LSAT 92 – Section 1 – Question 16

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT92 S1 Q16
PSA - Find the rule +PSAr
+Medium 147.037 +SubsectionMedium

This is a PSA question.

The difficulty in this question is partially in the complexity of the argument. Where is the main conclusion? There’s also a sub-conclusion present! It’s also partially in the answers. Some of the principles on offer tempt us to react based on what we know to be true or false in the world. But if we cut through these difficulties, this is a straightforward PSA question with a straightforward PSA answer: P→C.

First, the ranger says it’s unfair to cite people for fishing in the newly restricted areas. Okay, why? Because the people are probably unaware of the changes in the rules. Okay, why do you say that? Because many of “us rangers” are even unaware of the changes in the rules. So here’s the complex argument.

Minor premise: Many rangers are unaware of the new rules.

Major premise/sub-conclusion: Park visitors are probably unaware of the new rules.

Main conclusion: Unfair to cite visitors for violations.

But there’s one more pesky sentence at the end that says until after we really try to publicize these new rules, the most we should do is to issue a simple warning. How does this fit in? Maybe this is the main-main conclusion? Perhaps. It’s unfair to give citations, therefore issue a warning instead. That makes sense. Maybe this is the second half of the main conclusion? Park visitors aren’t aware of the new rules, therefore don’t cite them (negative), just give a warning (positive). That makes sense too. The conclusion is an injunction with a positive and negative component. Either way you interpret the last statement will be just fine. Something ambiguous like this won’t form the basis of the right/wrong answers. So, for simplicity, I’ll just interpret this to be part of the main conclusion.

Minor premise: Many rangers are unaware of the new rules.

Major premise/sub-conclusion: Park visitors are probably unaware of the new rules.

Main conclusion: Unfair to cite visitors; instead, give warnings.

Before we look at the answers, note that there are two places for us to PSA the support. We can bridge the minor premise to the sub-conclusion or we can bridge the major premise to the main conclusion. What would those bridges, in our own words, look like?

Minor descriptive-P → descriptive-C bridge: If some rangers are unaware of the new rules, then probably visitors are unaware.

Major descriptive-P → prescriptive-C bridge: If visitors are unaware of the new rules, then they should only be given a warning.

Correct Answer Choice (A) supplies the major descriptive-P → prescriptive-C bridge. It says that people should not be cited for violating laws of which they are unaware. If unaware, then should not be cited. Granted, it doesn’t “justify” the “simple warning” bit of the conclusion but this is a PSA question, after all, and not an SA question. The bar isn’t set so high as to require validity.

If you eliminated (A), ask yourself why. I don’t know, but might it be because (A) runs against what you know to be true in the world? Our legal system has a principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Yet (A) contradicts this principle. Is that why you were repelled by (A)?

Answer Choice (C) pretends to supply the minor P→C bridge. It says that the public should not be expected to know more about the law than any law enforcement officer. That lowers the bar for what the public “should be expected to know” all the way down to the knowledge possessed by the least-informed officer. So if any officer is unaware of the new regulations, then the public should not be expected to be aware either. On the face of it, this is appealing. The minor premise says some rangers aren’t aware, and with this principle, we can conclude that the public should not be expected to be aware. But wait a second, the sub-conclusion isn't prescriptive. It isn’t about what the public should or should not be expected to know. It’s a factual, probabilistic, descriptive statement about what the public does or does not know. To justify the minor support structure, we needed a descriptive-P → descriptive-C bridge.

But it’s appealing because we “like” this principle. We think it’s right. We think it’s just. But ask yourself, even if this principle is true, where does it get us? It gets us to the position that the public shouldn’t be expected to know about the new regulations. Okay. Then what? Does that mean they also therefore should be cited? That depends on whether ignorance of the law is an excuse. So you’re back to (A) anyway.

Answer Choice (B) says regulations should be widely publicized. Okay, so publicize them. But what should we do in the meantime? Should we cite or merely warn violators? (B) is embarrassingly silent.

Answer Choice (D) puts the burden on the public. It says that people who fish in a public park should make every effort to be fully aware of the rules. Where does this principle get us? That if there’s some lapse in knowledge about the rules, then it’s squarely on the shoulders of the public? That doesn’t help justify the conclusion.

Answer Choice (E) is a principle that affords violators the right to explain themselves, a right to a defense. Okay, calm down. Nobody is talking about a trial here. We’re just trying to figure out if a warning is enough or if a citation is warranted. It doesn’t matter what the violator has to say about how they view the regulations and whether they think it applies to them.

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