When does "As are B" = "All As are B" and when does it mean "As generally are B"

brigittebrigitte Member
in General 432 karma

Is there any rule of the English language that allows us to tell when the claim "As are B" means every single A is a B, and when "As are B" is a generalization that means only that some or most As are B?

This issue comes up in PT57, Section 2, #12.
The conclusion says that "criminal organizations will try...."

But the premise told us that MOST criminal organizations' main purpose is profits.

If you add the correct answer to the argument, it's sufficient to prove that MOST criminal organizations will try to become involved. But the conclusion here is "criminal organizations", which grammatically seems to mean all criminal organizations. So the conclusion technically is still not fully proven even with the "sufficient" assumption added. The only way the correct answer is sufficient is by reading the conclusion as giving us a statement about "some" or "most" criminal organizations. How does this add up? Any thoughts?

Here are additional example sentences to explore the issue:

"Dinosaurs are extinct." Does that mean some dinosaurs or all dinosaurs are extinct? I submit that it clearly means all, and not only some.

"football players with at least one year of experience in the NFL are used to taking hits." Does that mean some or all players with one year of experience? I submit it means all NFL players with at least one year of experience.

"Criminal organizations will try to become involved in tech revolutions." Does this mean some or all crim organizations will try to become involved? If the first two example sentences apply to "all", then what distinguishes this last example from the others?

The issue seems to be that sometimes plural nouns are referring to all members of the group, and sometimes they're not. But what are the rules governing such interpretation? "Videogames are fun." Is that asserting that every single videogame is fun? I submit that it's ambiguous. Naturally, I would not think that claim commits one to thinking that every single video game is fun...maybe there are a lot that are not fun, but generally, videogames are fun. However, in a hyper-literal logical thinking type of analysis, I could easily see that sentence implying that, yes, all videogames are fun.

How about this example? "Apples are fruit." vs. "Apples are healthy." The first statement means all individual apples are fruit -- it'd be very odd to think it leaves open the possibility that some apples are not fruit. Yet the second statement seems to mean that apples generally are healthy and is not asserting that every single apple in the universe is healthy...some might be unhealthy/poisonous etc. But WHY do we interpret these sentences differently and how can one tell the correct interpretation?

Comments

  • SamiSami Alum Member Sage 7Sage Tutor
    10721 karma

    @anonclsstudent said:
    Is there any rule of the English language that allows us to tell when the claim "As are B" means every single A is a B, and when "As are B" is a generalization that means only that some or most As are B?

    This issue comes up in PT57, Section 2, #12.
    The conclusion says that "criminal organizations will try...."

    But the premise told us that MOST criminal organizations' main purpose is profits.

    If you add the correct answer to the argument, it's sufficient to prove that MOST criminal organizations will try to become involved. But the conclusion here is "criminal organizations", which grammatically seems to mean all criminal organizations.

    It's actually does not imply "all criminal organizations". The conclusion is plural of criminal organization (one), which means just more than one. So at the very least, the conclusion is saying "more than one criminal organization will try....".

    Since the premises combined with the right answer choice will enable us to conclude "most criminal organization will try", they are sufficient to conclude that more than one criminal organization or criminal organizations will try....

  • brigittebrigitte Member
    edited January 2018 432 karma

    @Sami said:

    @anonclsstudent said:
    Is there any rule of the English language that allows us to tell when the claim "As are B" means every single A is a B, and when "As are B" is a generalization that means only that some or most As are B?

    This issue comes up in PT57, Section 2, #12.
    The conclusion says that "criminal organizations will try...."

    But the premise told us that MOST criminal organizations' main purpose is profits.

    If you add the correct answer to the argument, it's sufficient to prove that MOST criminal organizations will try to become involved. But the conclusion here is "criminal organizations", which grammatically seems to mean all criminal organizations.

    It's actually does not imply "all criminal organizations". The conclusion is plural of criminal organization (one), which means just more than one. So at the very least, the conclusion is saying "more than one criminal organization will try....".

    Since the premises combined with the right answer choice will enable us to conclude "most criminal organization will try", they are sufficient to conclude that more than one criminal organization or criminal organizations will try....

    Thank you. Yes, I understand that that is the intended interpretation of "Criminal organizations will try to..."

    But is that how all plural nouns are interpreted? What do you think about the other examples I provided? I'm quite certain that "Football players with at least one year of experience in the NFL are used to getting hit" is not merely asserting that "some" of such players are used to getting hits, but rather all of those players. Do you agree? I don't remember if the CC covers an issue related to this, but there is often an implied "all" before sentences that begin with a plural verb. "Police officers should uphold the law." That appears to clearly imply that All police officers should uphold the law. My question is what distinguishes this understanding from teh "some" understanding that you had in the criminal organizations sentence.

  • SamiSami Alum Member Sage 7Sage Tutor
    edited January 2018 10721 karma

    @anonclsstudent said:
    Is there any rule of the English language that allows us to tell when the claim "As are B" means every single A is a B, and when "As are B" is a generalization that means only that some or most As are B?

    I think this lesson in a way answers the question about why english language sucks and can be confusing unlike lawgic.

    https://7sage.com/lesson/english-is-not-good-enough/?ss_completed_lesson=970

    I think your source of confusion is not unique. English language is ambiguous and that's why I believe the LSAT writers are so precise about using logical indicators to indicate when they mean "All A's are B".

    Here are additional example sentences to explore the issue:

    "Dinosaurs are extinct." Does that mean some dinosaurs or all dinosaurs are extinct? I submit that it clearly means all, and not only some.

    Yeah, I think you do understand instinctively that it means all. Extinction implies no other living member is alive from that specie or family. So by meaning of the sentence alone its just not possible to extrapolate that because one Dinosaur is dead all dinosaurs are extinct.

    "football players with at least one year of experience in the NFL are used to taking hits." Does that mean some or all players with one year of experience? I submit it means all NFL players with at least one year of experience.

    I think you are saying all because you know instinctively and through outside knowledge that you just cannot be a football player in NFL with at least one year of experience and have never taken hits. But english wise its ambiguous. It implies 1 or more, possibly all. Also, LSAT writers do use common sense knowledge so its hard for me to fathom them trying to weasel out in an answer by saying there exists one football player with at least one year of experience and never got hit.

    "Videogames are fun." Is that asserting that every single videogame is fun? I submit that it's ambiguous. Naturally, I would not think that claim commits one to thinking that every single video game is fun...maybe there are a lot that are not fun, but generally, videogames are fun. However, in a hyper-literal logical thinking type of analysis, I could easily see that sentence implying that, yes, all videogames are fun.

    Yeah, I think you do see that it can imply all but doesn't have to. I can think videogames are fun and not like some of the crappy videogames.

    How about this example? "Apples are fruit." vs. "Apples are healthy."

    When we want to talk about all apples, I believe in english its written: Apple is a fruit. This implies we are talking about all apples.

    If I say, Apples are healthy, I do think it means Apples in general are healthy. But some apple may not be - the rotten ones maybe?

    In all, I think LSAT writers tend to be more precise and use indicators to tell us when they mean all and most. But I could be wrong as english is my second language. So I'll tag here @"Cant Get Right". English was his major in college and he got a 176 - should have more knowledge on this :).

  • Cant Get RightCant Get Right Alum Member Sage 🍌
    27233 karma

    @anonclsstudent said:
    I don't remember if the CC covers an issue related to this, but there is often an implied "all" before sentences that begin with a plural verb. "Police officers should uphold the law." That appears to clearly imply that All police officers should uphold the law. My question is what distinguishes this understanding from teh "some" understanding that you had in the criminal organizations sentence.

    This is really tricky. I agree with the "some" interpretation about criminal organizations, and I agree that the implied "all" on your other examples. I'm not really sure how to explain how to distinguish. It's simply a linguistic ambiguity without any clear rules dictating the direction, at least as far as I'm aware. As unsatisfying as it feels, I suppose the answer would have to be "context."

  • brigittebrigitte Member
    432 karma

    @"Cant Get Right" said:

    @anonclsstudent said:
    I don't remember if the CC covers an issue related to this, but there is often an implied "all" before sentences that begin with a plural verb. "Police officers should uphold the law." That appears to clearly imply that All police officers should uphold the law. My question is what distinguishes this understanding from teh "some" understanding that you had in the criminal organizations sentence.

    This is really tricky. I agree with the "some" interpretation about criminal organizations, and I agree that the implied "all" on your other examples. I'm not really sure how to explain how to distinguish. It's simply a linguistic ambiguity without any clear rules dictating the direction, at least as far as I'm aware. As unsatisfying as it feels, I suppose the answer would have to be "context."

    Thank you, that's what I suspected, but it is highly unsatisfying because even context has rules, no? I wonder what the contextual principles are that govern this issue.

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