September 15, 2010

Then/than and extension

If you're going to write an article which trashes someone, your reasoning had better be straight. I had always applauded Slate for using straight reasoning, whether they are talking about Mad Men or the Wire, fucking someone up, or reporting the news.

I had always thought that Slate was top-notch. In this article there is some then/than confusion, and it really fucks things up. Here's why:

The idiom "... greater ... than" indicates an extensive magnitude. The number of tigers or toothaches or persons who don't like each other could all be extensive.

The "then" relationship does not turn on extension at all. When someone says "if sammy is a tiger with only one leg, then there is a tiger with only one leg," one says nothing about extension and makes a true statement.

It's important to recognize that the then/than distinction is not only grammatical, but makes a difference. Even though the words sound similar, and look similar, the logical relationship that the one indicates is utterly different from what the other indicates. When someone conflates the two, it really fucks up the prospect that the author has been reasoning well.


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