LSAT Reading : Common Elements of Two Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Common Elements Of Two Passages

Passage adapted from G. C. Field's Moral Theory: an introduction (1921)

Moral Philosophy, as here conceived, is a criticism of our moral categories. We all know more or less what a moral judgment is, and we are all, of course, constantly making them. So-and-so is a good (or a bad) man, such-and-such an action is right (or wrong), are two types of the commonest forms of them. In such judgments, we use the ideas, or, to adopt our phraseology, the categories of good or bad, right or wrong. And in ordinary moral thinking we do not criticize these categories. Our interest then is centred in the question whether these or similar judgments are true or not. Is so-and-so a good man? Is this action right or wrong? We assume that there is something which we can call good or right, and we ask where it is present, what men or actions are good or right. But in Philosophy we shift our centre of interest. We are no longer concerned primarily with the question whether, for instance, any particular action is right or wrong; the question that we raise as moral philosophers is, “What does 'good' or 'right' mean?” That is, we are engaged in examining and criticizing our moral categories themselves, instead of, as in ordinary thinking, using and applying them in particular cases.

Passage adapted from James Seth, A Study of Ethical Principles (1898)

Ethics is the science of morality or conduct. It is accordingly often called practical, as opposed to theoretical, philosophy or metaphysics. The description is correct, if it is meant that ethics is the philosophy or theory of practice. It suggests, however, the question of the relations of moral theory and practice. Life or practice always precedes its theory or explanation; we are men before we are moralists. The moral life, though it implies an intellectual element from the first, is, in its beginnings, and for long, a matter of instinct, of tradition, of authority. The conceptions of good and evil, virtue and vice, duty and desert, which guide the life, not merely of the child but of the mass of mankind, are largely accepted, like intellectual notions, in blind and unquestioning faith. But moral, like intellectual, manhood implies emancipation from such a merely instinctive life; moral maturity brings with it reflection upon the meaning of life. The good man, like the wise man, puts away childish things; as a rational being, he must seek to reduce his life, like his world, to system. The contradictions and rivalries of ethical codes, the varying canons of moral criticism, the apparent chaos of moral practice, force upon him the need of a moral theory. This demand for a rationale of morality, for principles which shall give his life coherence, marks the transition from the practical to the theoretical standpoint, from life itself to its theoretic understanding.

Both passages are primarily concerned with answering which of the following questions?

Possible Answers:

What are the defects in everyday conventional moral thinking?

What is the relationship between theroretical philosophy and action?

What distinguishes ethics from other branches of philosophy?

Is the study of ethics necessary in order to act morally?

What is the purpose of moral philosophy?

Correct answer:

What is the purpose of moral philosophy?


While both passages do mention some of the problems of conventional forms of morality, addressing these problems is not the primary purpose of both passages; rather, introducing the purpose and scope of philosophical ethics is. While the other noncredited responses are parts of this explanation in one passage or the other, they cannot be properly called the primary purpose of both.

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