LSAT 90 – Section 2 – Question 16

You need a full course to see this video. Enroll now and get started in less than a minute.

Target time: 1:05

This is question data from the 7Sage LSAT Scorer. You can score your LSATs, track your results, and analyze your performance with pretty charts and vital statistics - all with a Free Account ← sign up in less than 10 seconds

Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S2 Q16
Resolve reconcile or explain +RRE
+Medium 146.031 +SubsectionMedium

This is an RRE question.

The stimulus tells us that, in general, significant intellectual advances occur in societies with a stable political system. It then goes on to tell us that in ancient Athens during a period of great political and social unrest, Plato and Aristotle made significant intellectual progress.

As with all RRE questions, whether we feel like the phenomenon is surprising or the phenomenon contains some apparent internal inconsistency depends on how much we know about the subject matter. That's just another way of saying it depends on what assumptions we bring into the phenomenon. In this question, whether we think Plato and Aristotle represent a counterexample to the general rule depends on our assumptions about the underlying causal mechanism. The general rule that great intellectual progress occurs in societies with politically stable systems doesn't reveal causation. It merely invites us to speculate that perhaps it's the stability of the political system which causally contributes to the intellectual progress. This is what makes Athens in the time of Plato and Aristotle look like a counterexample. This is not a terrible hypothesis. But it's not the only hypothesis.

Correct Answer Choice (C) suggests a different hypothesis, a different causal mechanism. It tells us that financial support for intellectual endeavors is typically unavailable in unstable political environments, but in ancient Athens wealthy citizens provided such support. This answer suggests an explanation for both the general rule and the apparent counterexample, thus reconciling them. Why is it that we tend to see great intellectual progress take place in politically stable systems? It's not that political stability directly causes intellectual advancement. Rather, political stability enables financial support for intellectual progress and, conversely, lack of political stability typically destroys that financial support. But it’s the financial support that’s causally important. This means that even in a politically unstable society, like Athens in the time of Plato and Aristotle, as long as there is financial support, then intellectual progress can occur anyway. This answer is not ideal. It does require the assumption that financial support for intellectual endeavors has a causal impact on intellectual progress.

Answer Choice (A) says the political systems that have emerged since the time of Plato and Aristotle have in various ways been different from the political system in ancient Athens. This seems so obvious that it's not worth the pixels on which it's displayed. Ancient Athens had a particular political system in the time of Plato and Aristotle. Of course other kinds of political systems have emerged since then. This is a banal fact that doesn't explain the phenomenon above.

Answer Choice (B) says the citizens of ancient Athens generally held in high esteem people who were accomplished intellectually. This is a recurring type of wrong answer. It’s ignoring half the phenomenon in order to explain the other half. We’ll see this again in (D). While (B) may suggest an explanation of the intellectual progress made in Athens, that intellectual progress nonetheless feels like a counterexample to the general rule. If we were simply asked to come up with a list of the causes of intellectual progress in Athens, this answer might be one item on the list. That is to say, one motivating factor for Plato or Aristotle to make progress was prestige or esteem. But that wasn't the task. Our job was to reconcile the apparent counterexample with the general rule. This answer doesn't do that. Now that I know Plato was motivated by esteem, the fact that he made progress in a time of political instability still seems to buck the general rule. 

Answer Choice (D) says significant intellectual advances sometimes, though not always, lead to stable political environments. This answer is similar to (B) in that it's explaining only half the phenomenon while ignoring the other half. (D) can function as an explanation of the general rule. Why do we tend to see significant intellectual advances occur in societies with stable political systems? It's because significant intellectual advances cause that stability. Fair enough. But that leaves unexplained why in ancient Athens the unparalleled intellectual progress made there didn't also result in political stability.

Answer Choice (E) says many thinkers besides Plato and Aristotle contributed to the intellectual achievements of ancient Athens. This is a cookie-cutter wrong answer choice. It doesn't explain the phenomenon above. It merely adds to the phenomenon in need of an explanation. The stimulus already gave us a problem. We needed to explain why Plato and Aristotle seemed to have bucked the trend. (E) merely tells us that it's not just Plato and Aristotle that seem to have bucked the trend; there were other thinkers as well.

Take PrepTest

Review Results

Leave a Reply