how to know if a phrase between two commas is parenthetic or not

I can’t understand the grammatical structure (and maybe the meaning: what is different between what and what?) of the bold part. Is there any easier paraphrase?

Is there any end state or goal (telos) that all humans seek because it is worthy, or what is different, ought to seek because it is worthy?

This sentence is taken from The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Psychology.


A structure is parenthetical if you can take it out of the sentence, and this sentence’s intelligibility will not be affected in any way (that is, the sentence still makes complete sense and remains grammatical).

In this case, the sentence doesn’t work without the “or”, but it could work without the phrase “what is different”. Although I do think the sentence is a bit awkwardly worded (this happens even to native speakers, and that is why all publishing houses have editors, but even editors are not infallible).

What the authors mean is that all humans

seek a worthy goal

meaning that all humans do it whether they want it or not; it is an ingrained trait,

or that they

ought to (should) seek a worthy goal

meaning not all humans do it, but the authors think they should; that there is a moral imperative that should be imposed on hmans. And they want to emphasize that these two states of things are different, that is why they inserted this caveat into the sentence.

Source : Link , Question Author : user52346 , Answer Author : tenebris2020

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