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Passage Discussion

These two passages deal with the issue of blackmail; Passage A examines the response to the issue
from American and Canadian common law, presenting the blackmail paradox which desribes the fact
that this illegal act represents the combination of two legally permissible acts. The author of Passage
B discusses classical Roman law, a system whose format did not necessitate the need for such a
category of crime.

Passage A:

Paragraph One: ..... In the opening paragraph, the author introduces the “blackmail paradox,”
..... ..... ..... ..... the fact that two legally permissible acts become illegal when they overlap:
..... ..... ..... ..... freedom of speech allows one to disclose embarrassing facts, or expose
..... ..... ..... ..... criminal activity, and people are generally allowed to seek money, but
..... ..... ..... ..... threatening to expose such information if money is not paid amounts to
..... ..... ..... ..... blackmail, which is illegal.

Paragraph Two: ..... Since there is no clear theory of blackmail, there are no clear lines to be
..... ..... ..... ..... drawn. The result: broad statutes that leave it to the discretion of prosecutors
..... ..... ..... ..... only to enforce such statutes when reasonable.

Paragraph Three: ..... Here, the author presents a theory of blackmail: its wrongness arises from
..... ..... ..... ..... the triangular structure of the activity—it involves the misuse of a third party
..... ..... ..... ..... for the benefit of the blackmailer, as, for example, when threats to expose
..... ..... ..... ..... criminal activity are used to leverage the state’s power for the good of the
..... ..... ..... ..... party making the threat.

Passage B:

Paragraph One: ..... Roman law based legality not on the act, but on whether harm was caused by
..... ..... ..... ..... the act. As such, classical Roman law did not specify a category for the act of
..... ..... ..... ..... “blackmail.”

Paragraph Two: ..... Roman law assumed that harm would be caused by the revealing of
..... ..... ..... ..... embarrassing or illegal acts, so the threat of such disclosure was illegal,
..... ..... ..... ..... shifting the burden to the party making the threats to show cause to make such
..... ..... ..... ..... disclosure.

Paragraph Three: ..... Truth alone would not, in Roman law, legally justify the threat of disclosure.
..... ..... ..... ..... Rather, the revealer would have to show a public interest in having the
..... ..... ..... ..... information in question revealed.
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I've difficulty comprehending the sentence from line 13 to 16: "The lack of a successful theory of blackmail has damaging consequences: drawing a clear line between legal and illegal acts has proved impossible without one." What does "one" refer to? Thanks!
 Paul Marsh
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Hi blade! You're right; that is not the most straightforward sentence ever written. "One" in that sentence refers to "a successful theory of blackmail." It's saying that the lack of a successful theory of blackmail has made it difficult to draw a clear line between legal and illegal acts. Hope that helps!
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Hello Powerscore,

I have been working on getting better at focusing more on structure and the overall point versus getting into minute details. For the most part, I am able to have somewhat of an understanding of what the authors are saying/ feel. Knowing that there will definitely be a comparative passage on the LSAT, this passage was a punch in the face. I felt like I could gage what the authors discussed and how they felt until I got to the questions.... they were really confusing and I felt like I had already invested too much time into the passage to abandon it and move on. I referred to the passage after reading the question to try to answer them correctly but I still seemed to miss the point. This resulted in me losing a significant amount of points when I could have saved this time to work on the second passage on this practice test which I originally skipped over to do passage three ("blackmail paradox" had me hooked!)

This being said, I would appreciate any advice as to how to improve on my reading comprehension strategies (I am very familiar with the VIEWSTAMP approach but feel free to deepen my understanding of it if you feel that's where I am lacking). This is the section that I struggle in the most and it has really held my score back. Any tips/advice would be extremely appreciated!

Thank you so much,
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 Beatrice Brown
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Hi Keke! Thanks so much for your great question :)

First, this pair of passages is a tough one! As you said, the passages aren't necessarily what makes this set difficult, but the questions associated with the passages.

VIEWSTAMP is the essential strategy for being successful on reading comprehension as a whole, so I'm glad to hear you're using it! On comparative passages, it will also be useful to think about how the two passages are related to one another before turning to the questions. On this pair of passages in particular, fully understanding the relationship between the two passages was essential to successfully answering the questions, as very few of the questions were local questions that referred to just one of the passages.

If you're not already doing so, it would be beneficial to start analyzing the relationship between the two passages before you turn to the questions. Once you start thinking in your own words about how the information in the two passages is related, you'll be less likely to fall for trap wrong answer choices.

For these comparative passages, you needed to fully understand the similarities and differences between how Canadian and US common law treats blackmail vs. how classical Roman law treats blackmail. For example, question 16 is meant to test your comprehension of how the different legal systems each handle blackmail differently. Carefully thinking through the relationship between the two passages before turning to the questions will allow you to quickly eliminate wrong answer choices on a question like this one so that you can focus on finding which of the remaining answer choices is best supported by the information given.

Beyond VIEWSTAMP, on difficult questions, process of elimination is going to be very helpful. Often, on difficult questions, the wording of the correct answer choice will not necessarily match the wording of the passage but will instead rely on similar phrases that mean the same thing as the original phrasing in the passage. You always want to make sure that the answer choice you select is supported by a few lines or a paragraph in the passage or passages, but this becomes more difficult when the language used in the answer choices becomes more dissimilar from that used in the passage. It's not always readily apparent that the wording is equivalent in meaning, but process of elimination will help you get the most obviously wrong answer choices out of the way to spend your time considering the language of the answer choices remaining.

I hope this helps, and please let me know if you have any further questions on anything!
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Thank you so much, Beatrice! I will keep working at it :)

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