Complete Question Explanation
Main Point-SN. The correct answer choice is (C)
Here, the stimulus uses very abstract language without placing anything in a concrete context. We should go line by line to get our bearings, but we can make our job much easier by creating examples where possible. The first sentence provides us with the definition of the "end" of an action, which is the final intended result and the reason why the action was performed. We should notice that such definitional statements lack any judgment by the author. The other sentence is more complex: the author simply asserts a claim about what is justified and concludes (notice the "so while…it is clear" phrasing) that "nothing will justify a means except an end's value." Hopefully, we are struck by the liberties taken by the author in the second sentence. The author unveils some very strong, value-laden statements about justification and quickly concludes as though these were the most obvious things in the world.
Let's figure out what the author is saying by constructing some examples. The first sentence is easy to use. Ends are the reasons for doing something, such as someone running down the sidewalk because his or her end is being on time to a meeting. A by-product of running down the sidewalk could be improved health, but health is not the end. The next sentence provides value-judgments. "Not every end's value will justify any means" is another way of saying that of all the possible ends there is at least one such that it does not justify every possible manner of attempting to achieve it. With our example, we could imagine that knocking down elderly people while running down the sidewalk is not justified even if someone is late for a meeting. "Perhaps, there is no end whose value will justify every means" is another way of saying it is possible that even the most noble/beneficent of ends cannot justify every single possible way of achieving it. This makes sense because any goal can be reached in an infinite number of ways. Even if our goal was to save a baby in a burning building, few would argue that we should request help from strangers and shoot the ones who do run into the flames. By saying, "it is clear that nothing will justify a means except an end's value," the author is arguing that the only thing that can be used to judge a particular course of action is the reason for undertaking that course of action. Considering all the elements of the stimulus, we can see that this final clause expresses the main point, which is our prephrase. The first sentence involved definitions, and the first half of the second sentence involved both a value-based premise and a speculative tangent.
Answer choice (A): This is not the correct answer not only because it goes against what the author would most likely say (there are some unjustifiable ways to save a baby in a burning building) but also because this would be a side point at best. If we keep our prephrase in the forefront of our minds, we will not be misled by minor tangential considerations.
Answer choice (B): Much like with answer choice A, we can quickly discard this if we read the stimulus precisely. The author avoids any strong conclusions, and answer choice B is saying that any reason provided for any action would be enough to justify the action. Answer choice B would create a world of total anarchy because people could claim justification for any action simply because "I wanted to see what it would feel like."
Answer choice (C): This is the correct answer choice, because it matches our prephrase exactly. Unlike answer choices A and B, this answer choice does not make particular claims about how many times the ends justify the means. Rather, this answer choice simply repeats the author's assertion about how one can tell if a certain mean is justified by a certain end. Both the author and this answer choice state that a particular course of action is balanced on the scales of justice only with weights made out of the reasons for that course of action.
Answer choice (D): Hopefully, we do not give this answer choice more than a speck of consideration. The stimulus mentions the term "by-products" only once and only to indicate what an "end" is not. The important elements in the stimulus are means, ends, and justification.
Answer choice (E): The original stimulus defined an end as "the intended outcome," so what actually happens when someone pursues a course of action is irrelevant. One might be justified in being late to a meeting if one ran inside a burning building to save a baby, but the justification does not hinge on whether the baby survives. The key to successfully discarding this answer choice is staying focused on the definition of an "end."
#25 - The end of an action is the intended outcome of the
I chose (E), but the answer is (C). I'm wondering why is this.
Where does the stimulus mention the "actual outcomes" mentioned in E? --Anyway, C is sort of a restatement of, or maybe linkage of, "The end of an action is the intended outcome of the action . . . the end’s value is thus the only reason for the action", plus "nothing will justify a means except an end’s value".
Thank you David~!
For this question, I had a lot of trouble following the logic with the abstract wording. Can you explain how to work through these types of questions? Thanks.
You're right that the abstract phrasing of the question makes it tricky to keep track of everything! The good news is that since this is a Main Point question, you don't necessarily need to diagram out every statement. You just need to identify the conclusion and the "it is clear" phrase gives us a great conclusion indicator. The conclusion is: nothing will justify a means except an end's value. That is a conditional statement ("except" is a necessary indicator that should be diagrammed using The Unless Equation) and because this is a challenging question, you might have to diagram the conclusion in order to find an answer choice that would match that same conditional statement in the conclusion. But you could also just rephrase the conclusion rather than diagramming it if you feel comfortable.
Basically, the conclusion says that the only thing that will justify a means is the value of the end result. If you choose to diagram, it might look something like this:
Means Justified -----> Value of End
Answer choice (C) describes the conclusion because if says that you can justify an action (means) only by appeal to the value of the intended outcome (end). The diagram of answer choice (C) would match the diagram of the conclusion we identified above so that is the correct answer.
Hope this helps!
Thanks for your explanation. I see that looking at the last two lines of the passage is enough to answer this question. I'm still wondering though how we know that "means" and "action" are equivalent/the same thing. C used the word "action" while the conclusion in the passage used the word "means" which is why I was unsure about that answer choice. Why are "means" and "action" interchangeable?
A "means" can be defined as "an action by which a result is brought about." Also, the author uses the terms interchangeably when he talks about "action" in the first sentence and "means" in the second.
Hope this helps!
I chose C during my practice but I was struggling to see why E is incorrect. I am going to give a stab at it.
E) "Nothing can justify the intended outcome (intended outcome = end of an action) except the value of that action's actual outcomes" is pretty much restating itself (circular?). Whereas, the answer we are looking for "it is clear that nothing will justify a means (action) except an end's value. Which is what C is saying.
Is this the correct way of approaching E?
Thanks a lot!
Well, (E) isn't actually circular because "intended outcome" is different than "actual outcomes." But I don't really want to get into an explanation of how to translate (E) into plain English because this is a main point question, part of Family #1, and you should prephrase to identify the correct answer. First, find the conclusion in the stimulus. Second, translate it into a pre-phrase that you understand. Last, find the answer choice that matches it. It's that simple. The last part of your post is the most helpful:
Although it can be helpful to compare answer choices, the most important thing in a must be true or main point question is knowing what you are looking for before you go through the answer choices.
Thanks for the question!