I was reading an article, and the writer used “with respect to” in a way I’ve never seen it before; it came at the end of a question. See it here (emphasis mine):

When assessing arguments of this sort, some important questions for consideration are these: What is the claim probable or improbable with respect to? And what is the relevant background information with respect to the claim?

The writer is talking about different arguments that each one of them says that its argument is more improbable than the argument of the other.

So my question is: to what “with respect to” refers in this question?

  • 1
    "With respect to" is an idiom meaning roughly "with reference to", "relating to", "regarding". The use in your sentence is not well constructed, however. (Yet further evidence that you should never use a preposition to end a sentence with.)
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 1 '17 at 12:24
  • 'In what respect is the claim probable or improbable ?' is what I think the highlighted sentence is supposed to mean.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 1 '17 at 16:31

If you write the first occurrence of with respect to, using the proper punctuation, it becomes a little easier to follow:

What is the claim, probable or improbable, with respect to?

In other words:

Regardless of plausibility, to what does this claim relate?

  • You can assume the original punctuation is correct, which would be my default assumption, and interpret the sentence as “What does the probability or improbability of the claim relate to?” or simply “With respect to what is the claim probable or improbable?”
    – Jacinto
    Nov 1 '17 at 11:58
  • Note the book’s following sentence: “God’s existence is improbable with respect to the evil in the world”.
    – Jacinto
    Nov 1 '17 at 11:59
  • @Jacinto As far as punctuation goes, the past decades have seen a definite disregard for it, so I would not advise assumptions of correctness, regardless of where it was written. Aside from that, thank you for your example sentence, which can be rephrased, to match the pattern of the original question: "What is God's existence improbable with respect to?" Nov 1 '17 at 12:23
  • 1
    I also interpreted it like @Jacinto. You should post an answer to that effect.
    – Barmar
    Nov 2 '17 at 19:56

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