3

I got a bit disturbed when I read sentence in a book Flow by Mihaly Csikszzentmihalyi:

The first fact does not entail the second any more than the fact that we lack wings prevents us from flying.

Is it correct? Shouldn't it be

The first fact does not entail the second any more than the fact that lack of wings prevents us from flying.

  • "That we lack wings" is a relative clause describing the noun "fact". What kind of fact? "The fact [that we lack wings]". – CowperKettle Dec 25 '15 at 12:10
  • @CopperKettle thanks ;) If you like you can post it as answer – Jānis Erdmanis Dec 25 '15 at 12:30
4

You have misunderstood the original sentence.

That sentence posits four facts: two causes and two consequences ...

CAUSES                           CONSEQUENCES
A: the first fact                B: the second fact  
C: the fact that we lack wings   D: we cannot fly

Now, C prevents us from flying is equivalent to saying that C entails that we cannot fly, so we can parse the relationship posited like this:

          not (A entails B)
any more than (C entails D) 

That is, Truth(A entails B) ≦ Truth(C entails D).

But Truth(C entails D) = 0 (false)—we can fly (in airplanes) even though we don't have wings.

Therefore Truth(A entails B) ≦ 0, and (A entails B) is also false—which is what the author is asserting: "The first fact does not entail the second fact".

Now look at the end of your rewrite:

the fact that lack of wings prevents us from flying.

The subordinator that requires a full 'sentence', a clause including both a subject noun phrase and a verb phrase, as its complement. In the original, the complement is we lack wings; that is what is asserted as fact C.

When you change we lack wings to lack of wings, you have changed the verb lack to a noun. Now we have to understand lack of wings as the complement's subject noun, and prevents us from flying as the complement's verb phrase. You have combined fact C, the entailment, and consequence D into a single fact: We cannot fly because lack of wings prevents it.

CAUSES                           CONSEQUENCES
A: the first fact                B: the second fact  
C: we cannot fly

But with only three terms, we now have a very different syntactic relationship:

          not (A entails B)
any more than (C) 

Something's missing here. We assume that something's been ellipted in the second term, either the subject or the object of the entailment:

          not (A entails B)
any more than (A entails C) 

or not (A entails B) any more than (C entails B)

Without explicit knowledge of A and B we don't have enough information to decide which you mean; but in either case you've created an entirely new assertion:

The first fact does not entail the second any more than the fact that lack of wings prevents us from flying entails the second.

or

The first fact does not entail the second any more than the first fact entails the fact that lack of wings prevents us from flying.

  • I like your way of making truth as function :) – Jānis Erdmanis Dec 25 '15 at 12:56

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.