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#13 - Weingarten claims that keeping animals in zoos is

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Complete Question Explanation

This stimulus is built upon a classic "some people say, but they're wrong, and here's why" structure that is found over and over again on the LSAT, both in LR and in RC. Here, the "some people" is just one person, Weingarten, and he says that keeping animals in zoos is unethical. His premise in support of that claim is that doing so places these animals in unnatural environments just to amuse people.

Our author says that Weingarten's claim should be rejected (he's wrong), and offers as support for that conclusion the fact that Weingarten has no problem with people keeping pets, which also involves placing animals in unnatural environments. In other words, the author sets out to disprove a claim (keeping pets in zoos is unethical) by showing that the proponent of that claim (Weingarten) also holds an apparently contradictory belief (about pets).

This is what we call a Source Argument, aka an ad hominem attack. This is an argument that focuses on some characteristic or belief of the person making an argument instead of focusing on the substance of the argument itself. While this may be an effective argumentative style in certain ways (discrediting the opponent does have some emotional impact and may, in some cases, raise doubts about their qualifications or sincerity), it is not a purely logical argumentative style, and that's what makes it a flaw on the LSAT. A liar can make a good argument about truthfulness, a king can make a good argument against monarchical rule, and a person who won the lottery can make a good argument in favor of good fortune being no substitute for hard work. Here, a pet owner (or pet ownership supporter) can nevertheless make a good argument against keeping animals in zoos.

Answer A: This brings up irrelevant, outside information, which is unacceptable in a Flaw question. It makes no difference whether Weingarten actually owns a pet, and the author makes no claims nor bases his argument on any assumptions about whether Weingarten owns any pets. He only says that Weingarten "sees nothing wrong with owning pets".

Answer B: An over-generalization answer, which is typically a weak contender at best, and which in this case isn't even that, because there is no particular case used as support for a more general claim. The claim is that Weingarten is wrong, and the evidence is that he holds another belief that appears inconsistent with the belief in question. No particular case (of a situation in which holding an animal in a zoo is ethical) is offered to show that Weingarten is wrong.

Answer C: This describes a straw man argument, wherein one party twists the view offered by another party in order to make it easier to discredit. These are often indicated by the presence of words like "so what you're saying is..." or "if I understand you correctly...". Usually that means that the other party did not say that, and the person arguing against the claim did not understand it correctly. As this did not happen here - our author did not misunderstand or misstate Weingarten's argument about zoo animals - this must be an incorrect answer.

Answer D: A conditional flaw answer describing a Mistaken Reversal. No conditional reasoning was present in the stimulus, no claim that is based on "if...then" reasoning, and so this answer does not describe the flaw present and is therefore incorrect.

Answer E: This is the correct answer. As described above, we are looking for an answer that points out the ad hominem attack, going after the person (Weingarten) instead of going after the substance of his argument. The basis of the attack in this case is that Weingarten holds an apparently inconsistent belief, and that therefore his belief (about zoo animals) must be rejected. Inconsistent beliefs are irrelevant in determining whether a particular belief is based on sound reasoning, and so this answer properly describes the flaw present in the argument.
15veries
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So in "its proponent" refers to Weingarten right?
its=a claim=keeping animals in zoos right?
it=a claim=keeping animals in zoos.
dandelionsroar
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Administrator wrote:Complete Question Explanation

This stimulus is built upon a classic "some people say, but they're wrong, and here's why" structure that is found over and over again on the LSAT, both in LR and in RC. Here, the "some people" is just one person, Weingarten, and he says that keeping animals in zoos is unethical. His premise in support of that claim is that doing so places these animals in unnatural environments just to amuse people.

Our author says that Weingarten's claim should be rejected (he's wrong), and offers as support for that conclusion the fact that Weingarten has no problem with people keeping pets, which also involves placing animals in unnatural environments. In other words, the author sets out to disprove a claim (keeping pets in zoos is unethical) by showing that the proponent of that claim (Weingarten) also holds an apparently contradictory belief (about pets).

This is what we call a Source Argument, aka an ad hominem attack. This is an argument that focuses on some characteristic or belief of the person making an argument instead of focusing on the substance of the argument itself. While this may be an effective argumentative style in certain ways (discrediting the opponent does have some emotional impact and may, in some cases, raise doubts about their qualifications or sincerity), it is not a purely logical argumentative style, and that's what makes it a flaw on the LSAT. A liar can make a good argument about truthfulness, a king can make a good argument against monarchical rule, and a person who won the lottery can make a good argument in favor of good fortune being no substitute for hard work. Here, a pet owner (or pet ownership supporter) can nevertheless make a good argument against keeping animals in zoos.

Answer A: This brings up irrelevant, outside information, which is unacceptable in a Flaw question. It makes no difference whether Weingarten actually owns a pet, and the author makes no claims nor bases his argument on any assumptions about whether Weingarten owns any pets. He only says that Weingarten "sees nothing wrong with owning pets".

Answer B: An over-generalization answer, which is typically a weak contender at best, and which in this case isn't even that, because there is no particular case used as support for a more general claim. The claim is that Weingarten is wrong, and the evidence is that he holds another belief that appears inconsistent with the belief in question. No particular case (of a situation in which holding an animal in a zoo is ethical) is offered to show that Weingarten is wrong.

Answer C: This describes a straw man argument, wherein one party twists the view offered by another party in order to make it easier to discredit. These are often indicated by the presence of words like "so what you're saying is..." or "if I understand you correctly...". Usually that means that the other party did not say that, and the person arguing against the claim did not understand it correctly. As this did not happen here - our author did not misunderstand or misstate Weingarten's argument about zoo animals - this must be an incorrect answer.

Answer D: A conditional flaw answer describing a Mistaken Reversal. No conditional reasoning was present in the stimulus, no claim that is based on "if...then" reasoning, and so this answer does not describe the flaw present and is therefore incorrect.

Answer E: This is the correct answer. As described above, we are looking for an answer that points out the ad hominem attack, going after the person (Weingarten) instead of going after the substance of his argument. The basis of the attack in this case is that Weingarten holds an apparently inconsistent belief, and that therefore his belief (about zoo animals) must be rejected. Inconsistent beliefs are irrelevant in determining whether a particular belief is based on sound reasoning, and so this answer properly describes the flaw present in the argument.


Regarding answer D I still do not see why it can't be true as well. I struggled between d and e. I thought the argument's author was taking something weingarten said, something that was a necessary element for why keeping animals in zoos as unethical and turning it into a sufficient element by saying since something weingarten does also shares the same element then that makes it sufficient to prove he would also be doing something unethical of his statement was true.
Dave Killoran
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dandelionsroar wrote:Regarding answer D I still do not see why it can't be true as well. I struggled between d and e. I thought the argument's author was taking something weingarten said, something that was a necessary element for why keeping animals in zoos as unethical and turning it into a sufficient element by saying since something weingarten does also shares the same element then that makes it sufficient to prove he would also be doing something unethical of his statement was true.


The explanation above makes the point that there is no conditional reasoning in this stimulus, which I agree with. You note that "the argument's author was taking something Weingarten said, something that was a necessary element for why keeping animals in zoos as unethical," but I don't see Weingarten as saying there's a necessary element here for keeping animals in zoos. "Merely for the sake" means something akin to "just because," so amusement is being cited as the reason we have zoos, but that doesn't mean it's a necessary condition. There are also other issues with describing it as above, but once we show there wasn't a necessary condition in the argument as stated, the Mistaken Reversal described in (D) doesn't apply.

Overall, this is an excellent example of attacking an argument based on the actions of the source, so break this one down until you feel comfortable with this idea! It should jump off the page to you that the author is attacking Weingarten not with facts but with actions unrelated to the argument Weingarten makes :-D

Thanks!
Dave Killoran
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