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#17- It is a mistake to conclude, as some have, that ancient

LSAT Apprentice
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Had some trouble eliminating incorrect answer choices and finding the correct answer on this one. Can someone walk me through this question/answer?

Thank you
Jonathan Evans
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This is a challenging but interesting question, in that it makes an argument by analogy but we must provide evidence that the analogy itself is germane to the argument.

The only premise for the author's conclusion (it is possible that ancient people knew what moral rights were in spite of the absence of such terms from their languages) is the parallel reasoning that it is a mistake to conclude that "a person who discovers a wild fruit tree and returns repeatedly" and studies it "has no idea what the fruit is until naming it or learning its name."

Well, since we actually have no support for this analogous reasoning, we have to assume that for it to be relevant to the author's main conclusion, such an analogy must itself satisfy some necessary conditions to conclude that it is possible to know what such a fruit is without having a name for it.

In other words, if we were to know that this fruit student in fact had no idea what his fruit was before knowing its name, we would have no evidence whatsoever that people who lack a term for moral rights should know what such rights are in the absence of a term.

This is where the Assumption Negation test comes in. Focus on the gap between the premises and the conclusion. Why should we care about this fruit stuff? Well, he seems to think the fruit situation in relevant. So, he must think the fruit dude knows what the fruit is. What if the fruit dude doesn't know? Well, then our argument is totally lame, dude.
LSAT Apprentice
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Hi Powerscore folks,

I'm a little stuck on D vs. E for this question. I selected E because it seemed like a much stronger version of D, but this was incorrect. Am I falling into the trap of picking answers that are too "strong" for assumptions? I'm not sure that answer choice E "justifies" the argument, persay, but perhaps it's just too strong to be "necessary"?

Or is it more to do with the fact that answer choice E doesn't directly address the analogy in the premise?

Thank you!

Daniel Stern
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Hi Nola --

I think you may have read "E" too quickly -- E states that "One need not know what something is before one can name it," whereas the stimulus author is trying to argue that one can know what something is without naming it. In other words, we're not concerned with any pre-requisites to naming things; we're only concerned with whether giving something a name is a pre-requisite to knowing things about it.

Credited response D fills the role of a necessary assumption because it imputes knowledge about the fruit to the person who eats and harvests the fruit, even if that person has no name for the fruit. If such a state of affairs is possible -- that someone can "know" a fruit without naming it -- then that supports the author's argument-by-analogy that ancient peoples could "know" moral rights without having a term for them.

Good luck in your studies,