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#25 - All any reporter knows about the accident is what

jared.xu
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This is a flaw question. I understood the argument as well as the flaw. But I still got the answer wrong. I feel that B, C, and E could all be right. First, this is how I interpreted the argument:

Press agent told everything--> ~Reporter knows more (~ = line across variable)
~Reporter knows more--> ~Scoop all

Conclusion: ~Press agent told everything--> Scoop all

My prephrase is that the flaw is a basic mistaken negation 2X, and went to the answers with confidence.

A is nothing but a restatement of the second till last sentence.
B is extremely attractive. It mainly addresses the second mistaken negation. "Reporter knows more" does not necessarily lead to "Scoop all". This is certainly consistent with the facts the argument presents.
C is also extremely attractive. It also mainly addresses the second mistaken negation. "Reporter knows more" does not necessarily lead to "Scoop all". Here, it states that some reporter "who knows more." But instead of scooping the other reporters, he or she tells all of the other reporters. This is also very much consistent with the facts the argument presents.
D is outside the scope.
E can also be right, but is not as attractive because it does not show the flaw to be mistaken negation. Instead, it merely restates the second element in the formal logic, or the first necessary condition in the formal logic of the stimulus, i.e. ("--> ~Reporter knows more"). It is certainly consistent with the facts the argument presents since it is a mere restatement. But I do not see how E could be better than B or C. The new condition of the second till last sentence tells us "~Press agent told everything ." It is certainly possible that, despite the new condition, "~Reporter knows more" remains on the right side of the formal logic arrow. But the negation of it, i.e. "Reporter knows more", could also be on the right side of the arrow. We just don't know what the negation of a sufficient condition would bring to the right side. Both "~Reporter knows more" and "Reporter knows more" would be consistent with the formal logic of the argument.

Please tell me where my mistake is, and how to prevent getting such an easy mistaken negation problem wrong in the future. Thank you in advance for replying.
Nikki Siclunov
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Hey Jared,

It's a tricky question, but clearly you understood the argument and the MN in it:

Premise: Press told everyone everything --> NO reporter knows more than any other reporter --> NO Scoop

Conclusion: Press DID NOT tell everyone everything --> Scoop

There are two MN flaws here: (1) just because the press did not tell everyone everything does not mean that some reporter necessarily knows more about the accident than some other reporter. And (2) even if he did, that does not mean he would necessarily scoop all of the other reporters.

You're correct in that (B) is extremely attractive, but notice how it's worded:

Even if some reporter knows more about the accident than all other reporters, that reporter need not scoop any other reporter.

Herein lies the problem: they switched the all/any modifiers, making (B) incorrect. This answer choice would have been much better if it said, "Even if some reporter knows more about the accident than any other reporter, that reporter need not scoop all of the other reporters." This would have been the proper description of the first MN.

Answer choice (C) should not be a contender, since the possibility of one reporter telling another reporter something is not mentioned and plays no role in the conditional chain.

Answer choice (E) is correct, and is consistent with a description of a MN. In the second sentence, the author states that if the press agent told every reporter everything, then no reporter knows any more than any other reporter. But clearly the same result can occur even if the press agent DID NOT tell every reporter everything: it is still possible that no reporter knows any more about the accident than any other reporter (just because the sufficient condition did not occur does not mean that the necessary condition did not occur). In other words, the argument fails to recognize the possibility that the necessary condition can occur in the absence of the sufficient condition - classic MN.
Nikki Siclunov
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jared.xu
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Hey Nikki,

Thank you so much for your clear explanations. But I still have a question on B. Doesn't "Even if some reporter knows more about the accident than any other reporter" mean the same thing as "Even if some reporter knows more about the accident than all other reporters"? In this context, do "any" and "all" not contain the same meaning?

I am also not sure I understand what the question mean by "consistent with the facts the argument presents." I totally agree with you that the possibility of one reporter telling all the other reporters something in answer choice C is not mentioned. However, aren't we seeking something that is consistent with the facts the argument presents, and that point to the flaw? Does "consistent with the facts" mean that we must use an element from the conditional chain? If that is not the case, I think that C does point to the flaw by saying that a reporter who knows more than any other reporter does not have to scoop all the other reporters. It did bring in a new element, but it is still consistent with the facts of the argument, and shows that "scoop all" does not necessarily have to occur (i.e., if this one reporter tells all the other reporters, he or she can't scoop all). Thank you in advance for replying.

Gratefully,
Jared
Nikki Siclunov
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Jared,

Whether "all" and "any" mean the same thing in this context is debatable, but technically the answer should have been worded with their positions switched. In any case, even if it were, there is another major issue with this answer choice: the description provided in it presumes that some reporter might know more about the accident than some other reporter. Based on the conditional reasoning contained in the stimulus, this presumption itself is the result of a Mistaken Negation. Don't get me wrong: it is clearly consistent with the facts in the stimulus, but this is not enough to answer a Flaw question.

Which brings me to the second question in your response. Yes, (B) and (C) are consistent with the facts the argument presents, i.e. they could be true given the information we have (consistent with = could possibly be true). However, this is not a "Could Be True" question, so our goal is to figure out which of the following five answers describes a possibility that, if true, would show a central flaw in the reasoning contained in the stimulus. As with (B), answer choice (C) describes a possibility that may exist, but is nevertheless predicated on the assumption that some reporter DOES know more about the accident than any other reporter. As you know, this need not be the case.

I hope this clears things up!
Nikki Siclunov
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jared.xu
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I see. Could we say that B and C are wrong because they show only the second mistaken negation, which is a more minor flaw than the first mistaken negation, and that what the test makers are looking for is an answer that shows the first mistaken negation? B and C are more attractive to me because they show that some reporter does not have to "scoop all of the other reporters." In a way, they do show the flaw of the second mistaken negation.

But I now see something else. The conclusion is that "some reporter can scoop all of the other reporters." Neither B nor C actually contradicts this conclusion. B states: "that reporter need not scoop any other reporter," and C states that some reporter tells all of the other reporters something. Neither contradicts the statement of the conclusion that some reporter has the ability to scoop all of the other reporters. It's just in these cases, these reporters choose not to scoop all the others. E, on the other hand, shows clearly that the conclusion "some reporter can scoop all of the other reporters" is not viable because it offers the sufficient condition for "no reporter can scoop all of the other reporters." And B would be also right if it reads: "Even if some reporter knows more about the accident than any other reporters, that reporter still may not be able to scoop all of the other reporters." Do you think my analysis is correct? Thank you.
Nikki Siclunov
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I think you got it :-) I agree with practically everything you just said. When it comes to describing the flaw in the reasoning, we are primarily concerned with describing a scenario that renders the conclusion suspect. The second MN is predicated on making the first MN, which is therefore the central flaw in the argument.
Nikki Siclunov
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JKing
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Some of these I got right and I just need to make sure I am on the right path to getting them right. I hope this is not too much, if it is I can next time make these questions in different posts.

December Test 1998

LR Section 4

#25- I picked E but was tempted to pick C. Why is C wrong?
Steve Stein
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Hi JKing,

This is another question with a number of fairly complex conditionals. How did you approach this question? Did you diagram it?

Thanks!

~Steve
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JKing
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No I did not diagram. I was nearing the end of my 35 mins and went through a process of elimination. Here was my thought process

(A) was automatically wrong because I don't see a flaw in that, especially since the argument even mentions the press agent did not mention everything to the reporters.

(B) is wrong in my opinion because it says some reporter --can-- scoop in the argument. (B) says they need not to. But the word ---can--- means they can do it but it does not necessarily mean they will do it. If someone responded to my argument with (B) I would think, "so??" That still doesn't change the fact that someone still has the capability.

(D) In my opinion added another element to the argument that looked semi tempting at first sight, but I felt it somewhat changed what I was looking for. Not to mention, all they know is what the press agent has said (first sentence). So that is why I eliminated it.

Now we are down to (C) and (E)

(C)- I eliminated (C) because it says they can get the scoop on other reporters. Arguing they might share information can be countered by me saying "but they might not share the information"

(E)- this seemed the most right. If no one knows any more than the other, then how can they scoop on all other reporters?
Steve Stein
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Hi JKIng,

Thanks for your response--the detail you provided is very helpful!

As you correctly noted, the author points out that the press agent has not been completely forthcoming, and concludes that there is the possibility of a scoop--one reporter getting some story out ahead of the others.

What's the problem with that conclusion? It's still possible that all of the reporters have access to the same information (that no reporter knows more than any other). If that is the case (and that possibility is consistent with the rest of the facts) then there is no way anyone can "scoop" the story. That is what correct answer choice E provides.

Answer choice C provides that there could be another piece of information that all reporters share--this does not highlight a flaw in the author's conclusion.

I hope that's helpful--let me know whether this is clear--thanks!

~Steve
Steve Stein
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