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#5 - Since Professor Smythe has been head of the department

Franny_i
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Hey all,

I understand why C is right after looking at the question again but I picked E and am having a little trouble figuring why it's wrong. I understand presupposition to mean assumption and I felt the author was assuming what he/she was trying to establish. Where am I going wrong?
Malila Robinson
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Hi Franny_i,
Answer E is circular. That would mean that the premise and conclusion would need to say the same thing, without providing any supporting information.
If we look at the basics of this argument it appears to be causal: A new department head was hired, and then several bad things happened within the department. The argument then concludes that the new department head must have been hired in order to cause those bad things happen. But the bad things that were mentioned do not have to have been caused by the purposeful actions of the new department head. For example, it could just be a coincidence, it could be a correlation, or it could be that the department was already starting to go downhill and the new department head was brought in to try to save the department rather than destroy it.
This makes Answer C correct: "assumes that because an action was followed by a change, the action was undertaken to bring about that change"
Hope that helps!
-Malila
Franny_i
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Malila Robinson wrote:Hi Franny_i,
Answer E is circular. That would mean that the premise and conclusion would need to say the same thing, without providing any supporting information.
If we look at the basics of this argument it appears to be causal: A new department head was hired, and then several bad things happened within the department. The argument then concludes that the new department head must have been hired in order to cause those bad things happen. But the bad things that were mentioned do not have to have been caused by the purposeful actions of the new department head. For example, it could just be a coincidence, it could be a correlation, or it could be that the department was already starting to go downhill and the new department head was brought in to try to save the department rather than destroy it.
This makes Answer C correct: "assumes that because an action was followed by a change, the action was undertaken to bring about that change"
Hope that helps!
-Malila


Thanks for your response. I definitely understand why C is correct. So, if I'm understanding correctly, anytime proper evidence is provided to justify a conclusion, the author is not assuming what he/she is trying to prove? And essentially, the author didn't prove the cause and effect in the stimulus,...he/she stated that one thing happened and another (possibly completely separate) thing happened and improperly concluded that one caused the other?
James Finch
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Hi Franny,

If you look at the argument in this stimulus, the premise given lists a number of bad things that have happened since Smythe was appointed. It then concludes that these things occurring are definitive proof of an intention to undermine the department by appointing Smythe, without showing any evidence of that intentionality. We can think of alternate causes: incompetence, budget cuts, outside interference, etc. Maybe Smythe has been hospitalized with a terminal illness most of the time in question, we don't know. And we especially don't know why Smythe was chosen, so we can't jump to any conclusions by assuming there was an intention to undermine the department.

Hope this helps!
Sky Brooks
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Hi Franny_i,

The issue isn't that there is proper evidence provided for a conclusion. Here, the author is looking at the results of an event and then making the assumption that the event took place for the purpose of causing those specific results. The flaw is the assumption that an action was taken with the intention to cause the result it actually ended up causing. There is no way of knowing the intended result (and in this case, it's highly unlikely that the district intended to harm its educational system).

If the author presupposed what they were purporting to establish, the stimulus would essentially state that "something is a certain way because that same something is a certain way". It's circular in reasoning.

Hope this helps!

Sky Brooks
LetsGetThis180
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I got the flaw in the argument how there could be alternative causes to why the most distinguished member of the faculty has resigned. The wording in the answer choices kind of threw me off and gave me a hard time. I was between B and C. I picked B because I thought "bases a general claim on a few exceptional instances" could mean "there are other alternative causes except for these few exceptional instances" which is why the argument based a general claim about the Professor. Could someone reword C for me to understand it a little better? I might just be overthinking this since I've read it a hundred times! Any feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks :-D
Adam Tyson
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Sure thing, LetsGetThis!

Focus on the conclusion here - the Professor "was appointed to undermine the department." The author is giving evidence that a bunch of bad stuff happened after the Professor was appointed, and then draws a conclusion about the intentions of those that appointed him. This is a fairly common flaw - ascribing intentions based on results. "You gained weight, so you must have been trying to gain weight." "The tax plan resulted in massive job losses, so that must be the reason why the plan was implemented." Results don't prove intentions, and intentions don't prove results either. I might be trying to lose weight, but that doesn't prove that I will, right?

Answer C is describing that "results prove intentions" flaw. It's saying something akin to "since a result happened, the result was meant to happen."

Answer B describes an over-generalization. That would be something like this: "One member of the faculty resigned, and one class saw a drop in enrollment. Therefore, the Professor's appointment has been a complete disaster!" There, a couple of instances that could be exceptions, rather than the general trend, are used to make a very broad, sweeping claim. That didn't happen here, because the author never said anything about the appointment being all bad. Instead, the conclusion was only about the intentions of the parties. Focus on the intentions, and answer C will be much more attractive to you than answer B.
Adam M. Tyson
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