The general pattern of discounting is to cite a possible criticism in order to reject it or counter it. Notice how different the following statements sound:
The ring is beautiful, but expensive.
The ring is expensive, but beautiful.
Both statements assert the same facts—that the ring is beautiful and that the ring is expensive. Both statements also suggest that there is some opposition between these facts. Yet these statements operate in different ways. We might use the first as a reason for not buying the ring; we can use the second as a reason for buying it. The first sentence acknowledges that the ring is beautiful, but overrides this by pointing out that it is expensive. In reverse fashion, the second statement acknowledges that the ring is expensive, but overrides this by pointing out that it is beautiful. Such assertions of the form “A but B” thus have four components:
1. The assertion of A
2. The assertion of B
3. The suggestion of some opposition between A and B
4. The indication that the truth of B is more important than the truth of A
The word “but” thus discounts the statement that comes before it in favor of the statement that follows it.
“Although” is also a discounting connective, but it operates in reverse fashion from the word “but.” We can see this, using the same example:
Although the ring is beautiful, it is expensive.
Although the ring is expensive, it is beautiful.
Here the statement following the word “although” is discounted in favor of the connected statement.
A partial list of terms that typically function as discounting connectives includes the following conjunctions:
although even if but nevertheless
though while however nonetheless
even though whereas yet still
These terms are not always used to discount. The word “still,” for example, is used for discounting in (a) “He is sick; still, he is happy” but not in (b) “He is still happy” (or “Sit still”). We can tell whether a term is being used for dis- counting by asking whether the sentence makes sense when we substitute another discounting term: It makes sense to say, “He is sick, but he is happy.” It makes no sense to say, “He is but happy.” It is also illuminating to try to spec- ify the objection that is being discounted. If you cannot say which objection is discounted, then the term is probably not being used for discounting.
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