LSAT 14 – Section 4 – Question 15

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT14 S4 Q15
Flaw or descriptive weakening +Flaw
+Medium 0 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Flaw/Descriptive Weakening question and we know this because of the question stem: “A flaw in the…reasoning…”

With a flaw question, we’re trying to identify reason(s) the conclusion wouldn’t follow the premises. In other words, we’re trying to extrapolate and explain why the stimulus is flawed, and why the premises don’t support the conclusion. Remember, there could be multiple flaws.

The magazine article talks about a new proposal by The Environmental Commissioner and that there is going to be a nationwide debate on them. These new proposals are called “Fresh Thinking on the Environment.” The tone in the next sentence is important: clearly, the article doesn’t think “fresh thinking” can come from the commissioner and therefore the proposal deserves a closer inspection. So far, both of these sound like premises.

The next sentence gives credence to the second sentence we just read: these proposals by the Commissioner are almost identical to Tsarque Inc’s proposals which were issued three months ago.

Before we read the next sentence, what can we conclude from just this information? Well, even though the Commissioner may have believed that his proposals were “fresh thinking,” we can conclude that the title is misleading. We could also say that conversations arising from the debate on the Commissioner’s proposals could be applied to the Tsarque Inc’s proposals.

What does our conclusion say? Since Tsarque Inc’s pollution is an environmental nightmare (premise), the magazine thinks the debate on the Commissioner’s proposals can end here. Note that the argument is jumping from Trasque’s actions to the Commissioner’s proposal. It’s fair to draw similarities between the two proposals since we know they’re identical – remember, we have to accept the premises. The problem is jumping from Tsarque Inc’s actions to Tsarque Inc’s/the Commissioner’s the proposal.

This is the problematic assumption: Trasque’s polluting tendencies are reflected in their proposals (and therefore the Commissioner’s proposal). The magazine article is using the actions of the company against the proposals, even though the content of the proposals could have nothing to do with those actions. In other words, this argument has an “Ad Hominem” fallacy, meaning that an attack directed at the person/organization rather than the position they take in their proposal. The magazine article tried to dismiss the proposal in a roundabout way rather than addressing the content directly. Now that we’ve identified a flaw, let’s get into the answer choices with our two steps: is this answer choice descriptively accurate? Is this the flaw?

Answer Choice (A) This is not descriptively accurate. Two things can be similar without one influencing the other. But for argument’s sake, let’s say this is descriptively accurate – after all, the two people involved in the proposals are close friends. Is this the flaw? Is the reason the argument is flawed because it assumes these influenced one another? No! The argument wants to dismiss the commissioner’s proposals by attacking Trasque’s actions, whose proposals (which are the same as the Commissioner’s) may not have any similarities to their actions.

Answer Choice (B) This is not descriptively accurate - nowhere in the premises do we see distortion.

Correct Answer Choice (C) YES! This is perfectly describing what ad hominem fallacies are.

Answer Choice (D) Emotive? There is no controversial language here. The tone suggest the magazine does not like what is said in the proposals, but it’s not using controversial language. This fails the first step - it’s not descriptively accurate.

Answer Choice (E) This is not descriptively accurate. The argument appeals to Tsarque’s actions; the reference to the chief could have been put there to throw us off, but the argument simply does not appeal to the chief’s authority.

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