"It is not possible so to sever the belief from the action it suggests as to condemn the one without condemning the other".
It is difficult for me to analyze this sentence structure, can you guys can tell me what is the meaning of this sentence?
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The so... as to construction (with an infinitive phrase after so) is a bit archaic, but it can be interpreted as "in such a way" or "to such a degree".
So what the sentence is saying is that it's impossible to:
sever the belief from the action it suggests
so much that one would be:
condemning the one without condemning the other
In short, the author stipulates that you can't treat a belief and the actions that this belief invokes separately - at least not so much that you would be condemning the actions without condemning the belief itself (or the other way around - condemning the belief but not the actions done because of that belief).
In the context of this paper, Clifford is reinforcing his story of the shipowner's guilt. The shipowner's belief was that ship might need repairing, but his actions proved that he didn't care enough about it. Because he didn't properly examine the ship, the people on the ship lost their lives. If the shipowner were to stand trial, it would not be enough for him to say he thought about examining the ship before the voyage. His thoughts did nothing to save the people. In turn, the ship owner's actions do not completely reflect his ignorance in the matter. The shipowner still had thoughts of examining the ship before the voyage.