ISEE Middle Level Reading : Comparing and Contrasting in History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Middle Level Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting In History Passages

Adapted from Scientific American Supplement No. 841 Vol. XXXIII (February 13th 1892)

From the earliest times of which we have record, man has been disposed to strive with his fellow man, either to maintain his own rights or to possess himself of some rights or material advantage enjoyed by others. When one or only a few men encroach on the rights of others in an organized community, they may be restrained by the legal machinery of the state, such as courts, police, and prisons, but when a whole community or state rises against another, the civil law becomes powerless and a state of war ensues. It is not proposed here to discuss the ethics of this question, nor the desirability of providing a suitable court of nations for settling all international difficulties without war. The great advantage of such a system of avoiding war is admitted by all intelligent people. We notice here a singular inconsistency in the principles upon which this strife is carried on, viz.: If it be a single combat, either a friendly contest or a deadly one, the parties are expected to contest on equal terms as nearly as may be arranged; but if large numbers are engaged, or in other words, when the contest becomes war, the rule is reversed and each party is expected to take every possible advantage of his adversary, even to the extent of stratagem or deception. In fact, it has passed into a proverb that "all things are fair in love and war."

According to the author, how does single combat differ from combat in large numbers?

Possible Answers:

In single combat, the stakes are much lower and the combat less relevant than in a state of war.

In single combat, the two parties are supposed to fight as fairly as possible, whereas in a state of war, each party can act as deceptively as possible to gain an advantage.

In single combat, the two parties are expected to employ whichever means are available to them to gain the upper hand, whereas in a state of war, the two parties are expected to engage under a set of rules.

In single combat, the strongest man usually prevails, but in a state of war, it is the side which is most cunning and most willing to employ duplicitous means that often emerges victorious.

Only foolish people find themselves engaged in single combat, whereas the brave and the virtuous are often found engaged in warfare.

Correct answer:

In single combat, the two parties are supposed to fight as fairly as possible, whereas in a state of war, each party can act as deceptively as possible to gain an advantage.

Explanation:

Regarding the difference between single combat and a state of war, the author says, “If it be a single combat . . . the parties are expected to contest on equal terms as nearly as may be arranged, but if large numbers are engaged . . . the rule is reversed and each party is expected to take every possible advantage of his adversary, even to the extent of stratagem or deception.” The difference is summarized by the author when he says “'all things are fair in love and war.'” Essentially, the difference is that in single combat, the two parties are expected to keep things as fair and equal as possible, but in war the opposite is true.

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