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#6 - Deirdre: Many philosophers have argued that the goal of

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Complete Question Explanation

Flaw in the Reasoning. The correct answer choice is (C)

This stimulus provides a statement from Deirdre regarding some philosophers’ views of happiness: Many philosophers argue that the goal of every person is to achieve happiness, which is satisfaction derived from living up to one’s potential. Furthermore, this happiness is elusive and can be achieved only after years of sustained effort. Deirdre disagrees with these philosophers, since they have “clearly” overstated the difficulty of achieving happiness. She argues that a simple walk on a sunny afternoon causes many to experience feelings of happiness.

The question stem asks us to describe the flaw in Deirdre’s argument. Have the philosophers “clearly” overstated the difficulty of achieving happiness? “Clearly” seems to be used in this case more as a statement of persuasion than as a statement of empirical fact. Apparently Deirdre has redefined “happiness” to mean something different from the philosophers’ definition of living up to one’s full potential. This knowledge should direct us to any answer choice that reflects this shift in the definition of “happiness.”

Answer choice (A): This answer choice describes an ad hominem attack– an attempt to discredit a position by attacking character. Since Dierdre does not launch a personal attack against the referenced philosophers, this is not the correct answer choice.

Answer choice (B): Although the definition of happiness did shift within the stimulus, this is not the same as Dierdre’s definition changing over time. Since this is not the flaw reflected in Dierdre’s argument, this answer choice is incorrect.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice. As prephrased above, Deirdre’s reasoning is flawed because it allows the meaning of “happiness” to shift in the course of the argument. Initially, “happiness” is defined as living up to one’s full potential. Yet when Deirdre discusses walks on a sunny afternoon, “happiness” has clearly taken on a different meaning—something more like peace or simple contentment. Since the meaning of this key term has changed, Deidre’s reasoning is flawed.

Answer choice (D): It is the philosophers who state that happiness is the goal of life, not Deirdre, so this answer choice is incorrect.

Answer choice (E): Dierdre’s claim is only that “many” philosophers have a particular view. Since she makes no broad claims, this does not represent a generalization based on the testimony of an unrepresentative group.
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I’m confused about the reasoning for this argument.

Philosopher: happiness is living up to one’s potential.

Deirdre: That’s exaggerating too much since happiness can be achieved by walking on the beach.

I can see how the definition of “happiness” is changing because the philosopher and Deirdre are citing two different requirements, but I don’t see how this is a reasoning flaw. Aren’t they just arguing for two different things?

Thank you
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The problem here may be that you are oversimplifying the argument. The philosophers that Deirdre is talking about aren't trying to prove that happiness is living up to one's potential. Rather, that's their premise, their definition of happiness. Their conclusion is that that kind of happiness is elusive and requires years of effort to achieve. That's what Deirdre is arguing against - not their definition, but their claim that it takes much time and effort to get there. The problem is that she responds by talking about a different kind of happiness, the fleeting kind that you might feel just walking on the beach, sunshine on my shoulders, John Denver singing along in the background.

This is like a Buddhist monk saying that harmony is living a life in balance with your inner self and your outer world, which takes much meditation and guidance, and then Deirdre responding that all you really need is a couple of guys who know how to sing the different parts of a song together. They aren't disagreeing about the definition of harmony, but rather they are using different definitions to come to different conclusions, and then one of them is saying the other is wrong. That's where Deirdre goes awry - she says the philosophers are wrong, but only because she ignored their definition and substituted another one.

Be careful not to generalize what the authors say, and to focus on their conclusions. Keep at it, it will all get clearer in time!
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If answer choice (B) was the correct answer choice, for the sake of review, what would the stimulus look like? Would Deirdre have to assert something like "walking along the seashore" is the only time people experience feelings of happiness? Thanks!
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rpark8214 wrote:If answer choice (B) was the correct answer choice, for the sake of review, what would the stimulus look like? Would Deirdre have to assert something like "walking along the seashore" is the only time people experience feelings of happiness? Thanks!

Answer choice (B) references the type of happiness that comes from enjoying small pleasures in the moment -- perhaps, being in a good mood because a person is engaging in an activity they enjoy.

So if the philosophers Deirdre mentioned had defined happiness as Webster's Dictionary does -- "the state of being happy" -- and then Deridre went on to say that anyone can be happy by walking along the beach, answer choice (B) would fit. In this hypothetical, Deidre's flawed reasoning would be assuming that walking on the beach makes everyone experience a feeling of happiness. Presumably, some people would not derive happiness from walking on a beach, so Deirde would be wrong to make such a broad statement.

The problem with answer choice (B) is that it fails to address the disconnect between philosophers' definition of happiness ("living up to one's potential") with Deirdre's definition of happiness ("experiencing feelings of happiness"). The first type of happiness is a sort of long-lasting contentment with one's life. The second is being in a good mood because something nice is happening. Answer choice (B) talks only about the second type of happiness, without addressing the gap between Deirdre's definition and the philosophers' definition that he criticizes.

Good luck!

-Athena Dalton