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#24 - Sociologist: Romantics who claim that people are not

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Just another justify conclusion question that I failed.

So when solving "justify conclusion" questions I tend to ask myself if adding this piece of answer choice will allow the argument to be properly constructed.

And I usually analyze the stimulus into premises and conclusions as following:

premise 1: romantics misunderstand the causal relationship between the imperfect institutions and the people.

premise 2: institutions are merely collections of people, meaning that institutions are composed of people.

conclusion: romantics who claim that people are not born evil but may be made evil by the imperfect institutions that they form cannot be right, which means people are born evil instead of being made evil by the institutions they create.

My problem with this question is I hardly see the weakness in the reasoning itself. I got the answer choice E correctly tho through eliminating the rest evidently wrong answers but I still don't get why E is correct.

My guess is:

E says the whole doesn't determine the properties of the things that compose it, which means the institutions (the whole) doesn't determine whether the people that compose them are evil or not. Hence, if the institution itself cannot determine whether people are evil or not, then romantics' claims cannot be right as well.

CAN ANYBODY TELL ME IF I AM RIGHT IN CORRECTLY CONCLUDING THIS? The LSAT always makes me think there's something wrong with my brain. Merci d'avance.
Nikki Siclunov
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Hello Applesaid,

Yes, you are right in your analysis of why answer choice (E) is correct, but your approach to this question was not ideal. Let's take a look and see why:

First off, the question stem is a Strengthen—PR, not a Justify—PR because of the presence of the word “most” in the question stem, which weakens the force required of the correct answer. In a Strengthen—PR question, the correct answer will provide a premise that, when applied to the specific situation in the stimulus, helps support the conclusion. Since a principle is by definition a broad rule, the presence of the Principle indicator serves to broaden the scope of the question, which requires a more abstract understanding of the underlying relationships in the argument.

So, let's take a look at the argument. In its most basic form, we can summarize it as follows:

    Premise: Institutions are collections of people.

    Conclusion: Imperfect institutions cannot make people evil (contrary to what the Romantics claim).

Essentially, the author is rejecting the following causal relationship:

    Imperfect institutions (cause) :arrow: Evil people (effect)

What's wrong with the author's line of reasoning? Just because institutions are merely collections of people doesn't mean that they can't also affect the people in them. Think of the subway in rush hour: maybe each rider is not inherently evil, but when everyone is jam-packed in a subway car, even the kindest person can turn into a complete d*ck. Right?

So, answer choice (E) formulates a principle that, if established, strengthens the conclusion tremendously: if the whole does not determine the properties of the things that compose it, then the imperfect institutions cannot cause the people in them to become evil. This is precisely what the author is arguing. The rude subway rider was not made evil by the shitty subway service.

I think you made three mistakes in your analysis of this question:

1. You misinterpreted the question stem.
2. You did not simplify the argument sufficiently.
3. You did not see the weakness in the author's line of reasoning.

I think the third problem stems from the second. But that's mere speculation :-)

Hope this helps!
Nikki Siclunov
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