what is the meaning of "no more...than" in this context?

The silly man, the arrogant inflated man, the cocksure man, is always a safe butt. Every observer has had some trick played upon him. The author has himself had his faith sorely shaken by deception until some compensating proof has come along to assure him that it was only a lesson which he had received, and that it was no more fiendish or even remarkable that disembodied intelligences should be hoaxers than that the same intelligence inside a human body should find amusement in the same foolish way.

from http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301051h.html

  • There's nothing particularly fiendish or remarkable about being deceived (by other people) - you're just being given a free "lesson in life" (from "the school of hard knocks"). Apparently your writer thinks that if we accept that premise, we should also accept that "disembodied intelligences" exist, and that they might also be systematically deceiving people. Doesn't seem like a very logical line of argument to me. Mar 9, 2020 at 18:29

1 Answer 1


The word "fiend" literally means a demon. So to be "fiendish" is to be extremely cruel. Like, "the guards took fiendish pleasure in torturing the prisoners". More generally, it can mean "very bad". Like, "we had some fiendish weather this winter".

In this case, the writer is saying that the hoax being played is not necessarily evil, but might just be for "amusement".

"Than" is a preposition used with comparisons. "9 is greater THAN 8." "I like chocolate more THAN vanilla." (Not to be confused with "then".) In this case, the comparison and the word "than" are separated by a bunch of words so it may not be clear, but leave out the explanatory clauses and the sentence is "it was no more fiendish ... than ..." He compares how fiendish it was for these "disembodied intelligences" to play a hoax that it is for an "intelligence inside a human body" to play a hoax.

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