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#22 - The 1980s have been characterized as a period of

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Complete Question Explanation

Flaw in the reasoning. The correct answer choice is (E)

The argument describes the notion that selfish individualism characterized the 80s and threatened the cohesion of society. The argument then compares the 80s with the rest of human history, concluding that selfishness was prevalent through history as well. It does so by asserting that even the simplest unselfish acts were actually motivated by selfish concern for the human species. The argument seems to use the following questionable tactic: it tries to establish the historical prevalence of individual selfishness by pointing out the existence of selfish concern for the entire human species. In essence, the argument is confusing apples with oranges.

Answer choice (A) This is a tempting answer choice, given that the argument hints at trying to refute the position described in the first sentence. However, on closer inspection, the argument does not go quite as far. The explicit conclusion of the argument is that individual selfishness was historically prevalent.

Answer choice (B) No statistical evidence is necessary in this argument. Statistical evidence is not required for every argument, and indeed, for many of the arguments encountered in the LSAT. The absence or presence of statistical evidence is not a good indicator of which arguments are valid and which are not.

Answer choice (C) It does no such thing. In fact, it is trying to establish that selfishness is not unique to the present age—that it was historically prevalent.

Answer choice (D) The behavior of other species is completely irrelevant to this argument in showing that selfishness has been prevalent throughout human history.

Answer choice (E): This is the correct answer choice. Indeed, the argument first uses the term selfish to mean an individual's concern for himself. Then, the meaning shifts to the concern for the entire human species—an instance of equivocation.
lawschoolforme
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Hi,

I couldn't decide between A and E for this question.

While I completely agree that a flaw in the argument is that "the argument relies on two different uses of the term selfish", I was hesitant to pick E because of the presence of A.

If the term "selfish" refers to different things in the premise vs. conclusion, doesn't that automatically make the "claim that selfishness has been present throughout history" into a statement that "is not actually relevant"? How would I know to pick E over A?

Sincerely,
lawschoolforme
KelseyWoods
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Hi Lawschoolforme,

Good question! The problem with answer choice (A) is that the claim that "selfishness has been present throughout history" might be relevant to the argument, if the author stuck with the original definition of "selfish." The argument doesn't really go awry until that last sentence.

What if the argument has instead looked something like this?:

"The 1980s was considered a period of selfish individualism. But selfishness has been present throughout history. People have always been concerned with their own needs and wants over others."

If that last sentence had gone a different way, then the claim that selfishness has been present throughout history would certainly be relevant. The last part of the argument--about "selfish concern for the human species"--is the portion of the argument that is irrelevant because of the different meaning of the term "selfish" the author is using.

Hope that helps!

Best,
Kelsey
lawschoolforme
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Hi,

Thank you! I think the problem is making a little more sense to me with your explanation.

I just realized though that I might have misidentified the conclusion. Is the conclusion the first sentence?

Thanks!

-lawschoolforme
Steve Stein
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Hi,

The conclusion of that argument is that the selfish characterization of the 80's is actually true of any time.

I hope that's helpful! Please let me know whether this clears everything up--thanks!

~Steve
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lawschoolforme
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OH SNAP. Okay. Everything just clicked. Thank you again!
adlindsey
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I'm still not entirely sure how the term is used in different ways. Could I possibly get more of a layman's explanation of how the terms are being used in different meanings?
David Boyle
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adlindsey wrote:I'm still not entirely sure how the term is used in different ways. Could I possibly get more of a layman's explanation of how the terms are being used in different meanings?



Hello adlindsey,

In the first part of the stimulus, "selfish" means what we usually think it means, i.e., focused on one's individual self. In the latter part of the stimulus, the meaning shifts to something silly, "concern for the human species." It is silly because concern for humanity usually means un-selfishness, not selfishness.

Hope this helps,
David
adlindsey
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Got it! Thank you!
Etsevdos
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Just to confirm: Would A (selfishness has been present throughout history) be the conclusion ? Therefore, saying it is not relevant to the argument is circular in a sense since it IS the argument?