What's the difference?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by StrangerInAStrangeLand, May 28, 2015.

  1. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    In a GED practice test, a question was asked about #2 but the answer given in the back applied to #1.
     
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  3. zgmc Registered Senior Member

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    If a woman has twins, triplets, ect, #2 could be a true statement.
     
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  5. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

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    1 - I do not believe there is a god.

    2 - I believe there is no god.

    < >
     
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  7. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    1 is "weak" atheism.
    2 is "strong" atheism.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The difference is only syntactical. The two sentences are identical in meaning.
     
  9. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    Really?

    I would have disagreed, surely one is about an absence of belief and the other is about having a belief?
     
  10. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

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    But isn't syntax used to introduce subtleties of meaning?
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Then explain the difference between not believing that there is a god and believing that there is not a god.

    This is binary. Saying that you don't believe there is a god is exactly the same as saying that you believe there is no god.
    Of course it can be used this way. But in a simple sentence like this, the meaning is not changed by the alternative syntax.

    The simpler the sentence, the less opportunity for subtlety.
     
  12. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    I'd say there's a difference between lack of belief in gods and belief in lack of gods.
     
  13. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

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    It interesting, then, that I interpret the meaning of the two sentences differently.

    When I explored why I interpreted them differently I realized that I focused on the location of the "not". In the first instance the negative emphasis was on the belief, in the second it was on the god.

    The first was akin to saying "Nah, I don't have any beliefs in that regard. Gods? No, I don't really think about them."

    The second is more like "I pretty damn certain there are absolutely no gods. None Nada. There are no gods."

    I notice this interpretation seems to match Daecon's strong and weak atheism interpretation. It seems, even though there is no difference between the two sentences, that two people have independently imagined a difference and arrived at the same interpretation. Or, perhaps there is a difference, after all.

    EDIT - Quote fixed at authors request - Kittamaru
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2015
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    I disagree:
    According to you, if I'm not eating an apple then that must mean I'm eating something that isn't an apple.
    You don't leave open the opportunity for the case that I'm not eating anything at the moment.

    Belief is no different in this regard.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I'm mystified. I have absolutely no idea how you could have reached that conclusion from my text. You don't even have the same construction.

    "I'm eating something that isn't an apple" corresponds to "I believe in something that is not a god." That is not what I wrote!
     
  16. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    Surely the definitions of Weak and Strong atheism are evidence of the distinction?
     
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    You wrote that "I do not believe there is a god" means the same as "I believe there is no god".

    If belief equates to eating, and "there is a god" equates to an apple, then belief there is a god equates to eating an apple.
    Going further, "there is no god" similary equates to something that isn't an apple - or a non-apple, or other such term.

    So, according to you, "I do not believe there is a god" (I am not eating an apple) is the same as "I believe there is no god" (I am eating something that isn't an apple).

    And eating something that isn't an apple is somewhat different to merely not eating an apple - because the former implies the you are eating (just not an apple) while the latter makes no implication as to whether or not there is actual eating going on.

    Similarly "belief in no god" implies that you hold a belief, whereas "no belief in god" merely states that you don't hold a specific belief, but with zero logical implication as to your holding or not of the "belief in no god".

    Simples, really.
    I hope your bout of mysitification clears up soon.

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  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You're just playing games. Have fun.
     
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    I'm sorry you see it as a game. If you're having trouble following the logic, please indicate where and someone will be along to assist you shortly. Likewise, if you think the analogy is flawed then please point out the flaw, and I'll be only too happy to listen. At the moment you are the only one who seems to think that the two sentences mean the same thing, and you dismiss an attempt to explain where we see that difference with an accusation that I'm merely playing games.

    If you can't spot that "I do not believe in P" has ambiguity over belief in not-P and lack of belief, that the sentence "I believe in not-P" does not have, then it is no wonder you equate the two, as you only see one meaning for either, where in fact the former has two meanings, of which only one is the latter.
     
  20. Hipparchia Registered Senior Member

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    I am really disappointed by that response, Fraggle Rocker. I understand, from your own statements, that you are professionally involved in the use of language. I have always imagined that experts who participate in these forums do so, in part, to share their knowledge and expertise with others. Here is perfect opportunity to do so.

    Three or four amateurs in language usage, with no connection that I am aware of, have the same impression of how to interpret two sentences. You say this interpretation is mistaken. I would hope that you would go to some length to explain why we are mistaken. It is rather unsettling, instead, to be told that we are "just playing games". I hope you will respond in a more helpful and professional manner.
     
  21. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

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    Fraggle, do you disagree that weak and strong atheism are two distinct and different positions?
     
  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    This is a common point of disagreement between atheists and theists, especially on the internet.

    Many atheists say they "lack belief in god(s)", and assert that this is not quite the same as denying that god(s) exist.

    "I do not believe there is a god" leaves the door open for one to be convinced that there actually is a god. If appropriate evidence were to be provided, for example, the person saying this would be open to changing his or her mind.

    On the other hand, "I believe there is no god" is more of a positive statement. It's more like the unqualified assertion "There is no god".

    This is a matter of nuance. Statement (1) is a statement about the person making it: "I, personally, do not (currently) believe that there is a god". It recognises that others do believe there is a god, and it does not disparage that alternative personal belief. On the other hand, statement (2) is more of an assertion about the fact in question: "There is no god". The "I believe" part of the statement is practically redundant, because we usually take it as read that a person expresses his or her own beliefs unless he/she states otherwise.

    Remove the "I" from statement (1) and the statement collapses into meaninglessness. Remove it from statement (2) and one is left with an assertion of fact.
     
  23. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    To use a less inflammatory example: I have no belief that a person named Holden Caulfield exists. On the other hand, I have no belief that one doesn't exist either; in fact, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if one did.
     

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