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"As much/many as" interpretation

Logic GainzLogic Gainz Alum Member

Hey folks. I've been thinking about the above phrase and have noticed that it's more ambiguous than I thought.

If I said I had as many apples as Sally, does that mean I have the same amount of apples as Sally, or is my having more than her consistent with the phrase, "as many as", as well?


  • BinghamtonDaveBinghamtonDave Alum Member 🍌🍌
    8689 karma

    I think the phrase is consistent with both interpretations. Much like the idea of "no more" or "no less."
    No more: equal to or less
    No less: Equal to or more

    As many: equal to or this could be commensurate with more.
    At least as many, would be how I would like to see it printed because I think that leaves the door wider open to the idea of including more.
    I would be open to the idea here of including more because the possibility of such is not explicitly denied. Much like the idea of some does not explicitly deny the possibility of all, but we rarely will come up against as an inclusive of a definition.

  • BinghamtonDaveBinghamtonDave Alum Member 🍌🍌
    8689 karma

    I've given some thought to this idea of remembering to keep the definitions of words open enough to include their full meaning as it relates to the LSAT. Take for instance the idea of one thing offsetting the effects of another thing. So for instance if someone has a cold and takes a medication like mucinex to loosen mucus in their throat/nose but then simultaneously takes something to dry the mucus in their nose/throat (the relationship between these two types of drugs is a bit more complicated in reality, but let's go with it as an example to illustrate a point.) The idea being here that the medication that dries might offset the desired effects of the mucinex. But what does that mean? Which one "wins"? Well, neither could "win" because the definition in the OED for offset includes the possibility of equalling:

    The idea that offset includes the possibility of equalling (ie its a tie/wash) is what PT 84-3-19 turns on. In the same vein, because it is not explicitly denied, the idea of "as many" including the possibility of more could pop up.
    So, I have started taking note of these ideas, of keeping a window open in my interpretation of a a term's meaning.

  • Logic GainzLogic Gainz Alum Member
    edited November 2018 700 karma

    That's really interesting... I sometimes see discussions like this and think talking about the semantics of a phrase is superfluous to answering the question correctly, but now I'm starting to think that dismissing such conversations as unnecessary might hurt me if actual stimuli or answer choices turn on knowing the various ways a phrase could be interpreted. Thanks, @BinghamtonDave !

  • tams2018tams2018 Member
    727 karma

    the minimum is whatever that other variable has.

    So, if Sally has 5 apples and you have as many apples as she, then you have at least 5 apples (but you can have 6 or 20). What is NOT the case is that you have less than 5 apples.

  • Logic GainzLogic Gainz Alum Member
    700 karma

    @tams2018 your explanation is right on the money!

  • acsimonacsimon Alum Member
    1269 karma

    This would probably be explained in terms of scalar implicature, within linguistics—but things are tricky with this case, as with finding the right principles to decide on cases like whether in saying “Scott has three children” the semantic content is identical to that of “Scott has least three children” and implicates something that would be expressed by saying “Scott has exactly three children” or whether things are the other way around. This handout from Chris Potts is quite good for a quick reference on these issues in case you’re interested:

  • Logic GainzLogic Gainz Alum Member
    700 karma

    @acsimon Admittedly, about half of that went over my head. But what I could gather is scalar implicatures are most relevant to everyday conversations but not very well with the LSAT; especially since we have Must Be Trues and Must Be False's all throughout our sections. Check out page 3 when it breaks down how they work.

    If you and I were roommates and next weekend I say some of buddies are coming by the place to hang out, it's reasonable on your part to assume that all my friends on Earth won't be showing up to hang out. If that were the case, I would've told you they were, or used the word "all". However, technically "some" allows for "all" which is something I'm sure the LSAT exploits in Could Be True questions, although I don't have hard question evidence at my finger tips.

    I could've missed the mark completely, though. I'm not that familiar with formal logic or logical theory outside an LSAT context so feel free to correct me!

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