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It is not really puzzling that Benjamin should have taken such authors seriously; virtually everyone – including the avant-garde – was drinking from the murky waters in the interwar period.

From the preceding paragraph it follows that Benjamin really "took such authors" (the ones with reactionary and right-wing beliefs) seriously. But does not the usage of "should have" in my sentence indicate actually the opposite?

marked as duplicate by Kinzle B, Nathan Tuggy, ruakh, Community Feb 9 '16 at 19:10

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    Should here does not have a counterfactual implication--you may understand it as the present-day English equivalent of a subjunctive in languages which have distinct inflections for that. It would mean exactly the same thing if the author had written It is not really puzzling that Benjamin took such authors seriously, or For Benjamin to have taken such authors seriously is not really puzzling. – StoneyB Feb 5 '16 at 15:24
  • Thank you for a reply. Is there some reason why the author chose this form? Is it only a matter of a style? – bart-leby Feb 5 '16 at 15:36
  • @StoneyB: It's interesting [that] you [should] say that. Suppose we switch to present tense and change the embedded subject to a pronoun where the verb form doesn't match the subjunctive / infinitive, giving It's interesting that he should say that. In that case, the presence of should obliges us to use the uninflected verb form (where without it, we'd have the normally-conjugated that he says that). So I think it's not just that OP could think of it as a subjunctive - it really is a subjunctive. – FumbleFingers Feb 5 '16 at 15:44
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    @FumbleFingers But the plainform there is an infinitive, elicited by use with an auxiliary: it would be exactly the same form if you found it interesting that he can say that or that he does say that. – StoneyB Feb 5 '16 at 15:50
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    I'd avoid this: puzzling for Benjamin can be misunderstood as saying that Benjamin was puzzled. – StoneyB Feb 5 '16 at 19:55
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"But does not the usage of "should have" in my sentence indicate actually the opposite?"

No. This author's florid and fussy style of writing has caused frustration and confusion in the past. I'm sorry you have to read and/or translate this book. The writing is truly awful.

Put simply, in this context, "should have taken" means "took."

StoneyB and FumbleFingers have commented at length already on why this is so, but the answer remains the same, regardless of the reason.

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