LSAT 35 – Section 4 – Question 09

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT35 S4 Q09
Main conclusion or main point +MC
+Easiest 144.979 +SubsectionEasier

Kevin’s explanation

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Which one of the following most accurately states the main conclusion of the moralist’s argument?

This is a Main Conclusion question.

Arguments from “Moralists” are my second favorite on the LSAT. (My favorite are those from “Trampoline Enthusiasts.”)

Humans have a natural disposition to altruism–that is, to behavior that serves the needs of others regardless of one’s own needs…

The moralist starts with a claim about humans having a “natural disposition to altruism.” What does that mean? Luckily she defines it: behavior that serves the needs of others regardless of one’s own needs.

I should be a bit more precise – she defined “altruism.” But we still need to think a little bit about what it means to have a natural disposition toward altruism. That seems to mean that we naturally do things that are helpful to others, even if it doesn’t help ourselves. We don’t need to be told to do it or pressured into doing it.

…but that very disposition prevents some acts of altruism from counting as moral.

The word “but” signals a shift in direction – usually a shift from context to the argument. It’s not always introducing a conclusion. But it often signals that the author’s opinion is about to come soon.

In this case, the part immediately after “but” sounds like the moralist’s opinion about the natural disposition toward altruism. The moralist is saying that the fact we naturally are altruistic prevents some altruistic acts from being moral. That’s interesting – how could an altruistic act not be moral? Isn’t helping people for free a good, moral thing?

The moralist continues:

Reason plays an essential role in any moral behavior.

Not sure I’m following this yet. Keep going:

Only behavior that is intended to be in accordance with a formal set of rules, or moral code, can be considered moral behavior.

Now we can start to make sense of things. This last sentence is a principle (or rule) about what’s required in order to be considered moral behavior. (The word “only” introduces what’s necessary in this conditional statement.)

That principle is an elaboration of the previous line about reason and its essential role in moral behavior. The moralist is laying out what aspect of “reason” is required – you need to be intending to follow a formal set of rules in order for what you do to be moral.

If humans are naturally inclined to do altruistic things, that suggests some altruistic things might not involve intention to follow a formal set of rules. I naturally want to help children trapped in burning cars by the side of the road. If I pull them out of the wreckage, I’m not doing that because I’m trying to follow some law that requires me to save those children. According to the moralist’s principle in the last sentence, that means my saving of those children isn’t moral.

This is how we can tell that the conclusion is “that very disposition prevents some acts of altruism from counting as moral.” That’s the product of applying the rule in the last sentence. Put another way, we know that’s the conclusion, because if you ask the moralist, “Why should I believe that?” – she’d point to the last sentence.

Let’s look for something along the lines of “The natural disposition to altruism prevents some acts of altruism from counting as moral.”

Answer Choice (A) All moral codes prohibit selfishness.

Where is this coming from? We don’t know anything about “all” moral codes from this stimulus. Something that is not supported by the stimulus cannot be the conclusion.

Answer Choice (B) All moral behavior is motivated by altruism

This doesn’t sound like the conclusion, which is a claim about some altruistic acts not being moral. A statement about “all moral behavior” is much too broad for what we’re aiming.

If we want to delve a bit more deeply (which is not necessary in a timed situation), this answer isn’t supported. Although the principle in the last sentence would support the idea that all moral behavior must be intended to follow a formal set of rules, that’s not saying that all moral behavior is motivated by altruism. This answer would have been better (but still wrong) if it had said “All moral behavior is motivated by intention to follow a formal set of rules.”

Answer Choice (C) Behavior must serve the needs of others in order to be moral behavior.

This doesn’t follow the author’s principle in the last sentence, so there’s no way it can be the conclusion. If you picked this, you might be bringing in your own outside opinion about what’s moral, and not focusing on what the moralist said.

Correct Answer Choice (D) Not all altruistic acts are moral behavior.

This is a pretty close restatement of the conclusion. I would have preferred something that included the part about how the natural disposition prevents those acts from being moral. But this is the only answer choice that includes the idea that some altruistic acts are not moral.

(By the way, the statement “Not all X are Y” means “Some X are not Y.” Remember the lesson on negating quantifiers? This is why I’m interpreting (D) as “Some altruistic acts are not moral behavior.”)

Answer Choice (E) Altruism develops through the use of reason.

Where does this come from? If anything, it seems to go against the stimulus. We have a natural disposition toward altruism – that suggests we’re not necessarily reasoning our way to altruism.

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