Sentences such as these represent another potential problem for the critical thinker striving to work out exactly what a speaker or writer intends to convey by their words. The sentences are implicitly relative. They make a comparison with some group of things, but that comparison is not explicitly mentioned. For instance, to understand what it is for someone to earn an 'above average salary', we need to know of what group the average to which it is compared is. Or consider the one about Aunt Edie? Does the speaker intend to convey that Great Aunt Edie is a fast runner such that she runs at world record pace or that she is a fast runner for a woman of her age? Or something in between, such as that she is faster than the average person? If such sentences are interpreted without the recognition of their implicit relativity, then there is the possibility that they will be interpreted as making a comparison with a group other than that intended by the writer or speaker. Great Aunt Edie is not a fast runner when compared with Linford Christie and, thus interpreted, the claim would be false. But when compared with other ninety-four year olds, many of whom haven't broken into a run for many years, she is a fast runner and the claim is true. Once we recognise such claims as implicitly relative and interpret them accordingly, they are more likely to have a definite truth-value. But not always. Implicit relativity is often compounded by other sources of vagueness. For example, even if we do know what comparison class is being invoked in the case of Aunt Edie, it is by no means clear just how much faster a person must be than the average person of that class in order to be fast relative to it.

Problems with quantifiers

Quantifiers are words that tell us how many/much of something there are/is, or how often something happens. As you will see, not all quantifiers specify an exact quantity of the thing, rather they provide a rough guide. In the following examples the quantifiers are underlined (this is not an exhaustive list of quantifiers):

► Members of Parliament are often self-serving.

► Few doctors support the health reforms.

► The lecturer awarded almost all the assignments an A grade.

Why should we become critical thinkers?

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