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#23154
Complete Question Explanation

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

Often, Flaw in the Reasoning questions will have some clear specific flaw that you can point to exactly. The censorship advocate's argument, however, does not seem to have one specific problem that you can point to; its problem seems to be just an overall irrelevance to the civil libertarian's argument. Therefore, the answer choice needs to reflect the broadness of the argument's flaw.

Answer Choice (A) There is nothing in the censorship advocate's argument to support the contention that he is attempting to extract a general rule from a specific case — mainly because there is neither a general rule nor a specific case in his argument.

Answer Choice (B) This answer choice can be tricky because it ties into the censorship advocate's argument that there are commonly held beliefs regarding what constitutes potentially offensive art. The censorship advocate is not, however, extracting his argument from that claimed commonly held belief. Instead, he is using it to support his argument once it has already been formed.

Answer Choice (C) It should be clear from reading the censorship advocate's argument that he does not at any point attack the civil libertarians character.

Answer Choice (D): This is the correct answer choice. The civil libertarian's argument is that prohibiting any nonviolent means of expression poisons a society's intellectual atmosphere, therefore it would harm society to censor all potentially offensive art. Whether or not many people are in agreement as to what constitutes potentially offensive art is irrelevant to the argument.

Answer Choice (E) It should be clear from reading the censorship advocate's argument that he does not at any point use hyperbolic, inflammatory language that obscures the issue at hand.
 egarcia193
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#37943
Hi,
I thought I understood the question very well until I read your explanation and now I am very confused. I chose B and had D as a contender but eliminated it because to me it made no sense as a flaw that was used and was very unspecific. I don't understand how the censorship advocate is not relying on the fact that a majority of people commonly share the same belief as him as the flaw in the argument? Furthermore, I don't see exactly how the advocate's argument is just overall irrelevant Can someone explain this to me I am having a hard time Understanding this one now.
 AthenaDalton
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#39427
Hi egarcia,

Thanks for your question!

The civil libertarian argues that "categorically prohibiting any non-violent means of expression" is bad for society, then goes on to say that censorship of "all potentially offensive art" would be bad for society. From this we can infer his belief that the ban on all potentially offensive art will amount, in practice, to a total ban on most kinds of expression.

Is it fair to equate censorship of potentially offensive art to a categorical prohibition on all non-violent means of expression? It seems like a bit of a weak point in the argument. But instead of pointing out that weakness, the censorship advocate responds by saying that there is broad consensus about what constitutes potentially offensive art.

This is really beside the point -- even if 90 percent of the population agrees on what constitutes offensive art, there's still the risk that the easily-offended 10 percent will be offended by all art, thereby leading to some kind of blanket ban on all art, just like the civil libertarian fears. The censorship advocate failed to respond to the heart of the civil libertarian's argument, which is that the ban on potentially offensive art would amount to a total ban on most kinds of expression.

That's why answer choice (D) is a good fit. The censorship advocate raises a fact that is really beside the point.

Answer choice (B) is a bit of a stretch. The censorship advocate doesn't extract a principle from a commonly held belief in his short response. He just states that many people share a belief about what is offensive, and fails to expand on what that fact means.

I hope that helps clarify things for you. Good luck studying!

Athena Dalton
 jbrown1104
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#47331
Hi PS!

I spent a good chunk of time trying to dissect this question further and am just not able to see the difference between (B) and (D). I had both left as contenders but ultimately chose B because I believed the censorship advocate was making an "error of popular opinion" assuming that just because people are in agreement of believe in a particular position, doesn't make the position valid or proven. While I see how the argument made by the censorship advocate is irrelevant, I just am not able to see how (D) is better than (B). Please help me understand how to choose between two very tough answer choices!!

Thanks!
~JB
 James Finch
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#47592
Hi J. Brown,

The distinction between answer choices (B) and (D) is that (B) references a non-existent principle that the censorship advocate supposedly uses, describing the flaw as being related to the abstraction of the principle, while (D) refers to the actual flaw, an appeal to popular opinion, in an oblique manner. (B) sneakily tries to throw test-takers off track by explicitly acknowledging the advocate's appeal to popular opinion while describing a different flaw in the argument.

(D) is correct because the reason that the appeal to popular opinion is a flaw is that, in almost all cases, popular opinion of a subject is irrelevant to the actual argument at hand. So (D) does actually refer to the flaw, albeit indirectly.

Hope this helps!
 Zach-Fox
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#73673
Is there any strategy in interpreting the word "irrelevant" in answer choices. I have seen a couple examples where answer explanations using the word irrelevant changes based on if the choice is correct. Unfortunately I don't have the exact test and question, but I distinctly remember an explanation saying an answer choice isn't irrelevant because it has to do with arguers argument and the subject at hand. Yet, in this question, the argument is irrelevant because it is "besides the point," yet that was what the comments were saying about the example I brought up.

So, is there a more consistent definition of irrelevant that I should try and use that is as close to LSAT use as possible?
 Jeremy Press
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#73679
Hi Zach,

Great question, thanks for asking!

It's hard to know how to harmonize the tension you identify without seeing the specific explanation and question to which it was referring. That's because any response I would give would depend heavily on the way the term "irrelevant" was used in the answer choice, and the specific phrasing of the explanation. Here the term irrelevant refers specifically to a "reason," i.e. a "premise," and not, say, to the argument as a whole. So the question here is only whether the premise ("many people are in agreement about what constitutes potentially offensive art") is "irrelevant" to whether the civil libertarian is wrong. It is, because it has no effect on the likelihood of the civil libertarian's conclusion being true, i.e. no effect on whether censorship of all potentially offensive art is likely to be harmful to society. In general, a premise is relevant where it has some effect on the likelihood of a conclusion's being true. To the broader question you're raising (and without pronouncing judgment on an explanation I haven't read in full), the relevance definition you should be relying on is, at least when it applies to a premise, more than just "talking about the same subject" as an argument discusses. It has to do with whether the premise has some effect on the likely truth of the conclusion.

I hope this helps!

Jeremy
 cspertus
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#82651
James Finch wrote: Fri Jul 06, 2018 4:41 pm Hi J. Brown,

The distinction between answer choices (B) and (D) is that (B) references a non-existent principle that the censorship advocate supposedly uses, describing the flaw as being related to the abstraction of the principle, while (D) refers to the actual flaw, an appeal to popular opinion, in an oblique manner. (B) sneakily tries to throw test-takers off track by explicitly acknowledging the advocate's appeal to popular opinion while describing a different flaw in the argument.

(D) is correct because the reason that the appeal to popular opinion is a flaw is that, in almost all cases, popular opinion of a subject is irrelevant to the actual argument at hand. So (D) does actually refer to the flaw, albeit indirectly.

Hope this helps!
Hi James,

I am still having a bit of trouble distinguishing between B and D despite having read through this thread of posts multiple times. I definitely see how D is correct, but don't see how I should've known to disregard B based on the fact that B references a "non-existent principle". Why isn't the principle that the censorship advocate extracts simply: we should censor potentially offensive art?
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 KelseyWoods
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#82672
Hi cspertus!

Be careful not to read more into the censorship advocate's argument than what is actually there. The conclusion of the censorship advocate is not "we should censor potentially offensive art." The exact conclusion of the advocate is "You're wrong" and it refers to the civil libertarian's argument that "those advocating censorship of all potentially offensive art are pursuing a course that is harmful to society." So, specifically, the censorship advocate's conclusion would be "those advocating censorship of all potentially offensive art are not pursuing a course that is harmful to society." So the advocate is not necessarily arguing that we should censor potentially offensive art, just that it would not necessarily be harmful to society if we do so. That's not a principle that's being extracted--a principle is a broad rule that specifies what actions are correct in certain situations. The advocate is not stating a broad rule--the advocate is merely stating that the civil libertarian's argument is wrong.

Hope this helps!

Best,
Kelsey
 cspertus
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#82707
This was super helpful Kelsey, thank you so much!

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