AP English Language : Meaning in Context

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Language

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Example Questions

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Example Question #23 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from “Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau (1848)

I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to pre­vail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have cho­sen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure. This American government—what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads. 

But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no govern­ment, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

According to the underlined sentence, the relationship between citizens and the government is __________.

Possible Answers:

based on preconceived ideas

bureaucratic

silent

unemotional

Correct answer:

based on preconceived ideas

Explanation:

The author states "the people must have some complicated machinery and hear its din"; this figuratively suggests that citizens must have their voices and opinions heard.

Example Question #24 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

I cannot consent to wander from the duties of this day into the fracas of politics. The brute noise of cannon has, I know, a most poetic echo in these days when it is an instrument of freedom and the primal sentiments of humanity. Yet it is but representative and a far-off means and servant; but here in the college we are in the presence of the constituency and the principle itself. Here is, or should be, the majesty of reason and the creative cause, and it were a compounding of all gradation and reverence to suffer the flash of swords and the boyish strife of passion and the feebleness of military strength to intrude on this sanctity and omnipotence of Intellectual Law.

Against the heroism of soldiers I set the heroism of scholars, which consists in ignoring the other. You shall not put up in your Academy the statue of Caesar or Pompey, of Nelson or Wellington, of Washington or Napoleon, of Garibaldi, but of Archimedes, of Milton, of Newton. . . .

For either science and literature is a hypocrisy, or it is not. If it be, then resign your charter to the Legislature, turn your college into barracks and warehouses, and divert the funds of your founders into the stock of a rope-walk or a candle-factory, a tan-yard or some other undoubted conveniency for the surrounding population. But if the intellectual interest be, as I hold, no hypocrisy, but the only reality, then it behooves us to enthrone it, obey it, and give it possession of us and ours; to give, among other possessions, the college into its hand casting down every idol, every pretender, every hoary lie, every dignified blunder that has crept into its administration.

What is meant by the underlined selection, “and a far-off means and servant”?

Possible Answers:

The goals of military are subordinate to those of culture.

None of the other answer choices is correct.

Military valor is best undertaken by those of a servile mindset.

Slavery is the root of war, particularly in American culture in Emerson's day.

Learning is merely a means to an end.

Correct answer:

The goals of military are subordinate to those of culture.

Explanation:

The whole context for interpreting this passage is: "Yet it [the cannon] is but representative and a far-off means and servant." This is referring to militarism in general, which is merely a distant ("far-off") means for higher goods (and a "servant," not the master of culture). It represents something subordinate (i.e. secondary) in rank and/or importance.

Example Question #25 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

At this season, the colleges keep their anniversaries, and in this country where education is a primary interest, every family has a representative in their halls; a son, a brother, or one of our own kindred is there for his training. But even if we had no son or friend therein, yet the college is part of the community, and it is there for us, is training our teachers, civilizers, and inspirers. It is essentially the most radiating and public of agencies, like, but better than, the light-house, or the alarm-bell, or the sentinel who fires a signal-cannon, or the telegraph which speeds the local news over the land. Besides, it deals with a force which it cannot monopolize or confine, cannot give to those who come to it and refuse to those outside. I have no doubt of the force, and for me the only question is whether the force is inside.

This power which it deals is dear to all. If the colleges were better, if they had any monopoly of it, nay, if they really had it, had the power of imparting valuable thought, creative principles, truths which become powers, thoughts which become talents—if they could cause that a mind not profound should become profound—we should all rush to their gates; instead of contriving inducements to draw students, you would need to set police at the gates to keep order in the in-rushing multitude.

These are giddy times, and, you say, the college will be deserted. No, never was it so much needed. But I say, those were the giddy times which went before these, and the new times are the times of arraignment, times of trial, and times of judgment. ‘Tis because the college was false to its trust, because the scholars did not learn and teach, because they were traders and left their altars and libraries and worship of truth and played the sycophant to presidents and generals and members of Congress, and gave degrees and literary and social honors to those whom they ought to have rebuked and exposed, incurring the contempt of those whom they ought to have put in fear; then the college is suicidal, ceases to be a school; power oozes out of it just as fast as truth does, and instead of overawing the strong, and upholding the good, it is a hospital for decayed tutors.

This Integrity over all partial knowledge and skill, homage to truth—how rare! Few men wish to know how the thing really stands, what is the law of it without reference to persons. Other men are victims of their means—sanity consists in not being subdued by your means.

What is meant by saying that the college/university is the “most public of agencies”?

Possible Answers:

It is something funded primarily by public tax dollars.

It should be regulated by governmental oversight.

It is an important aspect of literary culture in a nation.

It is something available to all social classes.

It has an extensive influence on the general culture.

Correct answer:

It has an extensive influence on the general culture.

Explanation:

Emerson speaks of the college/university as "radiating" (like light emanating from a light source) and as being public. He means that it has wide-spread effects on the culture—like a light shining in dark places. Thus, he means to express that it has a wide and extensive influence on the culture in general.

Example Question #26 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

At this season, the colleges keep their anniversaries, and in this country where education is a primary interest, every family has a representative in their halls; a son, a brother, or one of our own kindred is there for his training. But even if we had no son or friend therein, yet the college is part of the community, and it is there for us, is training our teachers, civilizers, and inspirers. It is essentially the most radiating and public of agencies, like, but better than, the light-house, or the alarm-bell, or the sentinel who fires a signal-cannon, or the telegraph which speeds the local news over the land. Besides, it deals with a force which it cannot monopolize or confine, cannot give to those who come to it and refuse to those outside. I have no doubt of the force, and for me the only question is whether the force is inside.

This power which it deals is dear to all. If the colleges were better, if they had any monopoly of it, nay, if they really had it, had the power of imparting valuable thought, creative principles, truths which become powers, thoughts which become talents—if they could cause that a mind not profound should become profound—we should all rush to their gates; instead of contriving inducements to draw students, you would need to set police at the gates to keep order in the in-rushing multitude.

These are giddy times, and, you say, the college will be deserted. No, never was it so much needed. But I say, those were the giddy times which went before these, and the new times are the times of arraignment, times of trial, and times of judgment. ‘Tis because the college was false to its trust, because the scholars did not learn and teach, because they were traders and left their altars and libraries and worship of truth and played the sycophant to presidents and generals and members of Congress, and gave degrees and literary and social honors to those whom they ought to have rebuked and exposed, incurring the contempt of those whom they ought to have put in fear; then the college is suicidal, ceases to be a school; power oozes out of it just as fast as truth does, and instead of overawing the strong, and upholding the good, it is a hospital for decayed tutors.

This Integrity over all partial knowledge and skill, homage to truth—how rare! Few men wish to know how the thing really stands, what is the law of it without reference to persons. Other men are victims of their means—sanity consists in not being subdued by your means.

What does the author mean by the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

It is rare to overcome the biases of one age to find the truths discovered in another.

It is uncommon to find someone who despises politicians and their meddlesome ways.

It is rare to find a person of acute intelligence.

It is rare to find someone who believes in the unified vision that is proper to true intellectual knowledge. 

It is rare to look upon all things with a disinterested eye.

Correct answer:

It is rare to find someone who believes in the unified vision that is proper to true intellectual knowledge. 

Explanation:

Emerson is here talking about how rare it is to find a kind of "integrity"—that is, a kind of unity and cohesion—over partial forms of knowledge. This is a type of homage to truth for truth's sake. This is what he believes is the proper work of the university.

Example Question #27 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

At this season, the colleges keep their anniversaries, and in this country where education is a primary interest, every family has a representative in their halls; a son, a brother, or one of our own kindred is there for his training. But even if we had no son or friend therein, yet the college is part of the community, and it is there for us, is training our teachers, civilizers, and inspirers. It is essentially the most radiating and public of agencies, like, but better than, the light-house, or the alarm-bell, or the sentinel who fires a signal-cannon, or the telegraph which speeds the local news over the land. Besides, it deals with a force which it cannot monopolize or confine, cannot give to those who come to it and refuse to those outside. I have no doubt of the force, and for me the only question is whether the force is inside.

This power which it deals is dear to all. If the colleges were better, if they had any monopoly of it, nay, if they really had it, had the power of imparting valuable thought, creative principles, truths which become powers, thoughts which become talents—if they could cause that a mind not profound should become profound—we should all rush to their gates; instead of contriving inducements to draw students, you would need to set police at the gates to keep order in the in-rushing multitude.

These are giddy times, and, you say, the college will be deserted. No, never was it so much needed. But I say, those were the giddy times which went before these, and the new times are the times of arraignment, times of trial, and times of judgment. ‘Tis because the college was false to its trust, because the scholars did not learn and teach, because they were traders and left their altars and libraries and worship of truth and played the sycophant to presidents and generals and members of Congress, and gave degrees and literary and social honors to those whom they ought to have rebuked and exposed, incurring the contempt of those whom they ought to have put in fear; then the college is suicidal, ceases to be a school; power oozes out of it just as fast as truth does, and instead of overawing the strong, and upholding the good, it is a hospital for decayed tutors.

This Integrity over all partial knowledge and skill, homage to truth—how rare! Few men wish to know how the thing really stands, what is the law of it without reference to persons. Other men are victims of their means—sanity consists in not being subdued by your means.

What is the meaning of the underlined expression in the passage's last paragraph, “how the thing really stands”?

Possible Answers:

What is the position of the thing in question

What is the overarching narrative of the history of the world

What is the movement pattern of the thing being considered

What are the popular opinions regarding the thing in question

What is the truth of the matter

Correct answer:

What is the truth of the matter

Explanation:

The expression "how something stands" means "its status" or "its reality." (Indeed, "status" comes from the same Latin word from which we get "to stand." The "status" is the "standing.") Emerson is saying that few wish to know the reality of a given situation—how it stands in reality. This is what he means when he continues by saying that few wish to know its "law" without merely reducing it to the subjective thoughts of individuals by "reference to persons.”

Example Question #28 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from "The Poet" in Essays: Second Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1844)

Those who are esteemed umpires of taste are often persons who have acquired some knowledge of admired pictures or sculptures and have an inclination for whatever is elegant, but if you inquire whether they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sensual. Their cultivation is local, as if you should rub a log of dry wood in one spot to produce fire, all the rest remaining cold. Their knowledge of the fine arts is some study of rules and particulars, or some limited judgment of color or form, which is exercised for amusement or for show. It is a proof of the shallowness of the doctrine of beauty, as it lies in the minds of our amateurs, that men seem to have lost the perception of the instant dependence of form upon soul. There is no doctrine of forms in our philosophy. We were put into our bodies, as fire is put into a pan, to be carried about; but there is no accurate adjustment between the spirit and the organ, much less is the latter the germination of the former. So in regard to other forms, the intellectual men do not believe in any essential dependence of the material world on thought and volition. Theologians think it a pretty air-castle to talk of the spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud, of a city or a contract, but they prefer to come again to the solid ground of historical evidence; and even the poets are contented with a civil and conformed manner of living, and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe distance from their own experience. But the highest minds of the world have never ceased to explore the double meaning, or, shall I say, the quadruple, or the centuple, or much more manifold meaning, of every sensuous fact: Orpheus, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Plato, Plutarch, Dante, Swedenborg, and the masters of sculpture, picture, and poetry. For we are not pans and barrows, nor even porters of the fire and torch-bearers, but children of the fire, made of it, and only the same divinity transmuted, and at two or three removes, when we know least about it. And this hidden truth, that the fountains whence all this river of Time, and its creatures, floweth, are intrinsically ideal and beautiful, draws us to the consideration of the nature and functions of the Poet, or the man of Beauty, to the means and materials he uses, and to the general aspect of the art in the present time.

The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet is representative. He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common-wealth. The young man reveres men of genius, because, to speak truly, they are more himself than he is. They receive of the soul as he also receives, but they more. Nature enhances her beauty to the eye of loving men from their belief that the poet is beholding her shows at the same time. He is isolated among his contemporaries, by truth and by his art, but with this consolation in his pursuits, that they will draw all men sooner or later. For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.

In the underlined portion of the first paragraph, what is the author lamenting?

Possible Answers:

That philosophy has traditionally refused to discuss poetry and art

That people discount any art that is initially difficult to understand

That people do not recognize a connection between physical and mental existence.

That critics only understand specific aspects of art and aesthetics, missing the “big picture” of the subject

That our fallible physical bodies do not reflect the nobility of our thoughts

Correct answer:

That people do not recognize a connection between physical and mental existence.

Explanation:

In the underlined selection, the author complains that “men seem to have lost the perception of the instant dependence of form upon soul.” Later, he also states that “there is no accurate adjustment between the spirit and the organ.” Here, through the author’s complex syntax, we can see the kernel of his complaint: that people do not recognize a connection between physical existence (“form” and “the organ”) and mental or spiritual existence (“soul” and “the spirit”).

Example Question #29 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from "The Poet" in Essays: Second Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1844)

Those who are esteemed umpires of taste are often persons who have acquired some knowledge of admired pictures or sculptures and have an inclination for whatever is elegant, but if you inquire whether they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sensual. Their cultivation is local, as if you should rub a log of dry wood in one spot to produce fire, all the rest remaining cold. Their knowledge of the fine arts is some study of rules and particulars, or some limited judgment of color or form, which is exercised for amusement or for show. It is a proof of the shallowness of the doctrine of beauty, as it lies in the minds of our amateurs, that men seem to have lost the perception of the instant dependence of form upon soul. There is no doctrine of forms in our philosophy. We were put into our bodies, as fire is put into a pan, to be carried about; but there is no accurate adjustment between the spirit and the organ, much less is the latter the germination of the former. So in regard to other forms, the intellectual men do not believe in any essential dependence of the material world on thought and volition. Theologians think it a pretty air-castle to talk of the spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud, of a city or a contract, but they prefer to come again to the solid ground of historical evidence; and even the poets are contented with a civil and conformed manner of living, and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe distance from their own experience. But the highest minds of the world have never ceased to explore the double meaning, or, shall I say, the quadruple, or the centuple, or much more manifold meaning, of every sensuous fact: Orpheus, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Plato, Plutarch, Dante, Swedenborg, and the masters of sculpture, picture, and poetry. For we are not pans and barrows, nor even porters of the fire and torch-bearers, but children of the fire, made of it, and only the same divinity transmuted, and at two or three removes, when we know least about it. And this hidden truth, that the fountains whence all this river of Time, and its creatures, floweth, are intrinsically ideal and beautiful, draws us to the consideration of the nature and functions of the Poet, or the man of Beauty, to the means and materials he uses, and to the general aspect of the art in the present time.

The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet is representative. He stands among partial men for the complete man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common-wealth. The young man reveres men of genius, because, to speak truly, they are more himself than he is. They receive of the soul as he also receives, but they more. Nature enhances her beauty to the eye of loving men from their belief that the poet is beholding her shows at the same time. He is isolated among his contemporaries, by truth and by his art, but with this consolation in his pursuits, that they will draw all men sooner or later. For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.

The underlined phrase “a pretty air-castle” can best be understood to mean which of the following?

Possible Answers:

a necessary exercise

a functional but aesthetically unpleasant object

failed practice attempts made as one develops a skill

an edifice built on top of a mountain

an amusing but useless enterprise

Correct answer:

an amusing but useless enterprise

Explanation:

The “pretty air-castle” is compared with the action of “talk[ing] of the spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud,” and is contrasted with “the solid ground of historical evidence.” The author doesn’t appear to consider talking about the spiritual meaning of objects is not “a necessary exercise,” but instead, “an amusing but useless enterprise.” A “castle in the air” is a phrase that typically means an idealistic but unachievable idea, dream, or goal, and the author is here making use of that meaning.

Example Question #1 : Meaning In Context

From “Essay on Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious utilitarianism of Aristotle, "i maëstri di color che sanno," the two headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy. This acknowledged master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived—whose fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his native city illustrious—was put to death by his countrymen, after a judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. Impiety, in denying the gods recognized by the State; indeed his accuser asserted (see the Apologia) that he believed in no gods at all. Immorality, in being, by his doctrines and instructions, a "corrupter of youth." Of these charges the tribunal, there is every ground for believing, honestly found him guilty, and condemned the man who probably of all then born had deserved best of mankind, to be put to death as a criminal.

To pass from this to the only other instance of judicial iniquity, the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would not be an anti-climax: the event which took place on Calvary rather more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignominiously put to death, as what? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. The feelings with which mankind now regard these lamentable transactions, especially the later of the two, render them extremely unjust in their judgment of the unhappy actors. These were, to all appearance, not bad men—not worse than men most commonly are, but rather the contrary; men who possessed in a full, or somewhat more than a full measure, the religious, moral, and patriotic feelings of their time and people: the very kind of men who, in all times, our own included, have every chance of passing through life blameless and respected. The high-priest who rent his garments when the words were pronounced, which, according to all the ideas of his country, constituted the blackest guilt, was in all probability quite as sincere in his horror and indignation, as the generality of respectable and pious men now are in the religious and moral sentiments they profess; and most of those who now shudder at his conduct, if they had lived in his time, and been born Jews, would have acted precisely as he did. Orthodox Christians who are tempted to think that those who stoned to death the first martyrs must have been worse men than they themselves are, ought to remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul.

What does Mill mean by “would not be an anti-climax”?

Possible Answers:

The case of Jesus is not comparable to that of Socrates.

The example of Jesus provides a provocative counter-example to a commonly held belief about important people.

Jesus's death represents the culmination of the gospel stories.

The case of Jesus is at least as striking an example as that of Socrates, if not more striking.

It is necessary to use the example of Jesus, given the audience to whom Mill is writing.

Correct answer:

The case of Jesus is at least as striking an example as that of Socrates, if not more striking.

Explanation:

A "climax" is a culmination of something. The "climax" of a story is the "roaring conclusion" toward which the whole thing progresses. If something is "anti-climactic," it falls short of what it could be. This would be like a baseball player being drafted for a minor league team after years of successful playing in the major leagues. The point here is that the case of Jesus, which Mill discusses in the second paragraph, is perhaps just a striking as that of Socrates. He goes on to provide detailed comparisons and reflections on this.

Example Question #32 : Phrase Usage

From “Essay on Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue, the source equally of the lofty inspiration of Plato and the judicious utilitarianism of Aristotle, "i maëstri di color che sanno," the two headsprings of ethical as of all other philosophy. This acknowledged master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived—whose fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his native city illustrious—was put to death by his countrymen, after a judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. Impiety, in denying the gods recognized by the State; indeed his accuser asserted (see the Apologia) that he believed in no gods at all. Immorality, in being, by his doctrines and instructions, a "corrupter of youth." Of these charges the tribunal, there is every ground for believing, honestly found him guilty, and condemned the man who probably of all then born had deserved best of mankind, to be put to death as a criminal.

To pass from this to the only other instance of judicial iniquity, the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would not be an anti-climax: the event which took place on Calvary rather more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignominiously put to death, as what? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. The feelings with which mankind now regard these lamentable transactions, especially the later of the two, render them extremely unjust in their judgment of the unhappy actors. These were, to all appearance, not bad men—not worse than men most commonly are, but rather the contrary; men who possessed in a full, or somewhat more than a full measure, the religious, moral, and patriotic feelings of their time and people: the very kind of men who, in all times, our own included, have every chance of passing through life blameless and respected. The high-priest who rent his garments when the words were pronounced, which, according to all the ideas of his country, constituted the blackest guilt, was in all probability quite as sincere in his horror and indignation, as the generality of respectable and pious men now are in the religious and moral sentiments they profess; and most of those who now shudder at his conduct, if they had lived in his time, and been born Jews, would have acted precisely as he did. Orthodox Christians who are tempted to think that those who stoned to death the first martyrs must have been worse men than they themselves are, ought to remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul.

What does Mill mean by the underlined phrase “the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue”? 

Possible Answers:

Socrates was the first virtuous man in Western society.

Socrates is the first virtuous man mentioned in writing.

Socrates was the founder of a great movement of religious reform that swept over Athens.

Everyone who knew Socrates mimicked his behavior.

Socrates is a pivotal example of virtue for Western society.

Correct answer:

Socrates is a pivotal example of virtue for Western society.

Explanation:

When something is a prototype, it is the first of its kind and is often the model on which later things are based. As the "head and prototype," Socrates, Mill claims, became an important model of virtue for all later Western thinkers and society. Many people—not merely his direct students—have looked to him as their model for virtuous conduct. Indeed, the great Dutch humanist, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, referred to Socrates as being a saint!

Example Question #33 : Phrase Usage

Adapted from Volume 1 of History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage (1887)

Change is a law of life, and the development of society a natural growth. Although to this law we owe the discoveries of unknown worlds, the inventions of machinery, swifter modes of travel, and clearer ideas as to the value of human life and thought, yet each successive change has met with the most determined opposition. Fortunately, progress is not the result of pre-arranged plans of individuals, but is born of a fortuitous combination of circumstances that compel certain results, overcoming the natural inertia of mankind. There is a certain enjoyment in habitual sluggishness; in rising each morning with the same ideas as the night before; in retiring each night with the thoughts of the morning. This inertia of mind and body has ever held the multitude in chains. Thousands have thus surrendered their most sacred rights of conscience. In all periods of human development, thinking has been punished as a crime, which is reason sufficient to account for the general passive resignation of the masses to their conditions and environments.

Again, "subjection to the powers that be" has been the lesson of both church and state, throttling science, checking invention, crushing free thought, persecuting and torturing those who have dared to speak or act outside of established authority. Anathemas and the stake have upheld the church, banishment and the scaffold the throne, and the freedom of mankind has ever been sacrificed to the idea of protection. So entirely has the human will been enslaved in all classes of society in the past, that monarchs have humbled themselves to popes, nations have knelt at the feet of monarchs, and individuals have sold themselves to others under the subtle promise of "protection"—a word that simply means release from all responsibility, all use of one's own faculties—a word that has ever blinded people to its true significance. Under authority and this false promise of "protection," certain beliefs have been inculcated, certain crimes invented, in order to intimidate the masses. Hence, the church made free thought the worst of sins, and the spirit of inquiry the worst of blasphemies; while the state proclaimed her temporal power of divine origin, and all rebellion high treason alike to God and the king, to be speedily and severely punished. In this union of church and state mankind touched the lowest depth of degradation.

All these influences fell with crushing weight on woman; more sensitive, helpless, and imaginative, she suffered a thousand fears and wrongs where man did one. Lecky, in his "History of Rationalism in Europe," shows that the vast majority of the victims of fanaticism and witchcraft, burned, drowned, and tortured, were women. Society, including our systems of jurisprudence, civil and political theories, trade, commerce, education, religion, friendships, and family life, have all been framed on the sole idea of man's rights. Hence, he takes upon himself the responsibility of directing and controlling the powers of woman, under that all-sufficient excuse of tyranny, "divine right."

The people who demand authority for every thought and action, who look to others for wisdom and protection, are those who perpetuate tyranny. The thinkers and actors who find their authority within, are those who inaugurate freedom. Obedience to outside authority to which woman has everywhere been trained, has not only dwarfed her capacity, but made her a retarding force in civilization, recognized at last by statesmen as a dangerous element to free institutions. Hence, in the scientific education of woman, in the training of her faculties to independent thought and logical reasoning, lies the hope of the future.

Which of these answers best restates the author’s meaning in the underlined portion of text, “In this union of church and state mankind touched the lowest depth of degradation.”

Possible Answers:

The combined efforts of the church and state to subjugate mankind are an indignity.

The church and state only pretend to work together when it suits their combined desire to control humanity.

Women have suffered far worse than men as a result of the overwhelming power of the church and state.

The combined efforts of church and state have successfully protected humans from the worst of chaos, but at the cost of personal liberty.

The church and state are forces for good when it comes to affecting positive change in the world.

Correct answer:

The combined efforts of the church and state to subjugate mankind are an indignity.

Explanation:

According to the author, the combined efforts of church and state are directed towards subjugating mankind. In the indicated sentence, the author says that their "union," "mankind touched the lowest depth of degradation." The answer choice "The combined efforts of the church and state to subjugate mankind are an indignity" captures the sense of the author's remark. While the author would most likely agree with the statement "Women have suffered far worse than men as a result of the overwhelming power of the church and state," it does not capture the meaning of the indicated line.

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