LSAT 53 – Section 3 – Question 17

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT53 S3 Q17
Flaw or descriptive weakening +Flaw
+Medium 145.896 +SubsectionMedium

The question stem reads: The reasoning in the lawyer's argument is most vulnerable to criticism on the grounds that the argument… This is a Flaw question.

The lawyer begins by making an analogy. He claims that a body of circumstantial evidence is similar to a rope. He claims that each piece of evidence is like a strand in that rope: just as adding more strings to the rope makes a rope stronger, adding more pieces of evidence strengthens the body of evidence. He then describes how if a strand of a rope is broken, the rope does not break, and it still retains much of its strength. He concludes that, similarly, if you discredit ("break") a few pieces of evidence, the overall body of evidence is still strong.

When analyzing an argument that uses an analogy, a good first step is to ask yourself, "Are the two things being compared actually similar?" As you increase the points of difference between the two things being compared, the analogy's strength diminishes. In this case, we want to determine where the lawyer's analogy between ropes and bodies of evidence frays apart. The idea that adding pieces of evidence to the body increases the strength of the body, like adding strands to a rope, makes sense and seems like a pretty good point of comparison. However, the analogy fails when we consider the fact that strands of rope are all the same. However, not all pieces of evidence are equal: some add much more strength than others. You have experience with this on the LSAT. Take away a premise that strengthens the argument, and the argument can survive. Take away a premise necessary to the argument, and the argument falls apart. So if we took away a few pieces of necessary evidence, the body would fall apart. However, that is contrary to the lawyer's conclusion. If you didn't see this, that is ok! When doing POE, prioritize answer choices that draw a distinction between ropes and bodies of evidence.

Correct Answer Choice (A) is what we discussed. The lawyer takes for granted that no evidence is more important to the body than others.

Answer Choice (B) is wrong. If you picked (B), you likely had trouble determining what (B) means. (B) says to take the strength of each piece of evidence independently and add them up. That will be greater than the strength of the evidence if you take the pieces altogether. If anything, the opposite is true: adding many pieces of circumstantial evidence together tends to count as better evidence than taking each individually.

Answer Choice (C) is not a problem for the argument. If you interpret "many = few": The point of the lawyer's argument is to show that if you take away some strands of evidence, then the body retains its strength, so the possibility is addressed. If you interpret "many"> few": then sure, the possibility is ignored. However, that is not a problem for the argument because the lawyers' conclusion is limited to taking away a few pieces of evidence. Either way, the argument is not flawed because of (C).

Answer Choice (D) is tempting, but we run into problems with the word "any." The lawyer has indicated that bodies of evidence share similarities to ropes. Adding more pieces of evidence or strands increases the strength of both.

Answer Choice (E) is incorrect. The lawyer does not use his own premise as a conclusion.

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