2

There can no more be a best possible world than there can be a largest number.

What does "a largest number" mean here? What is the difference in that sentence between "the" and "a"?

1 Answer 1

1

"A largest number" means a number N such that no other number is larger than N. The speaker believes that such a thing is impossible, and compares this to the idea of a best possible world.

(I speak only of the meaning here, not of whether these assertions, or this mode of reasoning, is valid.)

5
  • Then, what is the difference in that sentence between "the" and "a"?
    – GJC
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 15:54
  • 1
    If you know there is exactly one "largest number", then you could say "the largest number". If you do not know that (or you do not want to clam that) then you say "a largest number". This guy thinks there is no largest number, so he says "a largest number".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 15:58
  • Surely there can be no more than one largest number in a given set of numbers, if there is any at all. One would have to sum over several sets in order to ask "Do any of these sets have a largest number?" And even then, the correct term is a maximum. Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 16:04
  • @JohnLawler: (I speak only of the meaning here, not of whether these assertions, or this mode of reasoning, is valid.)
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 16:13
  • In a negative context, you can do it: There is no largest integer is the same as There is not a largest integer or There is not any largest integer. But only when it's being denied. Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 17:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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