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It's a human job to try to find out the truth about the world about us, to answer the big question 'What is the world really like?'

About 'to answer...', is it:

(a) :find out X to answer the big question
(b) :[try to find out X] +[try to answer the big question]
(c) :[to try to find out X] + [to answer the big question]

I think it's (a), but I'm not sure on this one...

Comments  
Hello Taka

I'm not sure if this answers your question; but I read it as follows:

One of a human being's jobs = trying to find out the truth about the world about [i.e. around] us = answering the big question 'What is the world really like?'

MrP
Another case of unresolvable ambiguity (between b and c).
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MrPedanticHello Taka

I'm not sure if this answers your question; but I read it as follows:

One of a human being's jobs = trying to find out the truth about the world about [i.e. around] us = answering the big question 'What is the world really like?'

MrP

So, you think "to answer the big question 'What is the world really like'" is a restatement of "try to find out the truth..."?

If 'find out the truth' is semantically almost the same as 'answer the big question', what made you think that 'answer the big question' was not in the scope of 'try to'?
On the first reading, I took the two clauses as roughly equivalent, because there's no certainty that you'll give the right answer to the "big question". In this reading, the uncertainty that "trying" would import into the "answer" clause is already present.

On a second reading, though, I would say that "trying to find out the truth about the world about us" precedes "answering the big question 'What is the world really like?'", in the same way as "investigation" precedes "reaching a conclusion". In this reading, I take "answer the question" in its usual sense of "giving the right answer to the question".

(Even though I lean towards one meaning, I agree with CJ about the ambiguity. In spoken English, you might be able to convey the difference by intonation – e.g. if you wanted to convey "try + find out"/"try + answer", you could keep the voice unemphatic at "try", and then have a more emphatic intonation at "find out" and "answer".)

MrP
Would the ambiguity go away if the statement were written as--

It's a human job to try to find out the truth about the world about us, to ask the big question 'What is the world really like?'
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MrPedanticOn the first reading, I took the two clauses as roughly equivalent, because there's no certainty that you'll give the right answer to the "big question". In this reading, the uncertainty that "trying" would import into the "answer" clause is already present.

I'm not sure I really understand your certainty/uncertainty. Could you please elaborate it?

MrPedanticOn a second reading, though, I would say that "trying to find out the truth about the world about us" precedes "answering the big question 'What is the world really like?'", in the same way as "investigation" precedes "reaching a conclusion"

Then, isn't it closer to my (a)? (a) is:

(trying to ) find out the truth about the world about us in order to answer the big question 'What is the world really like?'

It's like, you study the world around you, and such small efforts, or study of 'proximal' things, would eventually lead to the answer to the big question about the universal truth.