Re: Greek conditionals

Date: Sat Apr 01 2000 - 02:25:08 EST

In a message dated 4/1/00 12:55:18 AM, writes:

<< Well, isn't it the nature of all conditionals to present a condition and
its implication? But that does not assert anything about the
truthfulness of the protasis. Sometimes the truthfulness or falsity of
the protasis may be presupposed (like 'If cows could fly' could implying
they cannot (cf. 'if cows can fly') - Greek 2nd class conditions seem to
function pretty similarly to the English conditional with past tense).
But here in Matt. 12:27-28 when both alternatives are presented side by
side with the same conditional, there is hardly any basis for claiming
that either conditional presupposes anything about the fulfillment of
the protasis.

I take the proponents of the 'assertion for the sake of argument' theory
(sometimes with different names, but eg. Robertson is a proponent with a
host of other grammarians) to mean that the protasis asserts something
(of course, we all would agree that the whole sentence,
protasis+apodosis asserts something).

Apparently the theory 'assertion for the sake of argument' is different
from a neutral condition. But in these cases the assertion (if there is
any) seems to be diluted to such a degree that I wonder if it still can
be called any assertion, even for the sake of argument. Would it not
make more sense to view the protasis to be neutral in terms of
presupposing its truthfulness or falsity.

Perhaps we see 'assertion for the sake of argument' somewhat
differently. I take it to mean that the speaker wants to presuppose the
protasis to be true for the sake of argument, ie. as the basis of
discussion (my English dictionary defines the term that way), to take on
the opponent's view to see its implications, without committing oneself
to the truth of the claim. So, this way the opponent is more open to
seeing the implication when something is admitted for the sake of

I am not a native speaker of English, and I do not claim that my
understanding of the term is perfect, and as a grammar term its meaning
may still be different from normal English use. But it does seem to
differ from 'neutral'. The 1st class conditions look pretty neutral to
me. This is whence my question arose. How do you see assertion for the
sake of argument to differ from neutral?

I hope this somehow clarifies my question. >>

I think the major semantical difference between the 1st and 3rd class
condition is that the 1st class condition tends to occur more in
argumentative discourse. Here the "assumption for the sake of argument" is
important because you are trying to draw the audience/opponent into the
discussion. Therefore you can assume your opponents view for the sake of
argument in order to show its fallacy. Grice's conversational maxims might be
involved here because your trying to be both relevant and polite. Note that
Matt 12:27ff and 1 Cor 15:12-18 are argumentative discourse and involve the
1st class condition.

Third class conditions tend to occur in didactic discourse. The "assumption
for the sake of argument" nuance is unnecessary because you are not arguing a
position, but simply trying to demonstrate valid logic. Note that John 13-16
and 1 John are didactic discourses and have preponderance of 3rd class

There is overlap between the conditionals. In the Synoptics Matthew may have
a 1st class conditional while the parallel in Mark may be 3rd class.

Charles Powell

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