Difficult Trait #6

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LR Perfection Free Preview: Chapter 3 Part VI

Difficult Trait #6: Placing an attractive wrong answer next to the correct answer, which is worded in hard-to-understand language

PT44 S2 Q16

Sociologist: some economists hold that unregulated markets should accompany democratic sovereignty because they let people vote with their money. But this view ignores the crucial distinction between the private consumer and the public citizen. In the marketplace the question is, “What do I want?” At the voting booth the question is always, “What do we want?” Hence, supporters of political democracy can also support marketplace regulation.

Which one of the following most accurately expresses the conclusion drawn by the sociologists?

A. Voters think of themselves as members of a community, rather than as isolated individuals

B. Unregulated markets are incompatible with democratic sovereignty

C. Where there is democratic sovereignty there should be unregulated markets

D. Private consumers are primarily concerned with their own self-interest

E. Opposition to unregulated markets is consistent with support for democracy

As you have probably seen by now, sometimes even the correct answer choice will be dressed up in such a vague and abstract way that we end up missing it despite having located the main conclusion in the stimulus.

What is the conclusion of this argument? The sociologist believes democracy is compatible with regulation, so in other words, you can both support democracy and regulation.

What is the conclusion of this argument? The sociologist believes democracy is compatible with regulation, so in other words, you can both support democracy and regulation.

Let’s take a closer look at answer choices B and E. By looking at these two answer choices in conjunction, we can highlight one of the most lethal traps the test makers will lay out for you.

B. Unregulated markets are incompatible with democratic sovereignty

This answer choice is tricky because on a first glance, it looks pretty close to what the sociologist is saying, namely that political democracy/democratic sovereignty is COMPATIBLE with REGULATED markets. Isn’t saying unregulated markets are incompatible with democracy essentially the same thing?

No. If A is compatible with B, does it mean A is incompatible with B? Not necessarily: if exercising daily is compatible with a full work schedule, does that mean exercising daily is incompatible with a free schedule? Of course not. The sociologist’s idea is not conditional in nature, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that democracy is only compatible with regulated markets.

E. Opposition to unregulated markets is consistent with support for democracy

This is the correct answer. It’s essentially saying that support of regulation is consistent with support for democracy, namely the conclusion of our argument. Instead of directly saying that, the authors have used the words “opposition to unregulated markets,” and if we are reading too fast or pressed for time, we may easily have eliminated this answer, thinking it out of scope.

But does opposition to unregulated markets really mean the same thing as support for regulation? Isn’t this the same kind of reasoning gap which made answer choice B wrong? In some cases it may be, but here it’s actually fine. If I oppose the Republican candidate, it doesn’t mean I automatically support the Democratic candidate, because you have other alternatives. You can support the libertarian candidate, or simply abstain from voting, because there’s a multitude of choices. But market regulation here is a binary choice, there is either regulation or no regulation. So by opposing the latter you are necessarily endorsing the former. Take the example of gun control, if you oppose unregulated sale of guns, does that necessarily mean you support some form of gun control? Yes.

The takeaway from this question is to keep in mind one of the most common traps on answer choice selections. We will have an attractive wrong answer which will be just slightly off, and the correct answer dressed up in a vague/abstract/confusing manner. Read the answer choices carefully, compare them, and refer back to the stimulus when in doubt. This habit is also essential in Must be True, Most Strongly Supported, Strengthen, and Weaken Questions, we will get to those in due time.

Let’s look at another question where the correct answer is dressed up in super abstract wording.

This is a common two-step trick the test makers employ in the hardest questions: 

Step one, making an attractive wrong answer super close to the correct answer, but with just a tiny albeit material difference in detail.

Step two, rephrase the correct answer in hard-to-understand language so that you have no idea what you are looking at or just skip it altogether.

PT23 S3 Q25

The end of an action is the intended outcome of the action and not a mere by-product of the action, and the end’s value is thus the only reason for the action. So while it is true that not every end’s value will justify any means, and even, perhaps, that there is no end whose value will justify every means, it is clear that nothing will justify a means except an end’s value.

Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main conclusion of the argument?

A. The value of some ends may justify any means

B. One can always justify a given action by appeal to the value of its intended outcome

C. One can justify an action only by appeal to the value of its intended outcome

D. Only the value of the by-products of an action can justify that action

E. Nothing can justify the intended outcome of an action except the value of that action’s actual outcomes

This is one of the most abstract and hard to understand stimuli I’ve come across. Let’s break it down.

Statement 1: the end of an action is the intended outcome of the action and not a mere by-product of the action, and the end’s value is thus the only reason for the action

So three pieces of information we can gather here:

The end of an action is the intended outcome of that action (end = intended outcome), the end is more than the by-product, and the reason for an action is the end’s value (Reason for an action → End/intended outcome’s value)

Notice how I’m already using the words “end” and “intended outcome” interchangeably, given the information in the stimulus.

Statement 2: So while it is true that not every end’s value will justify any means, and even, perhaps, that there is no end whose value will justify every means

This statement is a concession (not part of the argument), and it’s basically saying that to justify different means we need different end values.

Statement 3: it is clear that nothing will justify a means except an end’s value

  • Justify means → End’s value/intended outcome’s value

Statement 2 and statement 3 are super confusing, but if we parallel it with an analogy, it would be much easier to understand:

So while it is true that not every study method will make any student succeed, and even, perhaps, that there is no study method that will make every student succeed, it is clear that nothing will make a student successful except his or her study method.

What the stimulus’ second half is saying is that while there is no single, universal end value which will justify all means, end value is a necessary condition to justify the means.

In this stimulus, the argument structure is not too difficult to categorize: we can probably figure out that the last statement is the author’s conclusion without fully understanding the argument’s content. What made this question difficult are its abstract answer choices.

A. The value of some ends may justify any means

This is a corruption of the first part of the second sentence of the argument, which says “not every end’s value will justify any means.”  In diagrammed form, the stimulus is saying “not all A is B”, but this answer choice is saying “some A is B”.

In real life, we sometimes use “not all” to imply “some do”, for example, when I say “not all Americans speak English,” some may take it to also mean “some Americans do speak English”. But on the LSAT, no such inferences can be made. All = 100%, so “not all” simply means “not 100%”. It could be anywhere from 0% to 99%.

“Some”, on the other hand, could be anywhere from 1% to 100%. So while there is indeed significant overlap between the two, they are not equal. If I make the statement that “not all people weigh 2000 lbs”, does that mean some people do weigh 2000 lbs? No.

We will look at “some, most, all” relationships in greater detail in the Must be True Chapter (Chapter 17).

Furthermore, from a structural standpoint, this statement is a concession and not the conclusion of the argument.

B. One can always justify a given action by appeal to the value of its intended outcome

“Always” is indicating the necessary condition here. Let’s look at a few examples:

You can always get into a good law school with a 4.0 GPA and a 180 LSAT

4.0 GPA + 180 LSAT → Good law school (You don’t need a 4.0/180, but it guarantees that you will be accepted at a good law school.)

You can always find taxis at the airport

Airport → Taxi (If you are at the airport, you will find a taxi.)

So answer choice B is essentially saying that

Appealing to the value of its intended outcome (end’s value) → Justify a given action

This is an erroneous conversing of the sufficient and necessary as presented in the author’s argument, which states that nothing will justify a means except an end’s value (Justify a given action → End’s value/intended outcome’s value)

C. One can justify an action only by appeal to the value of its intended outcome

This is basically a rephrasing of the last statement. Remember, the end of an action IS its intended outcome, so if nothing will justify a means except an end’s value, nothing will justify a means except its intended outcome’s value.

D. Only the value of the by-products of an action can justify that action

This is in direct conflict with what the author is saying. The author is saying that it’s the intended outcome and not the by-product’s value that justifies the action.

E. Nothing can justify the intended outcome of an action except the value of that action’s actual outcomes

This answer choice mirrors closely the language in the argument’s conclusion but mixes up the terms. Remember the real conclusion says:

  • Justify Action → Value of Intended Outcome

Answer choice E says:

  • Justify Intended Outcome → Value of Actual Outcome

So again, when faced with harder Find the Conclusion questions, be extra careful when examining the answer choices. The correct answer is often presented in a confusing/abstract manner, while an attractive wrong answer is tempting you nearby.

The correct answer is C.