LSAT 16 – Section 3 – Question 19

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT16 S3 Q19
Main conclusion or main point +MC
+Harder 0 +SubsectionMedium

From the question stem, we can tell that our only job here is to find the main point of the argument of the first speaker, Maria. It asks, “Which one of the following most accurately expresses Maria’s main conclusion?” Therefore, let’s read Maria’s argument first and put her conclusion into our own words. If we’re really lost, we can read James’ argument to see how it is different from or echoes Maria’s, but it won’t be absolutely necessary.

Maria begins with a claim that doing something is misleading for a specific reason. Doing what? Well, calling any state totalitarian. And why can’t we say that a state is totalitarian without being deceptive? We learn that doing so assumes that the government has total control over all aspects of life. Not quite sure yet why that’s misleading, but I can make a few guesses… maybe that’s unrealistic in practice. The rest of the argument might make this connection more clear. As of now, though, the second claim (what happens if one calls a state totalitarian) increases the likelihood of truth of the first (that this action is actually deceiving). So, we’re guessing the first part of the sentence before the colon is the conclusion. Let’s read on to confirm.

Here we go! This claim adds information about something true in the “real world,” that a political entity with “literally total control” over any given piece of life simply does not exist. There’s the practical application falling short that we were expecting. We then gather some sort of support for this claim: it’s true because systems of control are always inefficient, which means their degrees of control are incomplete. Now, our only job is to decipher whether the claim about the real world, or the claim about calling any state totalitarian, is the author’s ultimate conclusion. Both have supporting claims, or premises. Does the fact that totalitarian states don’t exist in the real world make us more likely to believe that calling any state totalitarian is misleading? Well, yes, because if totalitarian states don’t actually exist, it would be incorrect to call a state totalitarian. I’m searching my AC’s for a rephrase of the claim that one can’t call a state totalitarian without being misleading.

Correct Answer Choice (A) Right on the money. This is a perfect rephrase, just like we wanted. Let’s make sure none of the other AC’s are contenders, but it looks like we don’t even have to read James’ argument after all!

Answer Choice (B) A couple things are wrong here. On one hand, did Maria write this argument to set up some conditional statement about the requirements for being a totalitarian state? No, she wrote it to claim that you can’t correctly call any state totalitarian. It might describe a premise, but not her conclusion. Furthermore, Maria never specifically said that it was necessary for a state to totally control society in order to be totalitarian, just that total state control was implied by calling a state totalitarian.

Answer Choice (C) This looks like a rephrase of a fragment of that final premise that also involves some inferences. Any system of control (a state’s power over society, I suppose) is inefficient, and is therefore necessarily partial. However, this ended up supporting that first sentence, making it a premise instead of the main conclusion.

Answer Choice (D) This is a rephrase of that first premise, telling us, hey! In the real world, total state control over even one aspect of life doesn’t exist! We know this is a premise because it makes the conclusion––that calling a state totalitarian is misleading––more likely to be true. See how predictable these wrong AC’s get?

Answer Choice (E) Again, another rephrase of a claim that isn’t the conclusion! This matches what was stated in the first part of the final sentence, which we have already deemed a premise supporting our conclusion.

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