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#10 - Every moral theory developed in the Western tradition

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Complete Question Explanation

Must be true. The correct answer choice is (C)

This is a fact set. Note the strength of the modifiers in this stimulus—“every,” “most,” and “any.” We
should be able to use this narrow scope to support a fairly strong statement, but be careful: the test
makers know this too and they will supply several answer choices that are worded strongly. Make
sure you select an answer that conforms to the facts.

Answer choice (A): The phrase “better than a merely good life” goes beyond the statements in the
stimulus.

Answer choice (B): This answer is incorrect because we are not given information about how the
moral theories are different, or if they differ at all. The only detail we are told is that the theories all
have one thing in common—they tell us what a good life is. Since the answer choice makes a claim
based on differences between theories, it cannot be correct.

Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer. At first glance, this answer choice may seem a bit
strong in saying the conception would not match that of any moral theory. But, as discussed above,
we can support this because the stimulus uses very strong language, specifically stating “most people
would judge someone who perfectly embodied the ideals of any one of these theories not to be living
a good life.” (italics added).

Answer choice (D): This answer is worded strongly but nothing is said to indicate that the life
described by one of the moral theories cannot be realized.

Answer choice (E): This answer also has strong language, but it goes too far in saying that it is
impossible to develop a theory that accurately describes a good life.
Mi Kal
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Hi. I am having difficulty with a question from the Must Be True and Most Strongly Supported Question Problem Set from the end of Chapter #4 in the LR Bible.

Question #4, the one that starts out, "Every moral theory developed in Western tradition..."

According to the answers the correct one is C. It says it is the best answer because the use of strong language is supported. I chose A. The answer says that A goes beyond the stimulus.

I am just not getting why A is wrong. I don't see how the stimulus is not supporting A.

Thanks.

Michael
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Hi Michael:

Answer Option (A) states that "Most people desire a life for themselves and their children that is better than a merely good life." The stimulus contains no such comparative language such as "better or "fuller" or "more" etc. Therefore, without some comparative language in the stimulus, the answer is not supported and does not pass the Fact Test.

On the other hand, the second sentence stating that " most people would judge..." is directly supported by Answer (C) which mimics the stimulus by stating "Most people have a conception..."

Thanks and I hope this helps! :-D
Stephanie Turaj
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We recently received the following question from a student. An instructor will respond below. Thanks!

I am having trouble understanding the stimulus on question #4 in chapter 4 the Must Be True and Most Strongly Supported problem set (edition 2017). I choose (B) and I understand the reasons why it is incorrect. I reread the stimulus a few times to figure out where my reasoning went wrong, and realized I made an incorrect inference from the facts stated.

I have been struggling to prephrase my answers because I am having difficulty deciphering which information is important and which is not. For example, initially when I read this stimulus I did not think the first sentence "Every moral theory developed...." was important and labeled it as a distractor element. As a consequence, I focused on the second sentence due to the convoluted language along with the counter premise indicator "however," thinking that this was the main element that I was going to be tested on (which was partially true). Moreover, even though I am aware that these question types are difficult to preprhase, I feel that it is an important skill for me to develop over this course. I was hoping you could provide me with some guidance and/or pointers.

Furthermore, I misread the stimulus and my initial inference was that most people who judged another person / persons who expressed these moral ideals were judged because they were not considered to fit their own interpretation of one of the Western tradition theories. Due to this reasoning, I choose answer (B).

This reading / inference is incorrect and this is my adjustment, but I am not sure if I am on the right track. This reading is wrong because it is not saying that the people judging others who express these moral ideals developed in the Western tradition actually believe in one of these theories. The first sentence is merely stating a broad fact that the commonality between all of the moral theories developed in the Western tradition define / explain what a good life is.

From this, we don't know whether all the theories have the same definition or if there are different definitions of what a good life is nor do we know whether people actually believe in these theories. Therefore it would be wrong to infer that the people judging others are based upon some variation among the theories or a difference in an interoperation of the theories? Since it's not saying that they believe in these theories, you can infer that their beliefs don't align with any of the moral theories developed in the western tradition?

I think it is clear that I am extremely confused!

1) How to differentiate between relevant information and distractor elements?

2) What is the correct inference from the stimulus? (It would be helpful if you could provide me with an in-depth step-by-step analysis)

3) Are there any common themes that I should look for in MBT / MSS question types?

4) Do you have any tips that can guide me to making the correct inferences and how to better recognize which elements connects or how to connect them?

Sorry for this lengthy message, but I really really really appreciate your help! Thank you so much!

Sincerely,
Sarah
Jonathan Evans
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Hi, Sarah,

Excellent questions, and thank you for sharing your analysis and thought process. On the contrary, you appear to have a strong grasp of the information in the stimulus. Furthermore, you have identified an analytical error you made and corrected it. This kind of self-assessment and error identification is a quintessential effective study habit for the LSAT.

Let's look at this problem in more detail and see whether we can elucidate some of these issues and help you make strong prephrases from the outset. Often, if a stimulus appears somewhat difficult to parse, I'll read through it once to get a general idea of the idea it is trying to convey. Then I will parse it more closely, describing the information to myself. This will often be in the form of close descriptions/paraphrases of what is happening. For example, upon my initial read of this stimulus, I might come away with something like the following:

    The stimulus is about different moral theories and what they consider a "good life," and it's about whether people agree or disagree with that.

Whereupon I will return to the stimulus and parse it more closely:

  1. Every moral theory has some concept of a "good life."
  2. Most people wouldn't agree that people who are following these instructions to a T are actually living a good life.
  3. Most people wouldn't want this for themselves or their kids.

What information can we connect here? The only clear connection I might notice is between statements (1) and (2), that is, most people don't agree with these ideas of what constitutes a "good life."

Where's the connection? The connection is between the people "who perfectly embody the ideals of any one of these theories." We can reasonably infer that if most people would judge such people not to be living "good lives," then most people would have a different idea of what constitutes a "good life."

How do I anticipate this connection? One hint for me is the counter-premise indicator "however" between the first and second statements. This suggests to me that the test may wish for me to synthesize these incongruous statements into a new idea.

Let's address your questions point-by-point.

1) How to differentiate between relevant information and distractor elements?


This stimulus is reasonably brief. All the information contained therein is probably fair game. The only statement I'd consider less likely to be relevant to my prephrase is the third statement (about what people would want for themselves or their kids). Why would I consider this slightly less interesting? Because this third idea simply develops on and reiterates the idea contained in the second statement. On its own the third statement is not telling me anything particularly earth-shattering.

In general, to discriminate between relevant and irrelevant information, pay attention to connections within a stimulus. Are there ideas that are discussed in two (or more) different ways within a stimulus? Pay attention to conditional, causal, and categorical (quantity statement) language. If such language is present in a Must Be True stimulus, it is pretty much a lock for relevance for your prephrase and the credited response.

2) What is the correct inference from the stimulus? (It would be helpful if you could provide me with an in-depth step-by-step analysis)


There's no guarantee that there will be one "correct" inference from any given stimulus. If the stimulus says "My pet is either a cat or a bird. If it's a bird, it's a parakeet. If it's a cat, it's a tabby. I just heated up some rice in the microwave," the correct answer could be "the author just heated up some rice in the microwave." With that in mind, as you have noticed, you can often anticipate "where the author's going" in a Must Be True question. I discussed the process I used to arrive at an effective prephrase for this problem above.

3) Are there any common themes that I should look for in MBT / MSS question types?


Look for conditional, causal, and quantity statements. Pay attention to language that involves likelihood or certainty. Pay attention to descriptions of events in the past, present, and future. Must Be True questions can be as varied as any other LR question in their themes, structures, and topics. Overall, the guiding "theme" in Must Be True questions is to discern what information you have at your disposal and to look for possible connections between different statements.

4) Do you have any tips that can guide me to making the correct inferences and how to better recognize which elements connects or how to connect them?


Just as when you are doing an Assumption or Justify the Conclusion question you wish to identify an implicit connection between elements of the conclusion and the premises, on Must Be True questions you are looking for elements common to multiple statements within the stimulus. This is especially true on Combination Answers (page 119).

Other times there may be few connections between multiple ideas but the text may be dense and difficult to follow. In this case, you may be tested on whether you have accurately understood an idea the author is attempting to convey. This is what to expect with Paraphrased Answers.

Read the stimulus. Get the picture of what's going on. Assess the information in detail. Make any connections that jump out at you. Anticipate what you'd like to see in the credited response, but don't beat yourself up if you don't have a "lightbulb" moment. Work through the answers using strong process of elimination skills. Remember to remain confident and to rely on the information in the stimulus. You have the tools to get these right. Some will be faster and some slower, but keep practicing and you will continue to make progress.

I hope this helps!