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#16 - Philosopher: Nations are not literally persons; they

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June 2007 LSAT S3 #16

I'm stumped!

I remember reading in the LR Bible that fill in the blanks were similar to Must Be True questions. Glancing at the stimulus I narrowed the answer choices to C an E. C because the first and second sentences tell us that they nations lack certain qualities such as moral rights or responsibilities and E because his explanation of "nation" and how citizens attribute their qualities to it seemed to me to logically lead into this answer.

I have no idea why the answer is B.
Nikki Siclunov
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In its most simplistic form, the argument is structured as follows:

Premise 1: Nations are not literally persons.

Sub. Conclusion: Nations have no moral rights or responsibilities.

Premise 2: Nations cannot survive unless many of its citizens attribute moral rights or responsibilities to them

Nations survive :arrow: Attribute rights/responsibilities

The conclusion indicator "obviously" in the last sentence shows this to be a Main Point question. If nations cannot survive unless we attribute moral rights to them, but nations actually don't have such rights, it logically follows that a nation cannot survive unless we hold beliefs that are literally false. The combination of the sub. conclusion and the second premise proves answer choice (B) to be correct.

Whether nations can be a target of moral praise or blame (C) is not a relevant consideration, and falls entirely outside the scope of the argument. The author's purpose is to illustrate some of the factors necessary for the survival of nations, not whether nations can be blamed or praised for something.

(E) is incorrect, because the author never suggested that nations do not exist (literally). They do. It is the qualities we attribute to nations - not the nations themselves - that should be thought of in metaphorical rather than literal terms.

Hope this helps! Let us know.
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Jon Denning
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Thanks for the question. Nikki put an answer up as well, but since I'd already written this I figure it can't hurt to have a second response :)

This is indeed like Must be True (it's a subcategory called Main Point), where the correct answer will follow logically from the premises given and will complete the final sentence. Answer choice B is proven by the stimulus, since we're told that nations have no moral rights or responsibilities, yet "no nation can survive unless many of its citizens attribute such rights and responsibilities to it." So a nation's survival depends on its citizens believing something about it (that it has rights/responsibilities) that isn't literally true. And that is exactly what B says.

For C, all we know is that a nation doesn't have moral rights or responsibilities. We have no information about assigning moral praise or blame, or even the requirements associated with those ideas. Simply no way to conclude this from the stimulus.

And for E, first, the stimulus starts by thinking of a nation in literal terms and even though the author says survival depends on people ignoring the literal definition, there's no evidence that we shouldn't at least, on occasion, think of a nation literally. Second, even if you thought a nation shouldn't be viewed in literal terms, why does that mean metaphorical is the way to go? No mention/evidence of that in the stimulus at all, so again no reason to draw that particular conclusion.

Hope that clears it up. Just a conditional relationship where the conclusion ties together two ideas from earlier in the stimulus: survival depends on some people holding beliefs that aren't literally true.
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Thanks Nikki and Jon!

I looked over it again after I made the topic and it made sense to me that if the moral rights and responsibilities of nations were dependent on the citizens of a nation some citizens would have to hold onto beliefs that aren't true. I guess reading it the first time around and the second time around it seemed like a far stretch, but after reasoning it through it makes a lot more sense.

Again, thanks!
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Could you explain why citizens have to have somebeliefs that are "literally false"?

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Hi Eober,

Thanks for the question.

The basic idea is this: Nations do not have moral rights or responsibilities (second sentence). But nations don't survive unless people attribute (i.e. believe) that they do. Since this belief cannot be true, for nations to survive, people must have some false beliefs.

Hope this helps!

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Hey Dave it's will, thanks for the link. I hope all is well over there with hurricane Irma.

So this is the question (June 2007) , LR 2 (section 3)

Question 16

"Philosopher: nations are not literally persons...." [Admin: Full text of question removed due to LSAC copyright restrictions]

Why c?

Thx, and stay safe, Will
James Finch
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Hi Way,

I'm not Dave, but I think I can help out here. The correct answer is actually (B), which follows from combining the premises that nations "have no moral rights or responsibilities" but "no nation can survive unless many of its citizens attribute such rights and responsibilities to it." So according to the stimulus, many citizens of any particular nation must believe false things about that nation in order for that nation to survive, as (B) says.

I'm guessing you may have misread the answer key--the two questions before this, 14 and 15 both had correct answers (C).

Hope this clears things up!