# MN2 Binary logic error in "one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and see"

Hello there,

The following part of MN2 fails to pass my (very) binary logic test:

https://suttacentral.net/en/mn2/4.65-4.93

“Bhikkhus, I say that the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and see."

Which can be confusing as to me:

One who does not know and see != One who does not know and does not see

whilst

One who does not (know and see) == One who does not know and does not see

Interestingly enough the French version (disclosure here: I’m French) does not have the logical error:

https://suttacentral.net/fr/mn2/10.45-10.104

à celui qui connaît et qui voit, non à celui qui ne connaît pas et ne voit pas.

Anyhow, what do you think of this? Feels like a tiny point but somewhat still important!

With metta
/\

Very logical, I appreciate it! Normally i would assume the “not” is distributed, so:

do not know and see == does not know and does not see

Can you explain why they’re not equivalent?

I guess that’s an issue if you’re not native english speaker, as I can (mis)constru the statement as:

does not know and see == does not know but see

or

does not know and see == does not know yet sees

It’s not explicit enough and sometimes I defaults to my own lingual logic which may not fit the english version!

I.e. explicit statement like

“does not know and does not see”

leaves no room for interpretation.

Interesting point, thank you. The Pali tends to be very explicit in such things, and would usually say “does not know and does not see”, but such idioms, especially when repeated often, can feel clumsy and heavy-handed in English. So we might abbreviate them, but then run into such risks. Handling of negatives is tricky! I will bear this in mind in future.

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The weight of translation resting on your shoulder.

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Well, in that sutta the term comes only once but it is of great importance, so I guess the risk here outweight the benefit.

As for generallising, I guess an extra and here and there won’t be so much for me when you deal with repetitivness in the Pali canon - as the allmark of an oral tradition.

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I don’t think the Sutta Central translation suffers from a logical error or ambiguity since the second occurrence of “see” lacks a concluding “s”. To negate the verb of “who sees”, we have to drop the “s” and use “who does not see”. If, instead of the translation that is used, the translation read:

“the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and sees.”

Then that would force us to understand the second occurrence of the verb “to see” as un-negated and give us the (strange) reading:

" … the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who [(i) does not know, and (ii) sees.]"

But by leaving off the concluding “s”:

“the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know and see.”

the only reading that parses the passage is the one you used:

“the destruction of the taints is for one who knows and sees, not for one who [(i)does not know and (ii) does not see.]”

So since there is only one reading, and no ambiguity has been introduced, this seems like a permissible case of compressing the expression above by combining the two verbs into one conjoined verb phrase.

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… and as you note, in order not to give us an ambiguous result, the French translation has to instead rely on the disambiguating addition of the whole phrase “ne voit pas”. But that’s because French doesn’t have the trick of being able to negate the verb simply by dropping a letter from “voit”.

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Hello @DKervick,

Thanks for pointing that out.

It’s exactly what I was not seeing as a non-native-english-speaker.

That’s clear and obvious to you.

It ain’t to me (and it’s probably not going to make it in unless I make a special effort to learn that rule and see it in action).

PS: And I left France for England in 1998 and my everyday work is in English since then, so I’m not new to the language … albeit I learnt most of my grammar and rules from reading - and such _tiny_point as when an s is present or missing is not natual at all to me - I still do mistakes with 3rd person conjugason etc.

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Yes, it’s a subtle point. I had to think quite a bit about the example and how to explain it myself. It’s one of those little rules that native speakers somehow master, without being able to explain the rules they are using.

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after all the translations are (supposed to be) in proper, ideomatic, flowing and intuitive English

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You’re not alone. Sometimes I look at a sentence and I’m like, umm, does this have an “s” or not? And my lack of understanding of English grammar gives me hope that my even worse Pali grammar is not an insurmountable impediment!

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Right. However that won’t deter me from reading the English versions and commenting when I’m failing to grasp a subtle point ;-).

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