1

No presumption in its favour, therefore, can be drawn from the fact of its existence. The only such presumption which it could be supposed to have, must be grounded on its having lasted till now, when so many other things which came down from the same odious source have been done away with. And this, indeed, is what makes it strange to ordinary ears, to hear it asserted that the inequality of rights between men and women has no other source than the law of the strongest.

This "this" is the same as "to hear it asserted....the strongest"?

Source

  • I think that's a reasonable reading, but there's not enough of the original text to be sure. I'd say that "its" in the first sentence and "this" in the third are both referring back to an earlier statement. – user888379 Jul 18 '17 at 0:32
  • @user888379 , I'm quite sure that both of the 'its', and 'it' in the final sentence take the same antecedent, the mysterious subject of this passage. – R. Barrett Jul 18 '17 at 1:01
  • Click on the Source. It supplies enough context to figure out the quotation. The "odious source" is slavery. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 18 '17 at 1:24
2

No, "this" in the final sentence is not taking the place of the phrase "... to hear it asserted that the inequality of rights between men and women has no other source than the law of the strongest."

In your final sentence, "this" is the subject of the sentence:

"This (subject) is (verb) what makes it so strange . . . to hear it asserted that . . . [the assertion] (object of the verb "is")"

The antecedent of "this" in your final sentence could be any one of the following:

  • The entire preceding sentence.
  • The entire first sentence.
  • Both of the above.

In short, "this" in your example refers to the writer's argument itself.

Why? Because it is much easier to use "this" instead of referring back to the fact that "The only such presumption which it could be supposed to have, [sic] must be grounded on its having lasted till now, when so many other things which came down from the same odious source have been done away with."

See, for example, Wikipedia's article on antecedents, and particularly, example (i).

Here's a simpler example:

In English, it is very common to encapsulate large ideas with a single demonstrative pronoun, for brevity. This can save you a lot of typing.

In the above example, "this" plays the same role it does as in your question, just on a smaller scale.

  • 1
    Excellent and relevant answer, I upvote! – English Student Jul 18 '17 at 1:27
  • so which part does this this signify? – user231854 Jul 18 '17 at 2:25
  • My reading is that "this" refers to the fact that "so many other things which came down from the same odious source have been done away with". It's grammatical, it's logical. See your Source text. – Xanne Jul 18 '17 at 7:01
  • @user13505 Which of the three bullet points was unclear? As I said, your "this" has a large antecedent (the thing it replaces). In this case, "this" is conveying the entirety of the idea the author is discussing. The entire previous sentence. – R. Barrett Jul 18 '17 at 17:59

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