LSAT 15 – Section 2 – Question 08

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT15 S2 Q08
Main conclusion or main point +MC
+Harder 142.72 +SubsectionEasier

The question stem couldn’t be more straightforward: we are looking for the main conclusion of the argument, as it says, “The main conclusion of the argument is that…

Looks like this argument opens with a question: should the government stop trying to determine toxic substances in our food? Is it rhetorical or not? In other words, is it just being used as a language tool to make a point, or will it be explicitly answered? Before breaking down the content and details of the first sentence, I’ll skim forward to see if I can glean a quick answer as to why the author included this question. The second sentence opens with “only if,” which indicates that we have some pretty specific requirements for the answer to that first sentence to be yes. Remember, only if indicates a necessary condition, so the author thinks it's absolutely necessary for the conditions that follow to be true if the answer to the question is to be yes. Also, it was a literal question meant to be answered right away. What did that first sentence ask? Well, the author wants to explore some ethical dilemma: whether it would be right for the government to give up trying to figure out what levels of toxicity should be allowed in food. They think the answer is yes only if it’s not too crazy to argue that the only (again, strong and limiting) permissible toxicity level is zero. Not sure what to make of this yet, but these first two sentences combined are fair game to be the conclusion.

“However” leads us into the following sentence, priming me to expect some sort of contrast that could be the conclusion itself or could lead to one. We end up learning new information that seems to contradict what we already posited. “Virtually all” foods apparently have toxic substances, yet cause no harm. Why? These foods do not meet a sufficient concentration of toxicity to cause harm. What do we make of all of this? Well, I’m pretty sure we haven’t gotten to the full conclusion just yet. We are on the way to forming an answer to the first sentence, as we now know that the necessary condition (there is absolutely zero toxicity) is probably denied. Adding this new information makes it much less likely that we can meet our necessary condition laid out in the second sentence. So far, this claim doesn’t have any support itself, but seems to be building on our previous knowledge. So, this is a premise that acts as a stepping stone on the way to the gist of our argument.

The final sentence opens with “furthermore,” which is a cookie cutter premise indicator we have seen to introduce new premises. We learn that we can never have full certainty that the concentration of any substance has been reduced to zero, and instead all we can know is that the concentration is unable to be detected by the methods we use now. Now we are presented with another claim, on top of the previous sentence, that seems to make that necessary condition much less likely to be reachable. That previous sentence led us to believe the necessary condition could be denied, and now we are very sure it just won’t be met. Wait, so, the argument ends here? Where’s the conclusion?

This might be a trickier question but it isn’t a trick: we already know what the author’s conclusion is. Everything presented in the argument points towards the fact that the necessary (absolutely required) condition for the government to be justified in giving up on this research cannot be met. Therefore, we have no reason to believe the government should abandon these efforts. What’s the alternative; what should the government do instead? Well, if it can’t be justified in giving up, it's gotta continue! In other words, the author’s answer to the initial question they posed is a hard NO, and the reasons are enumerated in the rest of the argument.

Let’s search for a rephrase of this in our AC’s:

Correct Answer Choice (A) That was quick! This is essentially rephrasing our prediction, that if the government won’t be justified in abandoning their efforts, they should continue those efforts. Not too crazy of a jump to make and if this is the author’s conclusion, everything they presented in the argument has a place or acts as a stepping stone.

Answer Choice (B) This is a copy-paste of the second half of that necessary condition presented as the answer to the first sentence. After our read of this argument, are we even inclined to think the author agrees with B? Not at all. Let alone could it ever be the main conclusion, as none of the other parts of the argument are offered as evidence for it.

Answer Choice (C) This looks like a rephrase of parts of sentence three, which we know was offered as the first premise leading to our conclusion that this necessary condition cannot be met and therefore governments should keep on keepin’ on. So, not the conclusion.

Answer Choice (D) Okay, could be true, and seems to be supported in the text as the last sentence told us that the collective “we” (or everyone) is unable to be sure a food has zero toxicity, so it’s reasonable to apply that statement to governments. But, it’s not the conclusion, because none of the other sentences support it as evidence, and why else would the author have included the rest of the argument? Plus, it goes too far. We don’t know about the future, we only know about the present in this stimulus.

Answer Choice (E) What?? Totally out of left field. Goes way too far and we have no evidence for this in the stimulus. The author never said it nor implied it, so it can’t be their main conclusion.

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