What is the evidence to support this refutation of the myth of peaceful progress?

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Can you explain what this question is asking me?

asked Jan 31 '13 at 21:01 MEGHAN OATMAN New member

3 answers


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It isn't an easy sentence to comprehend, so don't feel bad about having trouble with it.  It's easier to understand if you work from the back of the sentence. First, we have 'peaceful progress'. This would be a good thing. Next comes 'the myth of peaceful progress'. This means that peaceful progress really isn't happening, a bad thing. Before that comes 'refutation'. This is disproving that peaceful progress is not happening, and that peaceful progress really is happening, a good thing. Next, it asks for evidence to back this up.

 

I don't think that made it any easier, really. At this point, I don't even know if I even understand what it means. I would delete all of this, but I wanted you to know that I tried.

link comment answered Jan 31 '13 at 21:14 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow
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I agree with Lewis that the sentence is difficult to understand, and he has made a valiant attempt to unpack it.  However, I would interpret it as asking for evidence to refute the idea of peaceful progress, which is termed a myth within the question.  I don't quite follow Lewis's loop here, whereby he arrives at the opposite interpretation.

 

If I am right, the question could much more simply be reworded this way:  What is the evidence to refute the idea of peaceful progress? 

link comment answered Feb 01 '13 at 01:26 Shawn Mooney Expert
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I agree that the sentence is hard to understand.  My guess is that refutation is not the right word.  A refutation is the act of refuting something. To refute means to prove something is wrong.  If the refutation (by definition) proved something, it must have been supported.  Without evidence or support, there is no proof.  Without proof, it is an argument, not a refutation

 

Going with that logic, the sentence should have asked:

 

What is the evidence to support this attempted refutation?
Or
What is the evidence to support this argument?

link edited Feb 01 '13 at 08:44 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

Hmm, Patty, your comments are, as usual, thought-provoking. I question, however, whether the distinction you have made between a 'refutation' and an 'argument' is valid when the verb 'refute'is used in the infinitive verb phrase 'to refute'. You equated 'to refute' in a negative sense with 'to prove'; if I say 'I want to prove you wrong', for example, 'to prove' has not been accomplished. In your suggested rewording, 'What is the evidence to support this attempted refutation?', the infinitive phrase 'to support' has not been achieved. If you follow me, what is the difference between those and my suggested rewording 'What is the evidence to refute the idea of peaceful progress?' Just asking. Teach me, please.

Shawn MooneyFeb 01 '13 at 15:35

Oh, I'm not a very good teacher, Shawn. Most of your comment has left my brain fried at the end of a bad week. I had to tell my employees this week that I am closing the business. So, I'm sort of at the point of thinking just so far about anything in particular, and then deciding I'm done thinking about it. This question is almost like contemplating infinity. No matter how long you look at it, the final thought is, "Huh?"

Patty TFeb 02 '13 at 00:26

Never mind about trying to understand what goes on in my head, Patty. I am sorry to hear about your bad news.

Shawn MooneyFeb 02 '13 at 08:43

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