MooT Question Icon
Does the following question make sense: Is an a fortiori ceteris paribus a reductio ad absurdum?

Etymology, Etymology, and more Etymology
as well as grammar, usage, euphemism, slang, jargon, semantics, linguistics, neologism, idiom, cant, and argot.

A picture of a moot game

The critically-acclaimed board game MooT
consists of tough questions about the nuances of the English language.
To join our mailing list and get
free brain-twisting MooT questions sent to you irregularly,
enter your email address and then press submit.

E-Mail address:

Back to home page

Answer: no

In Latin:(i) a fortiori means "even more so,"(ii) ceteris paribus means "other things being equal," and(iii) reductio ad absurdum means "reduction to absurdity."

Thus the question in question translates to: Is an even more so other things being equal a reduction to absurdity?

As such, this is meaningless. However, if you add quotes, it becomes answerable: Is an "a fortiori ceteris paribus" a reductio ad absurdum?

With this phrasing, the question's question becomes answerable: the answer is no, because the term a fortiori ceteris paribus does not denote a type of reductio ad absurdum.

If you disagree, send me your reasoning.


Actually, I read it with commas.

Is an a fortiori, ceteris paribus, a reductio ad absurdum?

Well, all things being equal, then A must equal B. Which means an a fortiori MUST BE a reductio ad absurdum or else all things are not equal.

This, of course, is absurd. So if this one Moot example is absurd, then a priori all of Moot must be absurd.

But this is NOT ceteris paribus, for we all know that in the realm of word games, Moot has no equal.

[Mootguy: QED.]
dolgin9 at &

It could be argued that the question doesn't make any sense because it is both English and Latin, with no distinction.

The Latin phrases should also be italicized, and a comma should separate the first two.

Is an a fortiori, ceteris paribus a reductio ad absurdium?

Is an even more so, other things being equal a reduction to absurdity?
mlichty at &

In fact, the question does make sense, since I did understand it to mean

"Is Blah-blah a Blah-blah?"

However, it does not conform to English writing "style," which dictates that words, used as words, be italicized or surrounded by quotation marks.

That is an altogether different matter, though; this stylistic covention has nothing to do with sensibility, or even grammar, for that matter.

[Mootguy: Quoting text is more than just stylistic convention: it is a semantic convention that tells you how to interpret the enclosed text (e.g., that it is dialogue). Thus, it is just as meaningful as putting an "s" on the end of a word to convey plurality.]
jacko0 at &

Regarding your feedback to my feedback:

You wrote that "Quoting text is more than just stylistic convention: it is a semantic convention that tells you how to interpret the enclosed text."

1) I already know how to interpret the text without the quotes because there is an indefinite article (a/an) to tell me that what follows acts as a noun phrase.

2) Furthermore, if you argue that it is a necessary semantic convention, then we would insert quotes in spoken language as well as in written language.

(We obviously don't, and this is a proof that this convention is more stylistic than substantive. (By the way, the plural "s," by way of contrast, is a feature of both the written and the spoken language.))
jacko0 at &

The answer offered as proof the fact that the question Is an a fortiori ceteris paribus a reductio ad absurdum? does not seem to stand up to logical scrutiny.

The proof states that even when the sentence is properly punctuated, it would not make sense, as an "a fortiori ceteris paribus" is not a "reductio ad absurdum."

However, as a question, "Is an 'a fortiori ceteris paribus' a 'reductio ad absurdum?'" the sentence makes sense.

The answer to this question would be no, a "a fortiori ceteris paribus" is not a "reductio ad absurdum".

However, as to the question asked, vis: "Does this following quoted question make sense?" we can answer that, allowing for proper punctuation, and read as a question and not a statement, the answer is "Yes, the question does make sense, although the answer to it would be no."

The proof, as we read it, says that, as the answer to the quoted question is no, it does not make sense as a question: this clearly is not correct, as it does not answer the question originally posed.

[Mootguy: My claim is that when the question in the question is properly punctuated, it does become meaningful. Prior to this revising, it is meaningless.]
Tom.D0 at &

Copyright 1998-2009 Blair Arts Ltd. All rights reserved.