LSAT Reading : Main Idea of Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Breckenridge Carnegie (1915)

Our English has changed with the years so that many words now connote more than they did originally. This is true of the word "monotonous." From having but one tone, it has come to mean more broadly, lack of variation.

The monotonous speaker not only drones along in the same volume and pitch of tone, but uses always the same emphasis, the same speed, the same thoughts—or dispenses with thought altogether.

Monotony, the cardinal and most common sin of the public speaker, is not a transgression—it is rather a sin of omission.

Emerson says, "The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety." That is just what the monotonous speaker fails to do—he does not detach one thought or phrase from another; they are all expressed in the same manner.

To tell you that your speech is monotonous may mean very little to you, so let us look at the nature—and the curse—of monotony in other spheres of life, then we shall appreciate more fully how it will blight an otherwise good speech.

If the Victrola in the adjoining apartment grinds out just three selections over and over again, it is pretty safe to assume that your neighbor has no other records. If a speaker uses only a few of his powers, it points very plainly to the fact that the rest of his powers are not developed. Monotony reveals our limitations.

In its effect on its victim, monotony is actually deadly—it will drive the bloom from the cheek and the luster from the eye as quickly as sin, and often leads to viciousness. The worst punishment that human ingenuity has ever been able to invent is extreme monotony—solitary confinement. Lay a marble on the table and do nothing eighteen hours of the day but change that marble from one point to another and back again, and you will go insane if you continue long enough.

Which one of the following best encapsulates the author's main point?

Possible Answers:

Anyone working toward becoming a public speaker should focus first on speech writing.

Public speakers do not often understand what they need to do in order to be capable and effective.

The most problematic issue for any public speaker is being uninteresting and unexciting.

Only people who are naturally gifted public speakers should seriously pursue public speaking.

Monotony is a tool that needs to be harnessed for a person to become a truly excellent public speaker.

Correct answer:

The most problematic issue for any public speaker is being uninteresting and unexciting.

Explanation:

The author continually rails against monotony, but comes at it from a variety of different perspectives to show how monotony can affect speaking in a number of ways. With many of these examples, the author comes back to the point that monotony essentially means lack of variation. This makes the author's point essentially that too many public speakers fall into the trap of being uninteresting and unexciting.

Example Question #2 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Last Man by Mary Shelley (1826)

I fulfilled my commission; I saw Karazza. He was somewhat surprised; he would see, he said, what could be done, but it required time, and Raymond had ordered me to return by noon. It was impossible to affect anything in so short a time. I must stay till the next day, or come back, after having reported the present state of things to the general. My choice was easily made. A restlessness, a fear of what was about to betide, a doubt as to Raymond's purposes, urged me to return without delay to his quarters. Quitting the Seven Towers, I rode eastward towards the Sweet Waters. I took a circuitous path, principally for the sake of going to the top of the mount before mentioned, which commanded a view of the city. I had my glass with me. The city basked under the noon-day sun, and the venerable walls formed its picturesque boundary. Immediately before me was the Top Kapou, the gate near which Mahomet had made the breach by which he entered the city. Trees gigantic and aged grew near; before the gate I discerned a crowd of moving human figures—with intense curiosity I lifted my glass to my eye. I saw Lord Raymond on his charger; a small company of officers had gathered about him, and behind was a promiscuous concourse of soldiers and subalterns, their discipline lost, their arms thrown aside; no music sounded, no banners streamed. The only flag among them was one which Raymond carried; he pointed with it to the gate of the city. The circle round him fell back. With angry gestures he leapt from his horse, and seizing a hatchet that hung from his saddle-bow, went with the apparent intention of battering down the opposing gate. A few men came to aid him; their numbers increased; under their united blows the obstacle was vanquished, gate, portcullis, and fence were demolished, and the wide sun-lit way, leading to the heart of the city, now lay open before them. The men shrank back; they seemed afraid of what they had already done, and stood as if they expected some Mighty Phantom to stalk in offended majesty from the opening. Raymond sprung lightly on his horse, grasped the standard, and with words which I could not hear (but his gestures, being their fit accompaniment, were marked by passionate energy), he seemed to adjure their assistance and companionship; even as he spoke, the crowd receded from him. Indignation now transported him; his words I guessed were fraught with disdain—then turning from his coward followers, he addressed himself to enter the city alone. His very horse seemed to back from the fatal entrance; his dog, his faithful dog, lay moaning and supplicating in his path—in a moment more, he had plunged the rowels into the sides of the stung animal, who bounded forward, and he, the gateway passed, was galloping up the broad and desert street.

Until this moment my soul had been in my eyes only. I had gazed with wonder, mixed with fear and enthusiasm. The latter feeling now predominated. I forgot the distance between us: "I will go with thee, Raymond!" I cried, but, my eye removed from the glass, I could scarce discern the pigmy forms of the crowd, which about a mile from me surrounded the gate; the form of Raymond was lost. Stung with impatience, I urged my horse with force of spur and loosened reins down the acclivity, that, before danger could arrive, I might be at the side of my noble, godlike friend. A number of buildings and trees intervened, when I had reached the plain, hiding the city from my view. But at that moment a crash was heard. Thunder-like it reverberated through the sky, while the air was darkened. A moment more and the old walls again met my sight, while over them hovered a murky cloud; fragments of buildings whirled above, half seen in smoke, while flames burst out beneath, and continued explosions filled the air with terrific thunders. Flying from the mass of falling ruin which leapt over the high walls, and shook the ivy towers, a crowd of soldiers made for the road by which I came; I was surrounded, hemmed in by them, unable to get forward. My impatience rose to its utmost; I stretched out my hands to the men; I conjured them to turn back and save their General, the conqueror of Stamboul, the liberator of Greece; tears, aye tears, in warm flow gushed from my eyes—I would not believe in his destruction, yet every mass that darkened the air seemed to bear with it a portion of the martyred Raymond. Horrible sights were shaped to me in the turbid cloud that hovered over the city; and my only relief was derived from the struggles I made to approach the gate. Yet when I affected my purpose, all I could discern within the precincts of the massive walls was a city of fire: the open way through which Raymond had ridden was enveloped in smoke and flame. After an interval the explosions ceased, but the flames still shot up from various quarters; the dome of St. Sophia had disappeared. Strange to say (the result perhaps of the concussion of air occasioned by the blowing up of the city), huge, white thunder clouds lifted themselves up from the southern horizon, and gathered overhead; they were the first blots on the blue expanse that I had seen for months, and amidst this havoc and despair they inspired pleasure. The vault above became obscured, lightning flashed from the heavy masses, followed instantaneously by crashing thunder; then the big rain fell. The flames of the city bent beneath it, and the smoke and dust arising from the ruins was dissipated.

Which one of the following most accurately states the main point of the passage?

Possible Answers:

The narrator wants to warn Raymond about his actions, but is halted by retreating troops.

The narrator is riding back to meet Raymond and witnesses the cataclysmic destruction of the city. 

The narrator is returning to Raymond on his orders but is stopped by a destructive storm.

The narrator is adamant that Raymond will die and wishes to witness that prediction coming true.

The narrator is heading back to Raymond's siege when the narrator witnesses a destructive mutiny.

Correct answer:

The narrator is riding back to meet Raymond and witnesses the cataclysmic destruction of the city. 

Explanation:

To determine the main point of the passage, you need to simply restate the events. We know from the start of the passage that the narrator is riding back to meet Raymond, fearing some impending doom, when he or she witnesses Raymond enter the city as it catches on fire. We cannot say that the narrator is stopped in his or her path by retreating troops or a destructive storm. The mutiny is not destructive, as it is not a violent one. The narrator does not say that he or she wants to warn Raymond, merely that he or she wants to return because he or she has “a fear of what was about to betide.”

Example Question #3 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Last Man by Mary Shelley (1826)

I fulfilled my commission; I saw Karazza. He was somewhat surprised; he would see, he said, what could be done, but it required time, and Raymond had ordered me to return by noon. It was impossible to affect anything in so short a time. I must stay till the next day, or come back, after having reported the present state of things to the general. My choice was easily made. A restlessness, a fear of what was about to betide, a doubt as to Raymond's purposes, urged me to return without delay to his quarters. Quitting the Seven Towers, I rode eastward towards the Sweet Waters. I took a circuitous path, principally for the sake of going to the top of the mount before mentioned, which commanded a view of the city. I had my glass with me. The city basked under the noon-day sun, and the venerable walls formed its picturesque boundary. Immediately before me was the Top Kapou, the gate near which Mahomet had made the breach by which he entered the city. Trees gigantic and aged grew near; before the gate I discerned a crowd of moving human figures—with intense curiosity I lifted my glass to my eye. I saw Lord Raymond on his charger; a small company of officers had gathered about him, and behind was a promiscuous concourse of soldiers and subalterns, their discipline lost, their arms thrown aside; no music sounded, no banners streamed. The only flag among them was one which Raymond carried; he pointed with it to the gate of the city. The circle round him fell back. With angry gestures he leapt from his horse, and seizing a hatchet that hung from his saddle-bow, went with the apparent intention of battering down the opposing gate. A few men came to aid him; their numbers increased; under their united blows the obstacle was vanquished, gate, portcullis, and fence were demolished, and the wide sun-lit way, leading to the heart of the city, now lay open before them. The men shrank back; they seemed afraid of what they had already done, and stood as if they expected some Mighty Phantom to stalk in offended majesty from the opening. Raymond sprung lightly on his horse, grasped the standard, and with words which I could not hear (but his gestures, being their fit accompaniment, were marked by passionate energy), he seemed to adjure their assistance and companionship; even as he spoke, the crowd receded from him. Indignation now transported him; his words I guessed were fraught with disdain—then turning from his coward followers, he addressed himself to enter the city alone. His very horse seemed to back from the fatal entrance; his dog, his faithful dog, lay moaning and supplicating in his path—in a moment more, he had plunged the rowels into the sides of the stung animal, who bounded forward, and he, the gateway passed, was galloping up the broad and desert street.

Until this moment my soul had been in my eyes only. I had gazed with wonder, mixed with fear and enthusiasm. The latter feeling now predominated. I forgot the distance between us: "I will go with thee, Raymond!" I cried, but, my eye removed from the glass, I could scarce discern the pigmy forms of the crowd, which about a mile from me surrounded the gate; the form of Raymond was lost. Stung with impatience, I urged my horse with force of spur and loosened reins down the acclivity, that, before danger could arrive, I might be at the side of my noble, godlike friend. A number of buildings and trees intervened, when I had reached the plain, hiding the city from my view. But at that moment a crash was heard. Thunder-like it reverberated through the sky, while the air was darkened. A moment more and the old walls again met my sight, while over them hovered a murky cloud; fragments of buildings whirled above, half seen in smoke, while flames burst out beneath, and continued explosions filled the air with terrific thunders. Flying from the mass of falling ruin which leapt over the high walls, and shook the ivy towers, a crowd of soldiers made for the road by which I came; I was surrounded, hemmed in by them, unable to get forward. My impatience rose to its utmost; I stretched out my hands to the men; I conjured them to turn back and save their General, the conqueror of Stamboul, the liberator of Greece; tears, aye tears, in warm flow gushed from my eyes—I would not believe in his destruction, yet every mass that darkened the air seemed to bear with it a portion of the martyred Raymond. Horrible sights were shaped to me in the turbid cloud that hovered over the city; and my only relief was derived from the struggles I made to approach the gate. Yet when I affected my purpose, all I could discern within the precincts of the massive walls was a city of fire: the open way through which Raymond had ridden was enveloped in smoke and flame. After an interval the explosions ceased, but the flames still shot up from various quarters; the dome of St. Sophia had disappeared. Strange to say (the result perhaps of the concussion of air occasioned by the blowing up of the city), huge, white thunder clouds lifted themselves up from the southern horizon, and gathered overhead; they were the first blots on the blue expanse that I had seen for months, and amidst this havoc and despair they inspired pleasure. The vault above became obscured, lightning flashed from the heavy masses, followed instantaneously by crashing thunder; then the big rain fell. The flames of the city bent beneath it, and the smoke and dust arising from the ruins was dissipated.

Which one of the following questions is central to the passage?

Possible Answers:

Is it necessary to take control of the city?

When will the siege be broken?

How is Raymond's struggle linked to the existence of mankind?

What will the fate of Raymond be?

What horrors will follow this event?

Correct answer:

What will the fate of Raymond be?

Explanation:

If you are familiar with the book from which the passage is drawn, you may have mistakenly chosen the answer “How is Raymond's struggle linked to the existence of mankind?” The only safe answer which is “central” to the passage is “What will the fate of Raymond be?” as, in the first paragraph, the narrator talks about his or her fears of Raymond's well-being and, at the end, we can assume Raymond is dead, but we are still left without proof that he has perished.

Example Question #4 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from the Introduction to Letters from an American Farmer (Crèvecoeur; 1782) by Warren Barton Blake (1912)

Except by naturalization, the author of Letters from an American Farmer was not an American, and he was no ordinary farmer. Yet why quarrel with him for the naming of his book, or for his signing it "J. Hector Saint-John," when the "Hector" of his title-pages and American biographers was only a prenom de faintaisie? We owe some concessions to the author of so charming a book, to the eighteenth-century Thoreau. His life is certainly more interesting than the real Thoreau's—and would be, even if it did not present many contradictions. Our records of that life are in the highest degree inexact; he himself is wanting in accuracy as to the date of more than one event. The records, however, agree that Crèvecoeur belonged to the petite noblesse of Normandy. The date of his birth was January 31, 1735, the place was Caen, and his full name (his great-grandson and biographer vouches for it) was Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur. The boy was well enough brought up, but without more than the attention that his birth gave him the right to expect; he divided the years of his boyhood between Caen, where his father's town-house stood, and the College du Mont, where the Jesuits gave him his education. A letter dated 1785 and addressed to his children tells us all that we know of his school-days; though it is said, too, that he distinguished himself in mathematics. "If you only knew," the reminiscent father of a family exclaims in this letter, "in what shabby lodging, in what a dark and chilly closet, I was mewed up at your age; with what severity I was treated; how I was fed and dressed!" Already his powers of observation, that were so to distinguish him, were quickened by his old-world milieu.

"From my earliest youth," he wrote in 1803, "I had a passion for taking in all the antiques that I met with: moth-eaten furniture, tapestries, family portraits, Gothic manuscripts (that I had learned how to decipher) had for me an indefinable charm. A little later on, I loved to walk in the solitude of cemeteries, to examine the tombs and to trace out their mossy epitaphs. I knew most of the churches of the canton, the date of their foundation, and what they contained of interest in the way of pictures and sculptures."

The boy's gift of accurate and keen observation was to be tested soon by a very different class of objects; there were to be no crumbling saints and canvases of bed-chamber grooms for him to study in the forests of America, no reminders of the greatness of his country's past, and the honor of his family.

From school, the future woodsman passed over into England. A distant relative was living near Salisbury; for one reason or another the boy was sent thither to finish his schooling. From England, with what motives we know not, he set out for the New World, where he was to spend his busiest and happiest days. In the Bibliotheca Americana Nova Rich makes the statement that Crèvecoeur was but sixteen when he made the plunge, and others have followed Rich in this error. The lad's age was really not less than nineteen or twenty. According to the family legend, his ship touched at Lisbon on the way out; one cannot decide whether this was just before or immediately after the great earthquake. Then to New France, where he joined Montcalm. Entering the service as cadet, he advanced to the rank of lieutenant; was mentioned in the Gazette; shared in the French successes; drew maps of the forests and block-houses that found their way to the king's cabinet; served with Montcalm in the attack upon Fort William Henry. With that the record is broken off: we can less definitely associate his name with the humiliation of the French in America than with their brief triumphs. Yet it is quite certain, says Robert de Crèvecoeur, his descendant, that he did not return to France with the rag-tag of the defeated army. Quebec fell before Wolfe's attack in September 1759; at some time in the course of the year 1760 we may suppose the young officer to have entered the British colonies, to have adopted his family name of "Saint John" (Saint-Jean), and to have gradually worked his way south, probably by the Hudson. The reader of the Letters hardly supposes him to have enjoyed his frontier life; nor is there any means of knowing how much of that life it was his fortune to lead. In time, he found himself as far south as Pennsylvania. He visited Shippensburg and Lancaster and Carlisle; perhaps he resided at or near one of these towns. Many years later, when his son Louis purchased a farm of two hundred acres from Chancellor Livingstone, at Navesink, near the Blue Mountains, Crèvecoeur the elder was still remembered, and it may have been at this epoch that he visited the place. During the term of his military service under Montcalm, Crèvecoeur saw something of the Great Lakes and the outlying country; prior to his experience as a cultivator, and, indeed, after he had settled down as such, he "travelled like Plato," even visited Bermuda, by his own account. Not until 1764, however, have we any positive evidence of his whereabouts; it was in April of that year that he took out naturalization papers at New York. Some months later, he installed himself on the farm variously called Greycourt and Pine-Hill, in the same state; he drained a great marsh there, and seems to have practiced agriculture upon a generous scale. The certificate of the marriage of Crèvecoeur to Mehitable Tippet, of Yonkers is dated September 20, 1769, and of this union three children were the issue. And more than children: for with the marriage ceremony once performed by the worthy Tetard, a clergyman of New York, formerly settled over a French Reformed Church at Charleston, South Carolina, Crèvecoeur is more definitely than ever the "American Farmer"; he has thrown in his lot with that new country; his children are to be called after their parent's adopted name, Saint-John; the responsibilities of the adventurer are multiplied; his life in America has become a matter more easy to trace and richer, perhaps, in meaning.

Which one of the following most accurately states the main point of the passage?

Possible Answers:

A demonstration of how a man like Crèvecoeur could become an American at his point in time

A recital of the importance of early American writers on more contemporary works

An assessment of Crèvecoeur's life with emphasis on the importance of his time in America

A summation of Crèvecoeur's life with an argument against the support of his claims to being an American

A distinction between the literary life and realistic life led by one man

Correct answer:

An assessment of Crèvecoeur's life with emphasis on the importance of his time in America

Explanation:

The main point of the passage is to assess Crèvecoeur's life and to emphasize the importance of his being in America. We know this because the author of the passage is adamant that Crèvecoeur's life is harder to study in the period before he moved to America and decided to settle down as a farmer and husband. The author wants to establish Crèvecoeur as “the eighteenth-century Thoreau.” He also wants to justify the book Letters From An American Farmer which Crèvecoeur wrote. The main point of this passage as an introduction to said book is to assess the important aspects of Crèvecoeur's life which built up to him writing the book, specifically his time in America.

Example Question #5 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from the Introduction to Letters from an American Farmer (Crèvecoeur; 1782) by Warren Barton Blake (1912)

Except by naturalization, the author of Letters from an American Farmer was not an American, and he was no ordinary farmer. Yet why quarrel with him for the naming of his book, or for his signing it "J. Hector Saint-John," when the "Hector" of his title-pages and American biographers was only a prenom de faintaisie? We owe some concessions to the author of so charming a book, to the eighteenth-century Thoreau. His life is certainly more interesting than the real Thoreau's—and would be, even if it did not present many contradictions. Our records of that life are in the highest degree inexact; he himself is wanting in accuracy as to the date of more than one event. The records, however, agree that Crèvecoeur belonged to the petite noblesse of Normandy. The date of his birth was January 31, 1735, the place was Caen, and his full name (his great-grandson and biographer vouches for it) was Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur. The boy was well enough brought up, but without more than the attention that his birth gave him the right to expect; he divided the years of his boyhood between Caen, where his father's town-house stood, and the College du Mont, where the Jesuits gave him his education. A letter dated 1785 and addressed to his children tells us all that we know of his school-days; though it is said, too, that he distinguished himself in mathematics. "If you only knew," the reminiscent father of a family exclaims in this letter, "in what shabby lodging, in what a dark and chilly closet, I was mewed up at your age; with what severity I was treated; how I was fed and dressed!" Already his powers of observation, that were so to distinguish him, were quickened by his old-world milieu.

"From my earliest youth," he wrote in 1803, "I had a passion for taking in all the antiques that I met with: moth-eaten furniture, tapestries, family portraits, Gothic manuscripts (that I had learned how to decipher) had for me an indefinable charm. A little later on, I loved to walk in the solitude of cemeteries, to examine the tombs and to trace out their mossy epitaphs. I knew most of the churches of the canton, the date of their foundation, and what they contained of interest in the way of pictures and sculptures."

The boy's gift of accurate and keen observation was to be tested soon by a very different class of objects; there were to be no crumbling saints and canvases of bed-chamber grooms for him to study in the forests of America, no reminders of the greatness of his country's past, and the honor of his family.

From school, the future woodsman passed over into England. A distant relative was living near Salisbury; for one reason or another the boy was sent thither to finish his schooling. From England, with what motives we know not, he set out for the New World, where he was to spend his busiest and happiest days. In the Bibliotheca Americana Nova Rich makes the statement that Crèvecoeur was but sixteen when he made the plunge, and others have followed Rich in this error. The lad's age was really not less than nineteen or twenty. According to the family legend, his ship touched at Lisbon on the way out; one cannot decide whether this was just before or immediately after the great earthquake. Then to New France, where he joined Montcalm. Entering the service as cadet, he advanced to the rank of lieutenant; was mentioned in the Gazette; shared in the French successes; drew maps of the forests and block-houses that found their way to the king's cabinet; served with Montcalm in the attack upon Fort William Henry. With that the record is broken off: we can less definitely associate his name with the humiliation of the French in America than with their brief triumphs. Yet it is quite certain, says Robert de Crèvecoeur, his descendant, that he did not return to France with the rag-tag of the defeated army. Quebec fell before Wolfe's attack in September 1759; at some time in the course of the year 1760 we may suppose the young officer to have entered the British colonies, to have adopted his family name of "Saint John" (Saint-Jean), and to have gradually worked his way south, probably by the Hudson. The reader of the Letters hardly supposes him to have enjoyed his frontier life; nor is there any means of knowing how much of that life it was his fortune to lead. In time, he found himself as far south as Pennsylvania. He visited Shippensburg and Lancaster and Carlisle; perhaps he resided at or near one of these towns. Many years later, when his son Louis purchased a farm of two hundred acres from Chancellor Livingstone, at Navesink, near the Blue Mountains, Crèvecoeur the elder was still remembered, and it may have been at this epoch that he visited the place. During the term of his military service under Montcalm, Crèvecoeur saw something of the Great Lakes and the outlying country; prior to his experience as a cultivator, and, indeed, after he had settled down as such, he "travelled like Plato," even visited Bermuda, by his own account. Not until 1764, however, have we any positive evidence of his whereabouts; it was in April of that year that he took out naturalization papers at New York. Some months later, he installed himself on the farm variously called Greycourt and Pine-Hill, in the same state; he drained a great marsh there, and seems to have practiced agriculture upon a generous scale. The certificate of the marriage of Crèvecoeur to Mehitable Tippet, of Yonkers is dated September 20, 1769, and of this union three children were the issue. And more than children: for with the marriage ceremony once performed by the worthy Tetard, a clergyman of New York, formerly settled over a French Reformed Church at Charleston, South Carolina, Crèvecoeur is more definitely than ever the "American Farmer"; he has thrown in his lot with that new country; his children are to be called after their parent's adopted name, Saint-John; the responsibilities of the adventurer are multiplied; his life in America has become a matter more easy to trace and richer, perhaps, in meaning.

Which one of the following questions is central to the passage?

Possible Answers:

What are the most significant moments in Crèvecoeur's life before he wrote his letters? 

How can we justify the assertion that Crèvecoeur was a farmer?

When did Crèvecoeur come to America?

Where can we find details of Crèvecoeur's early life?

Was it significant that Crèvecoeur raised children in America?

Correct answer:

What are the most significant moments in Crèvecoeur's life before he wrote his letters? 

Explanation:

The first paragraph frames the passage as a justification of how Crèvecoeur can be seen as an “American Farmer,” but at the center of the passage is the attempt to highlight the most important moments leading up to the writing of the letters mentioned in the first paragraph. We can easily choose this question if we acknowledge that the passage largely concerns the highlighting of key moments in Crèvecoeur's life. The two sentences in the first paragraph, “We owe some concessions to the author of so charming a book, to the eighteenth-century Thoreau. His life is certainly more interesting than the real Thoreau's—and would be, even if it did not present many contradictions,” also support this question, as they introduce the idea of an interesting life with “many contradictions.”

Example Question #6 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from Heroes and Hero Worship (1841) by Thomas Carlyle.

The Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, are productions of old ages, not to be repeated in the new. They presuppose a certain rudeness of conception, which the progress of mere scientific knowledge puts an end to. There needs to be, as it were, a world vacant, or almost vacant of scientific forms, if men in their loving wonder are to fancy their fellow-man either a god or one speaking with the voice of a god. Divinity and Prophet are past. We are now to see our Hero in the less ambitious, but also less questionable, character of Poet; a character which does not pass. The Poet is a heroic figure belonging to all ages; whom all ages possess, when once he is produced, whom the newest age as the oldest may produce;—and will produce, always when Nature pleases. Let Nature send a Hero-soul; in no age is it other than possible that he may be shaped into a Poet.

Hero, Prophet, Poet—many different names, in different times, and places, do we give to Great Men; according to varieties we note in them, according to the sphere in which they have displayed themselves! We might give many more names, on this same principle. I will remark again, however, as a fact not unimportant to be understood, that the different sphere constitutes the grand origin of such distinction; that the Hero can be Poet, Prophet, King, Priest, or what you will, according to the kind of world he finds himself born into. I confess, I have no notion of a truly great man that could not be all sorts of men. The Poet who could merely sit on a chair, and compose stanzas, would never make a stanza worth much. He could not sing the Heroic warrior, unless he himself were at least a Heroic warrior too. I fancy there is in him the Politician, the Thinker, Legislator, Philosopher—in one or the other degree, he could have been, he is all these. So too I cannot understand how a Mirabeau, with that great glowing heart, with the fire that was in it, with the bursting tears that were in it, could not have written verses, tragedies, poems, and touched all hearts in that way, had his course of life and education led him thitherward. The grand fundamental character is that of Great Man; that the man be great. Napoleon has words in him which are like Austerlitz Battles. Louis Fourteenth's Marshals are a kind of poetical men withal; the things Turenne says are full of sagacity and geniality, like sayings of Samuel Johnson. The great heart, the clear deep-seeing eye: there it lies; no man whatever, in what province soever, can prosper at all without these. Petrarch and Boccaccio did diplomatic messages, it seems, quite well; one can easily believe it; they had done things a little harder than these! Burns, a gifted songwriter, might have made a still better Mirabeau. Shakespeare—one knows not what he could not have made, in the supreme degree.

True, there are aptitudes of Nature too. Nature does not make all great men, more than all other men, in the self-same mold. Varieties of aptitude doubtless, but infinitely more of circumstance, and far oftenest it is the latter only that are looked to. But it is as with common men in the learning of trades. You take any man, as yet a vague capability of a man, who could be any kind of craftsman, and make him into a smith, a carpenter, a mason; he is then and thenceforth that and nothing else. And if, as Addison complains, you sometimes see a street-porter, staggering under his load on spindle-shanks, and near at hand a tailor with the frame of a Samson handling a bit of cloth and small Whitechapel needle, it cannot be considered that aptitude of Nature alone has been consulted here either! The Great Man also, to what shall he be bound apprentice? Given your Hero, is he to become Conqueror, King, Philosopher, Poet? It is an inexplicably complex controversial calculation between the world and him! He will read the world and its laws; the world with its laws will be there to be read. What the world, on this matter, shall permit and bid is, as we said, the most important fact about the world.

Poet and Prophet differ greatly in our loose modern notions of them. In some old languages, again, the titles are synonymous; “Vates” means both Prophet and Poet; and indeed at all times, Prophet and Poet, well understood, have much kindred of meaning. Fundamentally indeed they are still the same; in this most important respect especially, that they have penetrated both of them into the sacred mystery of the Universe; what Goethe calls "the open secret." "Which is the great secret?" asks one. "The open secret,” open to all, seen by almost none! That divine mystery, which lies everywhere in all Beings, "the Divine Idea of the World, that which lies at the bottom of Appearance," as Fichte styles it; of which all Appearance, from the starry sky to the grass of the field, but especially the Appearance of Man and his work, is but the vesture, the embodiment that renders it visible. This divine mystery is in all times and in all places; veritably is. In most times and places it is greatly overlooked; and the Universe, definable always in one or the other dialect, as the realized Thought of God, is considered a trivial, inert, commonplace matter—as if, says the Satirist, it were a dead thing, which some upholsterer had put together! It could do no good, at present, to speak much about this, but it is a pity for every one of us if we do not know it, live ever in the knowledge of it. Really a most mournful pity—a failure to live at all, if we live otherwise!

Which one of the following questions is central to the passage?

Possible Answers:

How do we distinguish a hero from a saint?

How is the notion of a hero changing? 

Where can we find heroes in everyday life?

When is it right to define an omnipresent God from an omnipotent God?

What is the appropriate way to show praise to those we consider great?

Correct answer:

How is the notion of a hero changing? 

Explanation:

The author does not begin talking about God in any depth until the last paragraph, so we cannot say with much justification that the subject is central to the passage. We also cannot say that the author talks much about those considered to be saints, although we can probably place them in parallel to the idea of a prophet. The author makes little distinction between a hero and a prophet; indeed, a prophet is a subcategory in the larger group of "hero" according to the author in the first paragraph. What we can safely say is that the author is dealing with the notion of a hero changing. As is stated early in the passage, “The Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, are productions of old ages, not to be repeated in the new.”

Example Question #7 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from Heroes and Hero Worship (1841) by Thomas Carlyle.

The Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, are productions of old ages, not to be repeated in the new. They presuppose a certain rudeness of conception, which the progress of mere scientific knowledge puts an end to. There needs to be, as it were, a world vacant, or almost vacant of scientific forms, if men in their loving wonder are to fancy their fellow-man either a god or one speaking with the voice of a god. Divinity and Prophet are past. We are now to see our Hero in the less ambitious, but also less questionable, character of Poet; a character which does not pass. The Poet is a heroic figure belonging to all ages; whom all ages possess, when once he is produced, whom the newest age as the oldest may produce;—and will produce, always when Nature pleases. Let Nature send a Hero-soul; in no age is it other than possible that he may be shaped into a Poet.

Hero, Prophet, Poet—many different names, in different times, and places, do we give to Great Men; according to varieties we note in them, according to the sphere in which they have displayed themselves! We might give many more names, on this same principle. I will remark again, however, as a fact not unimportant to be understood, that the different sphere constitutes the grand origin of such distinction; that the Hero can be Poet, Prophet, King, Priest, or what you will, according to the kind of world he finds himself born into. I confess, I have no notion of a truly great man that could not be all sorts of men. The Poet who could merely sit on a chair, and compose stanzas, would never make a stanza worth much. He could not sing the Heroic warrior, unless he himself were at least a Heroic warrior too. I fancy there is in him the Politician, the Thinker, Legislator, Philosopher—in one or the other degree, he could have been, he is all these. So too I cannot understand how a Mirabeau, with that great glowing heart, with the fire that was in it, with the bursting tears that were in it, could not have written verses, tragedies, poems, and touched all hearts in that way, had his course of life and education led him thitherward. The grand fundamental character is that of Great Man; that the man be great. Napoleon has words in him which are like Austerlitz Battles. Louis Fourteenth's Marshals are a kind of poetical men withal; the things Turenne says are full of sagacity and geniality, like sayings of Samuel Johnson. The great heart, the clear deep-seeing eye: there it lies; no man whatever, in what province soever, can prosper at all without these. Petrarch and Boccaccio did diplomatic messages, it seems, quite well; one can easily believe it; they had done things a little harder than these! Burns, a gifted songwriter, might have made a still better Mirabeau. Shakespeare—one knows not what he could not have made, in the supreme degree.

True, there are aptitudes of Nature too. Nature does not make all great men, more than all other men, in the self-same mold. Varieties of aptitude doubtless, but infinitely more of circumstance, and far oftenest it is the latter only that are looked to. But it is as with common men in the learning of trades. You take any man, as yet a vague capability of a man, who could be any kind of craftsman, and make him into a smith, a carpenter, a mason; he is then and thenceforth that and nothing else. And if, as Addison complains, you sometimes see a street-porter, staggering under his load on spindle-shanks, and near at hand a tailor with the frame of a Samson handling a bit of cloth and small Whitechapel needle, it cannot be considered that aptitude of Nature alone has been consulted here either! The Great Man also, to what shall he be bound apprentice? Given your Hero, is he to become Conqueror, King, Philosopher, Poet? It is an inexplicably complex controversial calculation between the world and him! He will read the world and its laws; the world with its laws will be there to be read. What the world, on this matter, shall permit and bid is, as we said, the most important fact about the world.

Poet and Prophet differ greatly in our loose modern notions of them. In some old languages, again, the titles are synonymous; “Vates” means both Prophet and Poet; and indeed at all times, Prophet and Poet, well understood, have much kindred of meaning. Fundamentally indeed they are still the same; in this most important respect especially, that they have penetrated both of them into the sacred mystery of the Universe; what Goethe calls "the open secret." "Which is the great secret?" asks one. "The open secret,” open to all, seen by almost none! That divine mystery, which lies everywhere in all Beings, "the Divine Idea of the World, that which lies at the bottom of Appearance," as Fichte styles it; of which all Appearance, from the starry sky to the grass of the field, but especially the Appearance of Man and his work, is but the vesture, the embodiment that renders it visible. This divine mystery is in all times and in all places; veritably is. In most times and places it is greatly overlooked; and the Universe, definable always in one or the other dialect, as the realized Thought of God, is considered a trivial, inert, commonplace matter—as if, says the Satirist, it were a dead thing, which some upholsterer had put together! It could do no good, at present, to speak much about this, but it is a pity for every one of us if we do not know it, live ever in the knowledge of it. Really a most mournful pity—a failure to live at all, if we live otherwise!

Which one of the following most accurately states the main point of the passage?

Possible Answers:

The worship of heroes is an ongoing process which may never end.

The multiple aptitudes naturally possessed by heroes has resulted in their abilities being diluted.

The supposition that there will be no new forms of hero in the future is inane.

We must seek to regain the type of hero we used to revere.

Modern heroes are commonly poets, though this does not mean their talent or natures are fixed.

Correct answer:

Modern heroes are commonly poets, though this does not mean their talent or natures are fixed.

Explanation:

The passage is quite obviously concerned primarily with the poet and the poet's multi-talented nature. We can reach this conclusion quite easily by discerning that the first two paragraphs mention above all else the poet and that the final part of the passage is a continuation of the argument made at the end of the second paragraph that aptitude is not fixed and relies upon different perceivable and unperceivable factors.  

Example Question #8 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Walking" by Henry David Thoreau (1862) in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from "idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer—a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of our enemies.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or rather an old, order—not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust. The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker—not the Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practiced this noble art; though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.

"When he came to grene wode,
In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notes small
Of byrdes mery syngynge.

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn,
That I was last here;
Me lyste a lytell for to shote
At the donne dere."

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

Which one of the following questions is central to the passage?

Possible Answers:

Where can we look for a sense of belonging?

What is the best way to get from point A to point B?

Who is better, a present day walker or a historical walker?

What contributes to natural freedom?

How can a man find freedom by walking?

Correct answer:

What contributes to natural freedom?

Explanation:

While the question “Where can we look for a sense of belonging?” fits in with the argument of a “saunterer” having, in a sense, a home everywhere, it is not completely central to the passage. The author states at the beginning of the passage, “I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil"; so, central to this, and arguably to the whole passage, is the question of what contributes to natural freedom, in response to which the author argues the case for walking.

Example Question #9 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley (1710)

1. OBJECTS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either IDEAS actually imprinted on the senses; or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination—either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight I have the ideas of light and colors, with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odors; the palate with tastes; and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. And as several of these are observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain color, taste, smell, figure and consistence having been observed to go together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name APPLE. Other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book, and the like sensible things, which as they are pleasing or disagreeable excite the passions of love, hatred, joy, grief, and so forth.

2. MIND--SPIRIT--SOUL. But, besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations as willing, imagining, and remembering about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call MIND, SPIRIT, SOUL, or MYSELF, by which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, WHEREIN THEY EXIST, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived—for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.

3. HOW FAR THE ASSENT OF THE VULGAR CONCEDED. That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist WITHOUT the mind, is what EVERYBODY WILL ALLOW. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than IN a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this by any one that shall attend to WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM "EXIST," when applied to sensible things. The table I write on I say exists—that is, I see and feel it—and if I were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I were in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odor, that is, it was smelt; there was a sound, that is, it was heard; a color or figure, and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their ESSE is PERCIPI, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.

4. THE VULGAR OPINION INVOLVES A CONTRADICTION. It is indeed an opinion STRANGELY prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But, with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For, what are the fore-mentioned objects but the things we perceive by sense? And what do we PERCEIVE BESIDES OUR OWN IDEAS OR SENSATIONS? And is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any combination of them, should exist unperceived?

5. CAUSE OF THIS PREVALENT ERROR. If we thoroughly examine this tenet it will, perhaps, be found at bottom to depend on the doctrine of ABSTRACT IDEAS. For can there be a nicer strain of abstraction than to distinguish the existence of sensible objects from their being perceived, so as to conceive them existing unperceived? Light and colors, heat and cold, extension and figures—in a word, the things we see and feel—what are they but so many sensations, notions, ideas, or impressions on the sense? And is it possible to separate, even in thought, any of these from perception? For my part, I might as easily divide a thing from itself. I may, indeed, divide in my thoughts, or conceive apart from each other, those things which, perhaps, I never perceived by sense so divided. Thus, I imagine the trunk of a human body without the limbs, or conceive the smell of a rose without thinking on the rose itself. So far, I will not deny, I can abstract—if that may properly be called ABSTRACTION which extends only to the conceiving separately such objects as it is possible may really exist or be actually perceived asunder. But my conceiving or imagining power does not extend beyond the possibility of real existence or perception. Hence, as it is impossible for me to see or feel anything without an actual sensation of that thing, so is it impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or perception of it.

Which one of the following most accurately states the main point of the passage?

Possible Answers:

Human thinking is mostly sensing things and only sometimes assessing them.

Men are meant to dream and derive fanciful thoughts from their experienced sensations.

The process of thought does not allow things to exist when we are not near them.

None of these answers accurately convey the main point of the passage.

We perceive things with our senses then assess or transform these perceptions. 

Correct answer:

We perceive things with our senses then assess or transform these perceptions. 

Explanation:

The passage quite clearly states at the beginning that we perceive things, then other parts which may be called “mind, body, or spirit” “[exercise] diverse operations as willing, imagining, and remembering about them.” We can say this continues on to the end of the passage as the author discusses in more detail the “imagining” portion of our perceptions. We cannot say that the statement “Human thinking is mostly sensing things and only sometimes assessing them” is correct, as the word “sometimes” nullifies it. Likewise, the statement “The process of thought does not allow things to exist when we are not near them” is nullified by being a simplified, perhaps inaccurate, argument of a part of the passage, not of the whole passage.

Example Question #10 : Main Idea Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley (1710)

1. OBJECTS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either IDEAS actually imprinted on the senses; or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination—either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight I have the ideas of light and colors, with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odors; the palate with tastes; and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. And as several of these are observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain color, taste, smell, figure and consistence having been observed to go together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name APPLE. Other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book, and the like sensible things, which as they are pleasing or disagreeable excite the passions of love, hatred, joy, grief, and so forth.

2. MIND--SPIRIT--SOUL. But, besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations as willing, imagining, and remembering about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call MIND, SPIRIT, SOUL, or MYSELF, by which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, WHEREIN THEY EXIST, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived—for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.

3. HOW FAR THE ASSENT OF THE VULGAR CONCEDED. That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist WITHOUT the mind, is what EVERYBODY WILL ALLOW. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than IN a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this by any one that shall attend to WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM "EXIST," when applied to sensible things. The table I write on I say exists—that is, I see and feel it—and if I were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I were in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odor, that is, it was smelt; there was a sound, that is, it was heard; a color or figure, and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their ESSE is PERCIPI, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.

4. THE VULGAR OPINION INVOLVES A CONTRADICTION. It is indeed an opinion STRANGELY prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But, with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For, what are the fore-mentioned objects but the things we perceive by sense? And what do we PERCEIVE BESIDES OUR OWN IDEAS OR SENSATIONS? And is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any combination of them, should exist unperceived?

5. CAUSE OF THIS PREVALENT ERROR. If we thoroughly examine this tenet it will, perhaps, be found at bottom to depend on the doctrine of ABSTRACT IDEAS. For can there be a nicer strain of abstraction than to distinguish the existence of sensible objects from their being perceived, so as to conceive them existing unperceived? Light and colors, heat and cold, extension and figures—in a word, the things we see and feel—what are they but so many sensations, notions, ideas, or impressions on the sense? And is it possible to separate, even in thought, any of these from perception? For my part, I might as easily divide a thing from itself. I may, indeed, divide in my thoughts, or conceive apart from each other, those things which, perhaps, I never perceived by sense so divided. Thus, I imagine the trunk of a human body without the limbs, or conceive the smell of a rose without thinking on the rose itself. So far, I will not deny, I can abstract—if that may properly be called ABSTRACTION which extends only to the conceiving separately such objects as it is possible may really exist or be actually perceived asunder. But my conceiving or imagining power does not extend beyond the possibility of real existence or perception. Hence, as it is impossible for me to see or feel anything without an actual sensation of that thing, so is it impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or perception of it.

Which one of the following questions is central to the passage?

Possible Answers:

Do we all perceive things in the same way?

When is it possible to say we have perceived everything?

Why do people think that inanimate things have an existence like our own? 

How do we reconcile our beliefs with our abstract thought? 

Why are there some who deny physical reality?

Correct answer:

Why do people think that inanimate things have an existence like our own? 

Explanation:

While it is not perfect, the question “Why do people think that inanimate things have an existence alike our own?" is central to the author's argument. He argues in the third paragraph, “For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible.” As this paragraph is titled “HOW FAR THE ASSENT OF THE VULGAR CONCEDED,” we can assume that the author wants to question the popular notion that inanimate things have an existence like our own.

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