LSAT 93 – Section 3 – Question 12

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

Target time: 1:16

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
PT93 S3 Q12
Flaw or descriptive weakening +Flaw
+Harder 145.111 +SubsectionEasier
This page shows a recording of a live class. We're working hard to create our standard, concise explanation videos for the questions in this PrepTest. Thank you for your patience!

Great question! I was tempted by (C) as well and had it selected for a hot second when I took this section.

(C) is wrong because while it's descriptively accurate, it doesn't describe the vulnerability in the reasoning. It's true that the columnist failed to specify what is meant by "innocuous everyday occurrences." But that's not why the argument is vulnerable.

This kind of wrong answer tends to be harder to spot than the descriptively inaccurate answers. But, we can see this by "fixing this mistake." Let's go ahead and "improve" the argument by specifying the what these "innocuous everyday occurrences" are.

Here's the new and "improved" argument:

Columnist: Vagrancy laws are supposed to reduce criminal activity, but they don't. Making vagrancy illegal means transforming many innocuous everyday occurrences, e.g. sleeping on the sidewalk, roaming aimlessly around the neighborhood, etc., into crimes. Thus, vagrancy laws increase crime while purporting to reduce it.

What do you think? Is the argument actually improved? Hardly. Barely. The conclusion still doesn't follow from the premises. It's still as weakly supported as before we specified what "innocuous everyday occurrences" are.

Why? (E) tells us why.

(E) could also have been written as a more "cookie cutter" flaw: shift in meaning of a key term, phrase, or concept. At the start of the argument, what do you think "reduce criminal activity" means? What kinds of "criminal activity" do you think vagrancy laws are "supposed to reduce?" Probably mostly low level crimes like drug use, petty theft or other property crimes, and okay maybe some more serious crimes. (Put aside your thoughts on the ethics of vagrancy laws, that's not the point here.) Now look at the conclusion where it says vagrancy laws "increase crime." In what sense do vagrancy laws increase crime? Do they increase drug use, theft, etc? No. It "increases crime" in a statistical, counting, classification, categorical sense. What used to be not a crime (being a vagrant) now is a crime. Okay, so "crime has increased" in the sense of reclassifying something as a crime that didn't used to be a crime. But wait, the argument was trying to disprove the claim that vagrancy laws would reduce crimes like drug use, theft, etc.

(E) could have said "allows a key concept to illicitly shift in meaning." In other words, conflating two very different ideas. Or it could have said what it in fact said "doesn't adequately distinguish between an increase in criminal activity (idea 1) and the reclassification of certain occurrences as crimes (idea 2)."

This is a terrible weakness in reasoning. We can expose this weakness more starkly with the following argument that exhibits the same:

Homicide laws are supposed to reduce criminal activity, but they in fact have the opposite effect. Last year alone, there were 239 homicides in our city, representing 20% of all serious crimes. If we had passed the legislation I introduced to strike all homicide laws from our criminal codes, there would have been 239 fewer crimes.

Yes, there would have been 239 fewer crimes. But no, crime would not have been reduced. And that's not a contradiction because the meaning of "crime" is shifting across the two sentences.

Take PrepTest

Review Results

Leave a Reply