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#24 - Nightbird is an unsigned painting that some attribute

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Complete Question Explanation

Weaken—SN. The correct answer choice is (C)

A guiding principle on the LSAT is that we do not attack the premises offered in support of the conclusion, because doing so typically requires the application of some outside knowledge, which is not permitted. This question offers an interesting situation in which an apparently factual premise is not quite what it seems.

The stimulus describes a unsigned painting named Nightbird that some attribute to a celebrated artist named Larocque. The experts agree that Nightbird was painted in a style indistinguishable from that of Larocque, and that if Nightbird was not painted by Larocque, it was undoubtedly painted by one of his students. A recent analysis showed that the painting contains orpiment, a pigment never yet found in a work attributed to Larocque. Based on this new evidence, the stimulus author concludes that the painting must have been done by one of Larocque’s students.

What is very interesting about the premises regarding the experts’ agreement is that there are two layers to them. The fact presented is that they agree. However this does not mean it is established that the experts are correct. So, while the experts agree that the style is indistinguishable from that of Larocque, it may not be. And, it may not be true that if the painting was not done by Larocque, then it must have been done by one of his students.

The evidence relied on is that the recent analysis showed the painting contains orpiment, a pigment never yet found in a work attributed to Larocque. This qualification, that orpiment has not yet been found in a work attributed to Larocque, introduces the possibility that there may be some Larocque painting containing orpiment that has not yet been found. Instead, the stimulus author treats the recently discovered evidence, that the painting contains orpiment, as proving that Larocque did not paint Nightbird .

Also, the only reason given for the view that if Larocque did not paint Nightbird , then one of his students must have, is that the style is indistinguishable from Larocque’s. However, while the style may be indistinguishable, there is no evidence to support the view that it can be produced only by Larocque or one of his students.

The question stem identifies this as a Weaken question. Your prephrase is that the correct answer choice will exploit these assumptions made by the argument.

Answer choice (A): This choice strengthens the conclusion, by affirming that Larocque had students who painted in his style. Notice that the stimulus did not present as fact that these students even existed. Rather, all you were told in the stimulus was the opinion of the experts.

Answer choice (B): The fact that Larocque never signed his paintings does not give us any reason to doubt that Nightbird was painted by one of Larocque’s students.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice. This choice undermines the conclusion by presenting the possibility that, just like Larocque, none of Larocque’s students are known to have used orpiment either.

Answer choice (D): This choice is incorrect, because nothing in the stimulus suggests the relative importance of the artists is material to the conclusion.

Answer choice (E): This choice has no effect on the conclusion, because the relative popularity of the pigment is not material to the conclusion. That the pigment later became “more popular” does not provide sufficient information regarding the usage of orpiment during Larocque’s life to affect the conclusion.
jenna_d
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The difference between answer A and C really confuses me - they really seem to be stating the same idea. In A, it is essentially saying that since Larocque didn't use orpiment, then his students did not. In C, it is saying that no painting of one of Larocque's students has ever contained orpiment. Isn't that saying the same thing? Confused on how to distinguish between the two and choose the correct one.

Thanks!
Adam Tyson
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I guess it depends, jenna_d, on whether you consider the use of a certain pigment to be a "painting technique". It didn't occur to me to do so, so I viewed answer A as strengthening the claim that a student painted it, since " it was painted in a style indistinguishable from that of Larocque." That sounds to me more like we are talking about technique than the use of the pigment suggests.

However, if we do view the choice of a pigment to be a technique, then answer C would still weaken more than answer A, because answer A only tells us about few of his students while answer C tells us about none of their known paintings. Answer A allows for the possibility that some did use different techniques, including that pigment, while answer C tells us about every single painting that we know about that was done by one of his students. That's much stronger evidence that our author may be wrong, and since the stem asks us to pick the one that weakens the most, pick the one that weakens the most!

Few vs none - an important difference, and every word matters on this test.

I hope that sheds some light on this one for you!
Adam M. Tyson
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akanshalsat
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For C, just because no "currently recognized work" shows the pigment doesnt mean that there arent some that havent been completely recognized but ARE the works of his students and HAVE the pigment... so C doesnt weaken it?