Matthew Arnold somewhere says: "the pursuit of perfection, then, is the pursuit of sweetness and light". what is the role of "then? Does it denote "therefore" or anything else?

  • It means "given the preceding [arguments or evidence or discussion or whatever] we may conclude that...". It's the same then as in if X then Y.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 24, 2015 at 12:33
  • It is a word indicating that the subject being discussed, summed up as "the pursuit of perfection," is to be thought of as the concept behind the phrase that follows, "the pursuit of sweetness of light." The whole statement seems to opine that the pursuit of perfection is a false, wasteful goal.
    – Robusto
    Aug 24, 2015 at 12:33
  • 1
    @Robusto, I don't think Arnold was dissing the pursuit one little bit. As for the question, though, it suffices to say that then here means therefore. Aug 24, 2015 at 13:30
  • @BrianDonovan: You may be right. I didn't think Arnold was such an unalloyed pollyanna, but I could be wrong. Still, the author of "Dover Beach," who has been described as "a voice poking fun in the wilderness," might well resist swallowing whole the notion of "sweetness and light," don't you think.
    – Robusto
    Aug 24, 2015 at 13:39
  • @Robusto It is not pollyanna-ish, either. See Culture and Anarchy pp. 22ff. Aug 24, 2015 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


The meaning of 'then' in this context follows Merriam-Websters definition 3:

Without more from the original text its hard to tell if it would be more appropriately one of the sub definitions a-d but my best guess would probably be 3d.

as a necessary consequence

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