Law School Discussion


Re: "only"
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2007, 12:29:01 AM »

Ok, that brought me a little closer to sanity. Thanks Catwoman and Jeffort!

Catwoman is a great alter-ego to have on LSD. You can just whip people if they don't listen to you.

You're welcome. With the word only you always have to take in context. So instead of getting all wrapped up in the grammar part, I just think about the sentence logically. What is the ONLY part? You can't just take it for granted that it's the part that comes directly after "only." You have to spend a few second to think about exactly what the sentence means. (Which is always a good thing to do on the LSAT :))

Yes, Catwoman is a fun alter ego - I can be sweet like a kitten, but I have a little bite too.

Re: "only"
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2007, 05:38:25 AM »
Page 132 of the LRB.

You are correct about "only" always indicating the necessary condition. But, my problem is: in what contexts does "only" not immediatly precede the necessary condition and still refer to the necessary condition?

For example: "The only way to achieve success is to work hard."

This confuses the heck out of me, because "only" is in front of "achieve success" which makes me assume its indicating the necessary condition. Yet, in this example the word "way" is modified somehow by "only," making it indicate "work hard" as the necessary condition. In this context, why and how does "only" modify "way?" And, are there other words that "only" can modify in this type of context?


This is one thing I really never approved of on the LRB: too much emphasis on indicator words.  In this case, I find it easier to just look at the context.

"The only way to achieve success is to work hard."

If you want to achieve success, what's required?  That you work hard.

There you go, that's your necessary condition.  Success -> work hard

(If you note, the other way wouldn't make sense - ie, "If you want to work hard, what's required? achieve success")


Re: "only"
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2007, 12:37:58 PM »
In this sentence, "the only way to achieve success is to work hard", "to achieve success" is a prepositional phrase.  The word "to" indicates this.  So, the sentence could be rewritten, the only way is to work hard.  So, work hard is the necessary condition and achieve success is the sufficient condition (though I have a hard time remembering what is necessary vs what is sufficient...I am better at just spotting what should be before or after the arrow in formal logic).  My mom was an English grammar teacher so I am pretty good with sentence construction.

But it might be easier to think of it in terms of rephrasing the sentence in terms of if and then...they are easier to translate into formal logic (at least IMHO).  Doing this, which makes more sense "if you achieve success, then you must have worked hard" or "if you work hard, then you must have achieved success".  Obviously, the former is the proper translation (not the latter).

So, based on the new if, then construction, the stimuli should be written: achieve success --> work hard (because if you have achieved success, you must have worked hard).


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Re: "only"
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2007, 07:34:34 AM »
this thread is like having john madden and al michaels do play by play for your pick up flag football game