Justify the Conclusion—SN. The correct answer choice is (B)
The stimulus in this question is deceptively wordy, and it conceals a very simple argument. The stimulus begins with the “some people say” rhetorical device, in which the author introduces the theorists’ argument, with which the author disagrees. In this case, the theorists’ position is that “literary critics should strive to be value-neutral in their literary criticism.”
In the second sentence, the author expands on this argument. The theorists believe that literary critics can help readers reach their own conclusions about a literary work if the critics expose the readers to those works without providing them a critical evaluation of the works.
None of this, however, is the stimulus author’s argument. That argument begins in the third sentence, with the premise that “literary criticism cannot be completely value-neutral.” Because of this, the author concludes that “some theorists are mistaken about what is an appropriate goal for literary criticism.”
To fully address this conclusion, we have to refer back to the first sentence, in which the author told us what “some theorists argue.” With that context in mind, the author’s conclusion is that literary critics should not strive to be value-neutral in their literary criticism. All together, the argument is that critics should not strive to be value-neutral in their literary criticism because literary criticism cannot be value-neutral.
As stated at the outset, this is a very simple argument. An apparent weakness in the argument is that the conclusion refers to what “should” or “should not” be done, implying the application of some principle. However, the sole premise did not contain a principle. Rather, it gave only a statement of fact.
The question stem identifies this as a Justify the Conclusion question. Our prephrase is that the correct answer choice will provide a principle that proves the conclusion is valid. To review, the argument contained one premise and one conclusion:
- Premise: literary criticism cannot be value-neutral
Conclusion: critics should not strive to be value-neutral in their literary criticism
To prove that the conclusion is valid, with no gray area, the correct answer will say in absolute terms that if literary criticism cannot be value-neutral, then critics should not strive to be value-neutral in their literary criticism. As you may have noticed, our prephrase is expressed as a conditional relationship, which we can diagram as:
LCVN = literary criticism cannot be value-neutral
SVN= critics should not strive to be value-neutral in their literary criticism
Our prephrase is worded in absolute terms because a Justify the Conclusion answer choice is sufficient to prove the conclusion is valid. That level of impact on the conclusion requires a definitively worded answer choice. When, as here, an argument has only one premise offered in support of the conclusion, the author is treating that premise as being sufficient to prove the conclusion is valid. Our prephrase makes explicit that relationship between the sole premise and the conclusion.
Answer choice (A): Recall that the author’s argument actually began with the third sentence in the stimulus, and had nothing to do with helping readers. So, this answer choice is irrelevant to the conclusion.
Answer choice (B): This is the correct answer choice, because it restates the conditional relationship from our prephrase, using synonymous language to produce the same effect.
Answer choice (C): This comparison between works that literary critics like and those they do not like is irrelevant to the conclusion, which had nothing to do with which works literary critics were more likely to critique.
Answer choice (D): Maintaining a proper focus on the distinction between the theorist’ argument and the stimulus author’s shorter argument makes getting rid of this answer choice an easy task. The author’s argument had absolutely nothing to do with the ability of the reader to understand the literary work.
Answer choice (E): As with answer choice (D), the author’s argument had nothing to do with the readers of literary works.