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#18- Columnist: Taking a strong position on an

rachue
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I'm having trouble diagraming the s/n conditions in this stimulus to guide me to the correct answer. Can someone help me out? Thanks in advance.
Steve Stein
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This one seems structured to confuse, but it becomes more easily comprehensible when worded in a more straightforward manner:

Before you take a strong position on something, you'd better make sure you've considered all the angles; if you don't consider all the evidence before taking a strong position, you're likely to ignore or misinterpret such information after you've taken a stand.
Steve Stein
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rachue
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That helps! Thanks.
dhaozh
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I find this Principle question difficult on many levels. Right from the get go, the stimulus is hard to diagram: I'm not sure whether the first sentence--"Taking a strong position on an issue makes one likely to misinterpret or ignore additional evidence"--is really a conditional statement; additionally, I'm not certain if the phrase "misinterpret or ignore additional evidence" is exactly synonymous (hence equivalent from the diagramming standpoint) with the phrase "(not) consider such evidence impartially" in the following sentence. I answered yes to both questions and, on that basis, proceeded to diagram as follows:

TSP = take strong position
ICE = ignore conflicting evidence = (not) consider conflicting evidence impartially
UIF = understand issue fully

Premise 1: TSP --> ICE
Premise 2: UIF --> not ICE
(combined: TSP --> ICE --> not UIF)
Conclusion: TSP --> not ICE
(Hidden assumption: UIF is preferred to TSP where the two are in conflict.)

Can you please critique my diagram and explain how you go about dissecting the stimulus?

Now, with respect to the answer choice, I was able to eliminate A and E quickly, but liked B and C equally, and didn't dislike D enough to deem it a loser. B seems attractive to me because it links "ignore conflicting evidence" and "consider conflicting evidence impartially" conditionally, which resolves my 2rd problem with diagramming. C seems attractive because it kind of gets at the hidden assumption that I discovered).

Can you please explain why C is superior to B?

Thanks so much!

David Z.
Nikki Siclunov
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Hi David,

Your suspicion that the first sentence is not an absolute conditional statement is justified: notice the word "likely" modifying the possibility of ignoring additional evidence that conflicts with one's stand. This is conditional probability (there is merely a risk of the event occurring, not a definitive or certain outcome).

Let's ignore the first sentence and focus on the conditional language here:

Premise : In order to understand an issue fully, it is essential to consider all evidence impartially (i.e. including evidence conflicting with one's position).

Conclusion: It is best not to take a strong position on an issue unless you have considered all important evidence conflicting with that position.

In short, the conditional structure underlying this argument is as follows:

Premise: Understand fully --> Consider ALL evidence

Conclusion: Take a strong position --> Consider ALL evidence

Clearly, to best strengthen (most fully justify) the conclusion we need to connect the two sufficient conditions in order to arrive at the conclusion as an additive inference from the conditional chain:

Take a strong position --> Understand fully

Answer choice (C) is the contrapositive of that prephrase.

Answer choice (B) may be an assumption of the argument, but it does not address the new element in the conclusion ("take a strong position"). Since that element is not part of the conditional premise for that conclusion, it must be addressed in the correct answer choice.
Nikki Siclunov
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dhaozh
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Many thanks, Nikki! From your analysis, I gather that not only is the first sentence not a conditional statement, it isn't much of a premise either! In light of this particular question, would you go as far as asserting that one can safely ignore any non-conditional language in an argument based principally on conditional reasoning?
Nikki Siclunov
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Hi David,

I wouldn't go as far as to say "ignore any non-conditional statement in an argument driven by conditional reasoning," but I would certainly put less stock in that statement. Especially when you have a conditional Strengthen/Justify question, more often than not the correct answer is a function of understanding the conditional gap between the premise(s) and the conclusion. In that case, the non-conditional elements of the argument would play at best a secondary role. Don't forget, however, that there are exceptions to everything on this test, so use your best judgment when approaching such questions :-)
Nikki Siclunov
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SLF
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With regard to LSAT #54, Section #2, Question #18, how should I correctly discriminate between answer choices 'A' and 'C'?
Lucas Moreau
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Hello, SLF,

This was a tricky question - only 36% of students get it right!

This question is an issue of sufficient and necessary conditions, at the end of the day. The stimulus may be rephrased to say "If it is reasonable for you to take a strong position on an issue, then you should have considered all the evidence impartially/you should understand the issue fully."

In this manner, understanding the issue fully (by way of having considered all the important evidence impartially) is a necessary condition of it being reasonable for you to take a strong position. But understanding the issue is not itself sufficient for a strong position to be reasonable. A is a Mistaken Reversal, confusing sufficient and necessary.

C is better, as a principle, and as a proper contrapositive. If you have not considered all the evidence impartially/do not understand the issue fully, then you should not take a strong position on that issue.

Hope that helps,
Lucas Moreau
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nattycat
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I'm having some difficulty understanding why the answer is not A.

I had diagrammed the conclusion as:

not take strong position -> not considered all evidence

thus the contrapositive would be:

considered all evidence -> take strong position, which is answer A...

After reading the explanation, I can also see that C works though :-?