LSAT 90 – Section 2 – Question 10

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S2 Q10
Flaw or descriptive weakening +Flaw
+Harder 146.031 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Flaw/Descriptive Weakening question.

The argument takes on a form that we’ve seen plenty before. It says that the Swahili civilization built a particular kind of tomb. Such tombs were widespread among the Oromo civilization and unknown among any other civilization that the Swahili had contacted. From these premises, the argument draws the conclusion that the Swahili were influenced by the Oromo.

Okay, that’s a bold assertion on thin evidence. All we know is that the Oromo also built these tombs. That doesn’t mean that the Swahili imitated the Oromo. It’s certainly possible. But it’s also possible that the Oromo imitated the Swahili. That’s an alternative hypothesis. To discriminate between them, we need more information. Maybe there’s some evidence consistent with one hypothesis but inconsistent with the other. Maybe there’s information about chronology. Who built these tombs first? That’d be a clue about who’s the influencer and who’s the imitator.

Answer Choice (A) says that the argument fails to adequately address the possibility that the Oromo used these structures as something other than tombs. That’s true. But that’s not where the argument is weak. Even if we stipulate that the Oromo used these structures as tombs, the argument still suffers from its causal weaknesses.

Answer Choice (B) says that the argument concludes that the first event caused the second event simply because the first event occurred earlier. If only! Information about the Oromo being first to build these tombs would be really helpful in establishing the conclusion that the Swahili learned from the Oromo. There is no such information so (B) is descriptively inaccurate.

Answer Choice (C) says that the argument draws a restricted conclusion from premises that provide strong support for a much broader conclusion. Uh, come again? (C) thinks this argument could have drawn a broader conclusion? And that the main weakness of the reasoning is that the actual conclusion didn’t go far enough? That’s crazy. The argument has a hard enough time supporting its existing conclusion. It won’t be helped if we swap that conclusion out for an even heavier, more expansive conclusion. I think (C) is picking up on the “to some extent” qualifier in the conclusion. Like, (C) is saying that’s what makes the argument vulnerable, that it should have just come out with a more forceful conclusion. But that misses the point. Toggling the strength of the causal arrow up or down is irrelevant. The problem with this argument is that the causal hypothesis in the conclusion is merely one of many.

Answer Choice (D) says that the argument assumes there was no third civilization responsible for creating the first tombs of the kind found in both the Oromo and Swahili cultures. This is a very attractive trap. It describes a cookie-cutter flaw that we’ve seen so many times in other Flaw questions. The problem is that the argument doesn’t make this assumption. The premises already established that the Swahili had no contact with any other civilization that built such tombs. That precludes the hypothesis that a third civilization was the true creators of these tombs and they were the OG influencers. That couldn’t have happened because the Swahili had no contact with any other civilization that built these tombs except the Oromo. Since this third culture hypothesis is already precluded, the argument doesn’t have to assume anything about whether they first created these tombs. It wouldn’t matter either way. Imagine if it were true that some third culture created the tombs. So what? They’re halfway across the continent and the Swahili didn’t have any contact with them. So if the Swahili learned it from anyone, it would still have to be from the Oromo. (D) is descriptively inaccurate. The argument makes no such assumption because the argument doesn’t have to. The alternative hypothesis that (D) is concerned with was already precluded by the premises.

Correct Answer Choice (E) says that the argument assumes that the Oromo built their tombs earlier than the Swahili did. Yes, that’s definitely an assumption that the argument makes. In order for the Oromo to have influenced the Swahili, the Oromo had to have done it first. If the Swahili got there first, then perhaps it’s the Oromo who were influenced by the Swahili. (E) is descriptively accurate. More than that, (E) is why the argument is weak. There is no information about who got there first. Without that information, we cannot say whether the Oromo as influencer hypothesis or the Swahili as influencer hypothesis is more likely to be true. This is precisely where the argument is most vulnerable to criticism.

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