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Complete Question Explanation

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

The argumentation in this stimulus has a familiar form: It starts with “some people claim...” and
then goes on to refute the claim presented. This example gets a bit complicated because it deals with
the commentator, who is criticizing the social critics, who are themselves criticizing contemporary
journalists. The argument breaks down more simply as follows:
  • Social critics: Journalists have a cynical tendency to try to find selfishness in the seemingly
    selfless actions of powerful people. This hurts society by making the public
    think that “success is invariably associated with greed and mendacity” (i.e.
    that all successful people are greedy and dishonest).

    Commentator: Journalists have always been cynical-maybe even more so in the past, so the
    social critics’ claim is absurd.
The commentator’s argument is not a strong one; the claim is that cynical journalists can do no harm
to society (that such a claim is absurd) simply because journalists have always been cynical. The
issue, of course, is that a problem’s long-standing history does not necessarily mean that it’s not
a problem—maybe these cynical journalists (even if they have always existed) have continuously
harmed society with their cynical perspectives.

The stimulus is followed by a Flaw question, so the correct answer choice will likely reference
the issue that a long tradition of cynical journalism does not mean that cynical journalism isn’t
undermining society’s wellbeing.

Answer choice (A): This choice suggests that the author has overlooked the possible benefits of
cynicism. This is certainly not a flaw in the author’s argument, which concludes that journalistic
cynicism is not harmful to society. Considering the possibility that, beyond this, such cynicism is
actually beneficial, is not vital to the argument, so overlooking that possibility would not be a flaw in
this case.

Answer choice (B): The stimulus’ conclusion is simply that cynicism among journalists is not
harmful to society, so the author does not need to consider how the level of cynicism might be
related to the amount of information available.

Answer choice (C): Based on the fact that journalistic cynicism has always existed, the author
concludes that it is not harmful to society. There is no need to consider the possibility that today’s
brand of cynicism is disingenuous, so this is not the flaw in the author’s reasoning.

Answer choice (D): The author, whose conclusion is that journalistic cynicism is unharmful to
society, does not need to consider whether people are accurately portrayed as selfish. Since this
consideration is unnecessary, this choice should be eliminated.

Answer choice (E): This is the correct answer choice. The author’s conclusion is that the
referenced journalistic cynicism does not harm society, based on the premise that such cynicism has
always existed. If such cynicism has indeed always existed and, as this choice provides, has always
had a negative effect on the well-being of society, the author’s argument fails.
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Hi. what kind of flaw of reasoning does this belong to?
 Adam Tyson
PowerScore Staff
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This is a causal flaw, lathlee. Specifically, the author says that a certain factor cannot be a cause of a particular phenomenon because the cause has always been present and is currently less prominent than in the past. The error is overlooking the possibility that the effect may have also been present all along.

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