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#23 - Ethicist: Marital vows often contain the promise to

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Complete Question Explanation

Justify the Conclusion: The correct answer choice is (D)

This argument centers on the meaning of the promise to love “until death do us part.” The ethicist argues that if “love” refers to a feeling, then the promise makes no sense. Why? Because one does not control his or her feelings, and it does not make sense to promise something that is not under one’s control. Ultimately, the ethicist concludes that no one should take “love” in the context of marital vows to refer to feelings, i.e. that “love” should not be interpreted as a feeling. 

Where did the ethicist make a logical leap? Clearly, just because promising to feel love makes no sense does not automatically prohibit us from interpreting “love” as a feeling. As a Justify the Conclusion question, we are looking to find the answer choice that, when added to the stimulus, allows the conclusion to be properly drawn. Simply put, we need to connect “promise” to “interpretation” by establishing that promises should only be interpreted in a way that makes sense.

Answer choice (A): The conclusion of this stimulus is based on a feeling we are powerless to control. The additional information that there are other feelings that we are powerless to control does not meaningfully add to the argument, and certainly does not allow us to draw the conclusion that no one should take the term “love” in marital vows to refer to feelings.

Answer choice (B): The argument in the stimulus is about how people should understand words in promises. It is not about what sorts of promises people should make in the first place. The ethicist focuses the argument on how people should interpret promises rather than on how people should make promises. This answer choice relates to how people should make promises, and thus does not actually impact the argument in the stimulus.

Answer choice (C): The ethicist seems to imply that “love” can refer to something other than a feeling. He or she does not say that it legitimately would refer to something other than a feeling. The argument is supported as long as the term “love” can refer to something other than a feeling, whether that reference is legitimate or silly.

Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice. When added to the stimulus, this answer choice allows the conclusion to be drawn by explaining that promises should not be interpreted in such a way that do not make sense. The stimulus already stated that the promise to love, if it refers to a feeling, would make no sense. Thus the conclusion can be properly drawn with the additional information that promises should not be interpreted in such a way that does not make sense.

Answer choice (E): The stimulus never says that the promise to love cannot be kept. Even if it does not make sense as a promise, it is still possible to keep it. If one happened to continue to feel love for the other person until death, even if he or she could not control those feelings, one still would have kept the promise.
catherinedf
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Hi,

I'm looking at the Oct 2011 Logical reasoning sec 1, question 23. "Ethicist: Marital vows often contain..."

I know that the correct answer is D but am having a hard time understanding why it can't also be C. Isn't his / her arguement asssuming that love can refer to something other than feelings?

Thank you for your help!
Jon Denning
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Well keep in mind what you're trying to achieve here: this is a Justify question, so we need an answer that proves the author's conclusion is true. The conclusion is that no one should consider "love" (in the context of making promises about it) to be a feeling. Why? Because feelings are uncontrollable, and promising to do something you can't control (promising to feel a certain way) would make no sense. What then would allow us to get from the promise of "love" as a feeling not making sense to the conclusion that we should not take "love" to be a feeling? We need an answer that says we should take/interpret promises that are made in such a way so that they do make sense.

Answer choice D does just that: it tells us that we should not interpret promises ("love" in this case) in a way that makes them nonsensical. So when someone promises "love" we must, according to D, interpret it in a way that makes sense. Thus we cannot interpret it as a feeling because feelings are uncontrollable and therefore cannot be sensibly promised. And that's the author's exact conclusion.

Answer choice C does not prove the conclusion. Granted, I think you could make the case that the author would agree with C--if he/she says love in this sense is not a feeling, it's reasonable to infer it must then refer to something else--but it does not show that we shouldn't interpret "love" to mean a feeling just because that would be a nonsensical promise, as the conclusion states.


I hope this helps!
Jon Denning
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catherinedf
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Thanks Jon!

Would you say that C doesn't work because it's more restating the conclusion rather than proving it?

Thank you for your help!

Catherine
Jon Denning
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I don't know that I'd call it a restatement of the conclusion per se--the conclusion is that we SHOULD NOT consider "love" to be a feeling in the context of promising to give it in the future--but I do think you could say it's an assumption the author is making. That is, I think we could look at C as more of a truth/belief that follows from the author's argument, since "love" would logically have to be referring to something other than feelings based on the conclusion. The problem is that still doesn't prove why we SHOULD NOT take "love" as referring to feelings, and that's what we need the correct answer to do in a Justify question. And again, that's why D works: if we shouldn't interpret promises in a way where they don't make sense (the answer), then we shouldn't interpret the promise of "love" as a feeling (conclusion), since we're told that promise would make no sense (premise).

Thanks!
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lorein21
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I got stuck on this question and I did the assumption negation trick, but my original choice still sounds like it destroys the conclusion more than the correct answer. If you can offer some explanation, it would be really appreciated!

[LSAT question removed by admin - October 2011 LSAT LR Question 23]
lorein21
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oh wait - maybe I got it...

D - fills in the missing gap. the stimulus skips the connection that promises have to make sense. because if i said promises dont have to make sense, than the whole argument would be destroyed. I would be able to refer to love as a feeling and make a marriage vow, because if promises didnt have to make sense than there is no problem.

B- when negated says people should not do something that is within their control. that doesn't affect the stimulus, because it only focuses on promises you shouldnt make when there is no control. it doesnt even weaken the argument by much because its a different situation when negated, and doesnt reflect the issue in question in the stimulus.

Am I on the right path?

i still feel a bit unsettled with this question. super tricky on a first read.
Jon Denning
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Well keep in mind what you're trying to achieve here: this is a Justify question (NOT an assumption; see how it says "conclusion follows logically"?, that's Justify), so we need an answer that proves the author's conclusion is true. The conclusion is that no one should consider "love" (in the context of making promises about it) to be a feeling. Why? Because feelings are uncontrollable, and promising to do something you can't control (promising to feel a certain way) would make no sense. What then would allow us to get from the promise of "love" as a feeling not making sense to the conclusion that we should not take "love" to be a feeling? We need an answer that says we should take/interpret promises that are made in such a way so that they do make sense.

Answer choice D does just that: it tells us that we should not interpret promises ("love" in this case) in a way that makes them nonsensical. So when someone promises "love" we must, according to D, interpret it in a way that makes sense. Thus we cannot interpret it as a feeling because feelings are uncontrollable and therefore cannot be sensibly promised. And that's the author's exact conclusion.

Answer choice C does not prove the conclusion. Granted, I think you could make the case that the author would agree with C--if he/she says love in this sense is not a feeling, it's reasonable to infer it must then refer to something else--but it does not show that we shouldn't interpret "love" to mean a feeling just because that would be a nonsensical promise, as the conclusion states.


I hope this helps!
Jon Denning
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Jon Denning
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Oh, and for B: B is essentially just a restatement of a premise here. B says people should not make promises to do something they can't control, and a premise is people shouldn't not promise to feel something because that is not within their control and therefore makes no sense. But I can see where that would be tempting if you saw this as an assumption question. However, for Justify, B does nothing to prove the conclusion that love should not be taken to refer to a feeling in the marital promise sense.
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melissa27
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Can you please explain how to attack this question. I was between B and D and ultimately choose B.