Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

"In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practise it much. In the every-day affairs of life it is more useful to reason forwards, and so the other comes to be neglected. There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically."

Does the last sentence mean?:

1.Out of 51 people, only one can reason analytically.
2.A person who reason analytically is a more valuable asset than 50 persons who reason synthetically.

share|improve this question
1  
Have you any reason for suspecting that second interpretation? Maybe mistakenly conflating this construction with something like "There's $64,000 for any man who can answer this question". –  FumbleFingers Jul 23 '13 at 3:12
    
Any more test questions? –  Mitch Jul 23 '13 at 12:13
add comment

2 Answers 2

Since you have a sentence that says That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practice it much., I would say the sentence There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically. represents a ratio of 50:1 (i.e) There ratio between the number of people people who think synthetically and the number of people who can think analytically is 50 to 1. So your first option is probably right.

share|improve this answer
add comment

"There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically."

This certainly means that "Out of 51 people, only one can reason analytically."

The whole quotation states:

In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practise it much. In the every-day affairs of life it is more useful to reason forwards, and so the other comes to be neglected.

with the final statement:

There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically.

This appears (by reason of the quoted ratio and the language of the first sentence) to equate "reason synthetically" with "reason forwards" and to equate "reason analytically" with "reason backwards".

Therefore, in that the statement says:

... the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That is a very useful accomplishment ... [that] comes to be neglected.

I would agree that it implies that

A person who reasons analytically is a ... valuable asset

Whether it also implies that

.A person who reasons analytically is a more valuable asset than 50 persons who reason synthetically.

is not entirely clear, but does not seem (to me) to be an unreasonable interpretation of the quotation.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.