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Though absolute justice being/be unattainable, as much justice as we need for all practical use is attainable by all those who make it their aim. (Ruskin, Unto this Last (1862))

which one?

why?

also,what does this sentence mean?

source:http://marker.to/oNVg4m

A quote from the text of the book hyperlinked in the Wikipedia article:

Absolute justice is indeed no more attainable than absolute truth; but the righteous man is distinguished from the unrighteous by his desire and hope of justice, as the true man from the false by his desire and hope of truth. And though absolute justice be unattainable, as much justice as we need for all practical use is attainable by all those who make it their aim.

  • I concur with @Copper; "is" is at least much more common there, "be" is non-existent, and "being" may be very, very rare, but still could exist. – M.A.R. Dec 10 '15 at 17:46
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    No, no, I think be is most appropriate. It seems to be the subjunctive. – modulusshift Dec 10 '15 at 17:53
  • @Copper further assumptions are useless since this sentence may just contain an error or it could've been misquoted. Heck, we don't even know which the original sentence used, or is there any original sentence at all? – M.A.R. Dec 10 '15 at 17:54
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    The quote is from 1860, it's definitely the subjunctive. – modulusshift Dec 10 '15 at 17:58
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    Oh. Early modern English. Well, you learn something new everyday! – M.A.R. Dec 10 '15 at 18:10
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As you can see from your source, this sentence was written in 1860, and so it uses a construct that isn't used anymore in today's English. This is an example of the subjunctive mood, which was once used to talk about possibility of things that don't actually exist, like here. (It also did a lot of other things, and still does a few.)

An English speaker today would simply use the indicative here: "Though absolute justice is unattainable..."

  • I said "and still does a few". I can make it clearer? – modulusshift Dec 10 '15 at 18:08
  • I see. I just thought you said that the subjunctive was dead. (0: – CowperKettle Dec 10 '15 at 18:09
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    @CopperKettle - It is, it just hasn't stopped twitching yet. :^) – stangdon Dec 10 '15 at 18:14
  • Worth noting that it seemed bizarre to me since the subjunctive mood is disappearing from English, as some say. This is an example of the replacement of subjunctive by indicative. Hence "is", in "modern" English, would be far more common. – M.A.R. Dec 10 '15 at 18:19
  • It's funny for you to say it's dead :0. In my language (Spanish) is used a lot. What about other languages? – Alejandro Dec 10 '15 at 18:22

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