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Complete Question Explanation

Method of Reasoning—AP. The correct answer choice is (B)

In this stimulus, the author considers the relationship between truth and the aesthetic merit of a poem. The structure of the argument is confusing, and needs careful deconstruction. The author begins with the “some people say” device, in which the author introduces some other argument, before introducing the author’s own. So, the author’s argument actually begins in the second sentence after the word “but,” a connector that people often, though incorrectly, consider to be a premise indicator.

So, the argument begins with the author’s conclusion, which is followed by two premises. Reordered for clarity, the argument is structured as follows:
  • Premise: most of the commonplace beliefs of most people are true

    Premise: whatever the basis of poetic excellence is, it must certainly be rare rather than common

    Conclusion: thus, to argue that expressing true propositions contributes to the aesthetic merit of a poem is misguided
It is no surprise to learn in the question stem that this is a Method of Reasoning—Argument Part question, which asks us to identify the role played in the argument by the portion described in the question stem and italicized above. Our prephrase is that this portion of the argument is a premise, offered in support of the conclusion.

Answer choice (A): Since no support is provided for the claim, it cannot be the argument’s conclusion.

Answer choice (B): This is the correct answer choice, because it correctly identifies the claim as a premise, and properly describes its role in the argument, namely to combine with another premise to support the conclusion.

Answer choice (C): This choice presents a half-right, half-wrong description, which can trick the unwary who read just the first part of the choice and then select it. While this choice correctly describes the claim as a premise, it incorrectly states it is the sole support offered for the conclusion.

Answer choice (D): This choice incorrectly states that the claim, which was a premise, does not provide support for the conclusion, but rather provides only background information. To confirm that the claim was a premise, notice that it provides support regarding what may contribute to the basis of poetic excellence, an idea that connects to the concept of aesthetic merit referenced in the conclusion.

Answer choice (E): This choice is incorrect because it describes a conclusion, rather than a premise.
  • Posts: 1
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Dear all:

I am having trouble understanding the rationale behind question 22 in section 2 of the October 2012 LSAT.

In particular, would you mind explaining why the claim that "whatever the basis of poetic excellence is, it must certainly be rare rather than common" is a premise intended to support the argument's conclusion?

I am having trouble identifying the argument's conclusion in the stimulus.

I thank you in advance for your time and consideration, and look forward to hearing from you.
 Steve Stein
PowerScore Staff
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Thanks for your question. I think the challenge in that one comes from the author's convoluted phrasing. The argument can be simplified (and reordered) as follows:

Premise: Most people's commonplace beliefs are true.

Premise: Poetic excellence must be based on something rare, not something common.

Conclusion: Thus it is misguided to believe that truth, a common thing, contributes to a poem's merit.

The question asks for the role played by the statement about poetic excellence--that statement is one of two premises supporting the author's conclusion.

I hope that's helpful! Let me know--thanks!


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