LSAT 90 – Section 4 – Question 17

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S4 Q17
PSA - Find the rule +PSAr
+Easier 148.293 +SubsectionMedium

This is a PSA question.

Mateo says global warming has caused permafrost to melt under several arctic villages, forcing all of their inhabitants to relocate at great expense. Then he says that pollution from automobiles is a major contributor to global warming (another premise). Now he's given us a causal chain starting with automobiles and leading to pollution, then global warming, then melting permafrost, and finally, expensive relocation. Here comes the conclusion: the automotive industry should be required to help pay for the villagers' relocation. We have descriptive causal premises leading to a prescriptive conclusion.

In PSA questions, we have the premise (P) and the conclusion (C) and are generally looking for a P → C "rule." And the reason the question stem includes the word "principle" is that the P → C could be stated in terms more general than what you see in the answer choices. And there is a large degree of freedom in how general they will be.

For example, the correct answer could generalize a lot and say any "entity" whose "actions" have some negative consequence must pay for the cost of that consequence. You can take this general principle and apply it to this argument, but you can also apply it to a bunch of other arguments. The correct answer could generalize less and say if an "industrial product" has some negative downstream consequences, then the "manufacturer" must pay to cover the costs of those consequences. This one would apply to a smaller set of arguments than the more generalized principle of entities.

Most PSA questions lay out recurring traps. We find one such trap, that of starting the bridge at the conclusion in Answer Choice (E). It says an industry that contributes to global warming should be required to pay for resulting damage to specific communities only if it has a general obligation to help pay for all damage produced by global warming.

An industry being required to pay is the desired conclusion. So that concept cannot be in the sufficient condition. At best, this rule allows the stimulus to fail the necessary condition (say we had a premise that amounted to the auto industry not having a general obligation to help pay for all damage), therefore concluding the failure of the sufficient (auto industry should not be required to pay for damage to specific communities). That's not what we want. This answer choice is logically wrong.

(E) would have been correct if it said an industry that contributes to global warming should be required to help pay for resulting damage to specific communities, full stop.

Correct Answer Choice (D) says any industry manufacturing a product whose use contributes to costly damage for others should be liable for damages generated by that product's use. This is the P → C rule. The information in our premise triggers the sufficient conditions: any industry (automobile) manufacturing a product (cars) whose use contributes to costly damage (melting-permafrost-induced relocation) for others (arctic villagers). Hence, we can draw the necessary condition as the conclusion: the automotive industry should be liable for damages.

Answer Choice (A) says any industry has an obligation to pay for any damage that it should have known would result from its activities. (A) is pretty good if you strike out “it should have known.” But as it stands, that condition doesn't match the premise and so the sufficient condition in (A) does not trigger. While it might be common sense that cars generate pollution, the long causal chain in the stimulus makes it less reasonable to say that the automotive industry should have known about the results of their activities on arctic villages. (A) exhibits the recurring defect of starting the bridge at the wrong location.

Answer Choice (B) says manufacturers should be required to produce goods in a way that minimizes harm to people and the environment. (B) just tells the automotive industry to change the way it produces cars, but does not help the villagers get paid. This rule delivers the wrong results. Also a recurring defect.

Answer Choice (C) says when the use of a product causes damages, governments should not be required to pay for the damage unless those responsible for manufacturing the product are also required to pay. (C) is saying that if the government is required to pay, then it must be that manufacturing is required to pay. Or, contrapositive, if the manufacturer isn't required to pay, then neither is the government.

This is a strange principle to talk about when you are trying to get arctic villagers paid. Maybe (C) thinks Mateo’s next argument is to petition the government to compensate these villagers, and it is saying that if you want the government to pay, you must first establish that manufacturing has to pay. How bizarre.

This rule also exhibits the recurring defects of failing to match the premise and failing to match the conclusion.

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