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#15 - People who take what others regard as a ridiculous

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Complete Question Explanation

Parallel Reasoning. The correct answer choice is (A)

This Stimulus begins with its conclusion: “People who take what others regard as a ridiculous position should not bother to say ‘I mean every word!’” If their position is truly ridiculous, claiming to be serious about it is only embarrassing, or if their position has merit they should not have to reassure folks of their sincerity, instead replying in the form of logical argument.

The Question Stem indicates that this is Parallel Reasoning question type. In answering questions of this type, the test-taker must identify the form of reasoning used in the Stimulus and determine whether or not it is valid. Since 1992, when flawed reasoning is used in the Stimulus, the LSAT will state that the reasoning is flawed. When the question indicates that flawed reasoning is present, one must determine what flaw or flaws occur in the Stimulus.

While the reasoning must be parallel between the Stimulus and the correct answer choice, neither the topic of the Stimulus nor the order of presentation need to be parallel. In fact, when answer choices contained the same subject matter as the Stimulus, more often than not it is a trap by LSAT to lure lazy test-takers into selecting an incorrect answer Cchoice.

In examining the reasoning in the Stimulus, identify the Method of Reasoning, the Validity of the Argument, the Conclusion, and the Premises. The correct answer choice will be similar in each aspect.

PowerScore utilizes an Elemental Attack in examining Parallel Reasoning questions. First identify and match the Method of Reasoning. If there is an obvious Method used, such as analogy, causal reasoning, conditional reasoning, the correct answer choice will contain the same. Secondly, look to Match the Conclusions. This should eliminate some incorrect answer choices if not all of them. Thirdly, look to Match the Premises. If the argument in the Stimulus is complex, the more likely you will have to Match the Premises to obtain the correct answer. Finally, always make sure that the validity of the reasoning matches.

In the present Stimulus, the reasoning used is that the conclusion is something that should not be done when a position is criticized. In other words, it is a response to criticism. It then addresses the truth of the reply “I mean every word!” If the reply is truthful and they are serious about a ridiculous position, they face further embarrassment. If the reply is an exaggeration about a position which in fact does have merit, then they have replied by appealing to their sincerity instead of making a logical response. In either event, the person loses – either through further embarrassment or in not taking the opportunity to make a rational response.

In trying to find the answer choice that most closely parallels the Stimulus, look for an answer choice that is a reply to criticism. A cursory examination of the Answer Choices reveals that all five answer choices address a reply to criticism or rejection in some form or fashion. The remainder of the Stimulus gives two reasons why such a reply to criticism should not be given and that each of those responses is bad for the person being criticized.

Answer Choice (A): This is the correct answer choice. It addresses the reply to criticism with “we have always done it this way” and concludes that this response to criticism is improper. It then provides two alternatives: if the practice is a poor one, it is now magnified because of extensive use. If it is not a poor one, is there not a better reason for doing it that way than inertia? This reason seems quite similar to the reasoning used in the Stimulus. The Methods of Reasoning match: there are no unique elements to the Stimulus like analogy or circular reasoning that is not present with Answer Choice (A) . The conclusions match also. Where Answer Choice (A) distinguished itself though was that the premises matched. Just as in the Stimulus, Answer Choice (A) contained premises that stated if the reply was truthful, it’s bad and if the reply was not truthful, it was still bad. Finally the validity of reasoning matched.

Answer Choice (B): This answer concludes that someone should not reply to a question why they eat something with “because this is what I like.” The reasoning behind this conclusion is that the response is either naïve or evasive and therefore, unsatisfactory. In the Stimulus, the reasons for avoiding saying “I mean every word” are not unsatisfactory to those whom that is said but are because it brings embarrassment to the speaker or connotes an expression of sincerity instead of a logical response. There is nothing evasive about this, and in fact, it might be just the opposite of being evasive. Additionally, the problems with the reply in the Stimulus concern either the truth of the reply, which could have bad results, or the non-truth/exaggeration of the reply, which could have bad results. Since this answer choice does not address the truthfulness of the reply to the criticism as the Stimulus does, Answer Choice (B) should be eliminated. In many regards, it is helpful to understand that the previous answer choice dealt with the truthfulness of the reply to the criticism. Seeing that aspect in Answer Choice (A) as well as the Stimulus might indicate that it is part of the reasoning that is parallel but it is not necessarily an indication that it is so. Oftentimes, one cannot see reasoning that is in the Stimulus until one or more of the Answer Choices is examined.

Answer Choice (C): This answer deals with a reply that changes the subject. The initial comment was a criticism about clothes. The reply is to shift the subject over to the money used to buy the clothes being criticized. Because the reasoning involved in the Stimulus does not include changing the subject, this answer choice should be eliminated.

Answer Choice (D): This answer concludes that “widespread rejection should not be interpreted as being on the right track.” This reasoning is flawed in that the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises that there is no substitute for patient work in ascertaining which parts are right. Additionally, the reasoning contained in the Stimulus contains two options: embarrassment if the reply is truthful or using assurances of sincerity instead of rational argument when told their positions are considered ridiculous. Answer Choice (D) should be eliminated.

Answer Choice (E): This answer also contains a conclusion about what someone should not do, just like each of the others. However, this conclusion gives two responses for what to do when confronted with criticism (“you are right” or silence), whereas the reasoning contained in the Stimulus contains but one response when confronted with criticism and then gives two reasons why that response is wrong. Because it does not parallel the reasoning contained in the Stimulus, Answer Choice (E) should be eliminated.

This question shows the difficulty that can be associated with Parallel Reasoning question types. Often times, the Answer Choices are as long as the Stimulus itself and one must conduct an evaluation of the reasoning in each Answer Choice as well as the Stimulus. But there are easily recognizable patterns in the reasoning, and these should be utilized to their full advantage. In doing so, Parallel Reasoning questions do not have to be as difficult as they are time-consuming.