mar 5 at 11:32
  • @JavaLatte I have a hard time constructing a causality (because) with your translation. Is it possible not to be out of danger because one depends on the determination of relevant harm? I'd rather say the determination is a consequence of not being safe or it's as sign for not being safe. – Ben A. Mar 5 at 11:50
  • Which meaning of determination are you thinking of? I'm going for this one "the process of finding something out" dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/determination , which gives "because a lot then depends on finding out the relevant harm". But the sentence is typical political-philosophical bulls**t, and the writer has gone out of his way to conceal the meaning. – JavaLatte Mar 6 at 3:11

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