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  1. firsttimevisitor89
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    #1

    Sentence Grammar

    I was reading a Bertrand Russell's essay "What I Have Lived For" and I had a few questions.

    In the sentence, "I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined."
    --I was having trouble identifying the predicate of the clause beginning with the word "because" till the very end of the sentence--all I found is a compound subject.

    "And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux."-- what's the meaning of "number holds sway above the flux"

    "But always pity brought me back to earth."
    Is "But pity always brought me back to earth" also grammatically correct?

    "helpless old people a hated burden to their sons"-- Do/does helpless old people depict many old people or just one person? if many, why put "a hated burden" instead of "hated burdens"?

    "the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be" --should "make" be "makes" since it's referring to "the whole world"?

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Sentence Grammar

    You haven't chosen a very easy passage.

    "I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined."

    The subject is "I" and what "I have seen" is the prefiguring vision of heaven as imagined by saints in poets. Further, he saw it "in a mystic miniature" and it was seen in the union of love. Does that help you figure out the complete predicate?


    "And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux."-- what's the meaning of "number holds sway above the flux" - With Russell, it's anyone's guess. Well, no, I'm sure scholars aren't guessing, but I find his writing almost incomprehensible.

    "But always pity brought me back to earth."
    Is "But pity always brought me back to earth" also grammatically correct?

    It's poetic. Usually you'd find the "always" before the verb, not the subject, and starting with a "but" is not "standard" but literary in this sense.

    "helpless old people a hated burden to their sons"-- Do/does helpless old people depict many old people or just one person? if many, why put "a hated burden" instead of "hated burdens"?
    He refers to the general concept of "old people" but each set of parents is only one burden to any one son.

    "the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be" --should "make" be "makes" since it's referring to "the whole world"?
    I believe you're right!


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    #3

    Re: Sentence Grammar

    what's the meaning of "number holds sway above the flux"

    I believe that Russell was referring to the idea that everything in the world seems to be uncertain except for mathematics, which seems to offer a degree of certainty, and for Russell, a kind of solace, unlike anything else.

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    #4

    Re: Sentence Grammar

    The flux is an idea dating back to ancient Greeks' era. Here you can find some explanation of Heraklit's views on the matter.

    Russel says that Pythagoreans believed that numbers "hold sway" above the flux. At the bottom of this page you will find the meaning of the phrase.

    By the way, good luck reading that wise man's texts. They aren't easy, but they're full of reasonable wisdom in my opinion (although he did things that might seem funny for today's mathematicians).

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