LSAT Reading : Purpose in Law Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

← Previous 1

Example Question #1 : Purpose In Law Passages

Adapted from The Common Law, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1881)

To present a general view of the Common Law, other tools are needed besides logic. It is something to show that the consistency of a system requires a particular result, but it is not all. The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow-men, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics. In order to know what it is, we must know what it has been, and what it tends to become. We must alternately consult history and existing theories of legislation. But the most difficult labor will be to understand the combination of the two into new products at every stage. The substance of the law at any given time pretty nearly corresponds, so far as it goes, with what is then understood to be convenient; but its form and machinery, and the degree to which it is able to work out desired results, depend very much upon its past.

In Massachusetts today, while, on the one hand, there are a great many rules which are quite sufficiently accounted for by their manifest good sense, on the other, there are some which can only be understood by reference to the infancy of procedure among the German tribes, or to the social condition of Rome under the Decemvirs.

I shall use the history of our law so far as it is necessary to explain a conception or to interpret a rule, but no further. In doing so there are two errors equally to be avoided both by writer and reader. One is that of supposing, because an idea seems very familiar and natural to us, that it has always been so. Many things which we take for granted have had to be laboriously fought out or thought out in past times. The other mistake is the opposite one of asking too much of history. We start with man full grown. It may be assumed that the earliest barbarian whose practices are to be considered, had a good many of the same feelings and passions as ourselves.

Which of the following best describes the purpose of the underlined paragraph in the passage?

Possible Answers:

A specific example used as evidence to bolster a premise in an earlier argument

A set of examples used to illustrate an assertion earlier in the passage

An example illustrating the effects of applying procedures advocated for earlier

A contrast between two approaches to understanding a single body of law

A rhetorical contrast between good sense and adherance to ancient tradition

Correct answer:

A set of examples used to illustrate an assertion earlier in the passage

Explanation:

The passage makes an allusion to a body of examples—the laws of Massachuetts—in order to show through an example how a certain assertion made in the previous paragraph—that law reflects what is convenient at a certain place and time and its present form reflects its past—might be justified; however, it cannot be called a specific example (no particular law of the Commonwealth is referred to, much less how that law is indebted to ancient Europe), nor one that bolsters a premise in an earlier argument. The paragraph does not illustrate procedures being applied, as no specific procedures are being discussed here; nor does it contrast two approaches to the study of any subject, but rather the reasons behind the form and functioning of laws; nor does it make a merely rhetorical contrast.

Example Question #2 : Purpose In Law Passages

The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) can help countries throughout the world have a more uniform way of navigating the challenging waters of international law surrounding trade. It is not uncommon for two countries to have adopted different laws on international trade that conflict with each other. This becomes a serious problem when trade disputes arise. To help make this concept more tangible, consider the following hypothetical.

Suppose China ships three million dollars' worth of electronics to Uganda using standard bulk shipping transportation methods via a commonly traveled sea route. However, the packaging isn't secured in a manner sufficient to withstand unforeseen weather conditions. As a result, the goods become damaged in transit and are no longer fit for resale. Given that two countries are involved in this transaction–China and Uganda–the question arises as to which country’s trade laws will apply to resolve the matter at hand.

In this scenario, it is fortunate that both China and Uganda are parties to the CISG, which provide for a uniform set of laws governing trade. Such laws cover which party would be responsible for the damaged goods in this scenario. As a result, there will be no dispute as to whether China’s or Uganda's trade laws apply. Given that both countries are parties to the CISG, the laws set forth by the CISG would be applicable.

However, not all countries are parties to the CISG. One example is Rwanda. Even though Rwanda is not a party to the CISG, the fact of the matter is that CISG laws can still apply to it. The CISG applies to trade between countries so long as one of those countries is a party to the CISG (unless the parties expressly specify that the CISG will not apply to their specific trade arrangement). Several of Rwanda's main trade partners, such as the United States, China, Belgium, and Uganda, are parties to the CISG, so the laws of the treaty will apply in those trade agreements. Meanwhile, there is a different story when it comes to Rwanda's trade agreements with Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Thailand, which are not parties to the CISG. Due to these countries’ lack of membership in the CISG, if a problem ever arose in a trade agreement between Rwanda and one those countries, it would be unclear as to which country’s laws would apply.

There has been heated discussion as to whether Rwanda should sign the CISG. The United Nations Development Program takes the stance that it would behoove Rwanda to join. Whether or not Rwanda decides to become a member, the CISG will still apply to a large portion of its trade agreements, as about 100 countries are in fact CISG members, with a strong portion of those members also being trade partners with Rwanda. On the flip side, some Rwandan politicians believe that valuable autonomy would be lost if Rwanda assented to the CISG. However, given the potential benefits that Rwanda stands to gain from the CISG, these fears do not merit forgoing such a valuable opportunity.

The primary purpose of the second paragraph is to __________.

Possible Answers:

indirectly offer a counter-argument to the author's thesis

directly support the author's thesis

suggest that China and Uganda should join the CISG

demonstrate the deleterious effects that can result from a trade dispute

provide an example that makes an abstract concept easier to understand

Correct answer:

provide an example that makes an abstract concept easier to understand

Explanation:

The purpose of the second paragraph is to "provide an example that makes an abstract concept easier to understand." In fact, the second paragraph discusses the scenario of a trade arrangement between Uganda and China in order to show the practial applications of the CISG. The purpose of the second paragraph is also signaled in the last sentence of the first paragraph, which reads, "To help make this concept more tangible, consider the following hypothetical."

Example Question #1 : Business Passages

The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) can help countries throughout the world have a more uniform way of navigating the challenging waters of international law surrounding trade. It is not uncommon for two countries to have adopted different laws on international trade that conflict with each other. This becomes a serious problem when trade disputes arise. To help make this concept more tangible, consider the following hypothetical.

Suppose China ships three million dollars' worth of electronics to Uganda using standard bulk shipping transportation methods via a commonly traveled sea route. However, the packaging isn't secured in a manner sufficient to withstand unforeseen weather conditions. As a result, the goods become damaged in transit and are no longer fit for resale. Given that two countries are involved in this transaction–China and Uganda–the question arises as to which country’s trade laws will apply to resolve the matter at hand.

In this scenario, it is fortunate that both China and Uganda are parties to the CISG, which provide for a uniform set of laws governing trade. Such laws cover which party would be responsible for the damaged goods in this scenario. As a result, there will be no dispute as to whether China’s or Uganda's trade laws apply. Given that both countries are parties to the CISG, the laws set forth by the CISG would be applicable.

However, not all countries are parties to the CISG. One example is Rwanda. Even though Rwanda is not a party to the CISG, the fact of the matter is that CISG laws can still apply to it. The CISG applies to trade between countries so long as one of those countries is a party to the CISG (unless the parties expressly specify that the CISG will not apply to their specific trade arrangement). Several of Rwanda's main trade partners, such as the United States, China, Belgium, and Uganda, are parties to the CISG, so the laws of the treaty will apply in those trade agreements. Meanwhile, there is a different story when it comes to Rwanda's trade agreements with Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Thailand, which are not parties to the CISG. Due to these countries’ lack of membership in the CISG, if a problem ever arose in a trade agreement between Rwanda and one those countries, it would be unclear as to which country’s laws would apply.

There has been heated discussion as to whether Rwanda should sign the CISG. The United Nations Development Program takes the stance that it would behoove Rwanda to join. Whether or not Rwanda decides to become a member, the CISG will still apply to a large portion of its trade agreements, as about 100 countries are in fact CISG members, with a strong portion of those members also being trade partners with Rwanda. On the flip side, some Rwandan politicians believe that valuable autonomy would be lost if Rwanda assented to the CISG. However, given the potential benefits that Rwanda stands to gain from the CISG, these fears do not merit forgoing such a valuable opportunity.

Which of the following is the main purpose of the article?

Possible Answers:

To explain why Rwanda should become a member of the CISG

To provide a broad overview of Rwanda’s trading practices

To weigh and balance the reasons why Rwanda should join the CISG versus why Rwanda should not join the CISG

To argue that countries should always heed the recommendations of the United Nations Development Program

To explain how the landscape of international trade has evolved in recent years

Correct answer:

To explain why Rwanda should become a member of the CISG

Explanation:

The article is written with a heavy-handed favoritism towards Rwanda becoming a member of the CISG. This is especially apparent in the opening and closing paragraphs. Therefore, the correct answer is "Explain why Rwanda should become a member of the CISG."

Example Question #2 : Purpose In Law Passages

To create the Trafficking in Persons (TIPS) Report, the Secretary of State ranks countries according to a system of tiers based on the efforts those countries make against human trafficking.  According to the United States, the minimum conditions that a country must meet to be a country in good standing, designated as a Tier 1 country, are somewhat subjective.  There must be “serious and sustained efforts to eliminate human trafficking,” such as prohibiting and punishing acts of human trafficking, taking measures to deter offenses in the future, creating public awareness, and protecting victims of human trafficking. 

Tier 2 countries do not fully comply with the standards for Tier 1 countries, but are making significant efforts to do so.  Tier 2 Watch List countries meet the same criteria as Tier 2 countries, but also satisfy one of the following: 1) the number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or significantly increasing; 2) no evidence can be shown that there are increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or 3) the finding that a country was making significant efforts to comply with minimum standards was based on that country’s commitment to take future steps over the next year.  Tier 3 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.  The penalties for Tier 3 countries include being subject to certain sanctions such as: the withdrawal of non-humanitarian and non-trade related foreign assistance, not receiving funding for educational and cultural exchange programs, and potential U.S. opposition to assistance from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The TIPS Report relies on U.S. missions to regularly meet with foreign government officials in order to gain information about human trafficking in countries throughout the world. It is the world’s most comprehensive report on human trafficking, and is trusted as an accurate depiction of the policies and laws being used in various countries.  Specifically, the TIPS Report evaluates countries’ efforts against human trafficking based on the efforts taken in the areas of prosecution, prevention, and protection. The evaluation of a country’s prosecution efforts is based on whether laws against human trafficking exist and are actively enforced against perpetrators.  Prevention efforts should focus on raising public awareness about human trafficking and rectifying laws that make certain populations more vulnerable to human trafficking than others.  Finally, protection efforts seek to address the needs of existing or potential victims.

The author most likely provides an explanation of the tier system used by the TIPS Report in order to:

Possible Answers:

Minimize the severity of a serious issue

Demonstrate that different countries handle human trafficking in different ways

Show how the United States ranks countries' efforts to combat human trafficking

Simplify a complex problem

Highlight the drastic differences in how human trafficking is addressed throughout the world

Correct answer:

Show how the United States ranks countries' efforts to combat human trafficking

Explanation:

The tier system is described in order to explain how the United States categorizes different countries according to how they address the issue of human trafficking. Therefore, the correct answer is:

Show how the United States ranks countries' efforts to combat human trafficking

A tempting incorrect answer is: Simplify a complex problem. This is incorrect because while the tier system might have this effect, that was not the author's intended message when describing the tier system. 

Example Question #2 : Purpose In Law Passages

To create the Trafficking in Persons (TIPS) Report, the Secretary of State ranks countries according to a system of tiers based on the efforts those countries make against human trafficking.  According to the United States, the minimum conditions that a country must meet to be a country in good standing, designated as a Tier 1 country, are somewhat subjective.  There must be “serious and sustained efforts to eliminate human trafficking,” such as prohibiting and punishing acts of human trafficking, taking measures to deter offenses in the future, creating public awareness, and protecting victims of human trafficking. 

Tier 2 countries do not fully comply with the standards for Tier 1 countries, but are making significant efforts to do so.  Tier 2 Watch List countries meet the same criteria as Tier 2 countries, but also satisfy one of the following: 1) the number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or significantly increasing; 2) no evidence can be shown that there are increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or 3) the finding that a country was making significant efforts to comply with minimum standards was based on that country’s commitment to take future steps over the next year.  Tier 3 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.  The penalties for Tier 3 countries include being subject to certain sanctions such as: the withdrawal of non-humanitarian and non-trade related foreign assistance, not receiving funding for educational and cultural exchange programs, and potential U.S. opposition to assistance from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The TIPS Report relies on U.S. missions to regularly meet with foreign government officials in order to gain information about human trafficking in countries throughout the world. It is the world’s most comprehensive report on human trafficking, and is trusted as an accurate depiction of the policies and laws being used in various countries.  Specifically, the TIPS Report evaluates countries’ efforts against human trafficking based on the efforts taken in the areas of prosecution, prevention, and protection. The evaluation of a country’s prosecution efforts is based on whether laws against human trafficking exist and are actively enforced against perpetrators.  Prevention efforts should focus on raising public awareness about human trafficking and rectifying laws that make certain populations more vulnerable to human trafficking than others.  Finally, protection efforts seek to address the needs of existing or potential victims.

The primary purpose of the passage is most likely to

Possible Answers:

Describe a type of report produced by the United States

Shed light on a complex issue

Describe the evolution of a program 

Quantify a qualitative issue 

Compare and contrast different forms of measurement

Correct answer:

Describe a type of report produced by the United States

Explanation:

The entire focus of the text is on the TIPS Report and how it is formulated. Therefore, the best answer is: 

Describe a type of report produced by the United States

The incorrect answers are either too broad or only apply to certain parts of the text, rather than the text as a whole. 

Example Question #32 : Inference About The Author

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

Which of the following best expresses the author's primary purpose in the passage?

Possible Answers:

To explain the reasons behind recent political events

To critique a school of artistic interpretation

To praise a particular political thinker

To advocate for and justify a political stance

To propose political changes

Correct answer:

To advocate for and justify a political stance

Explanation:

The author's primary purpose in the passage is to justify and advocate for a political stance, namely the continuation of the inherited monarchy. The author begins by explaining the basis of "the inherited crown" in England; he then goes on to provide his own justifications for the system, both legal and ethical, for that system. He concludes by critiquing those who support the recent overthrow of the monarchy in France, and who advocate for the abolition of monarchies in general.

While he makes specific reference to the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Rights, his primary purpose it provide philosophical justification for the monarchic system in general, and for conservative thinking in general. He does not name any specific political theorists. While the revolution in France obviously has influenced the speaker, and is the focus of the book from which this excerpt was chosen, in this passage, the author is focused on a more general philosophical justification of a political way of thinking, not explaining why the events in France occurred.

The author does not propose political changes; rather, he advocates for the "conservation" of the current system.

The passage is primarily politically, not aesthetically, focused. 

Example Question #1 : Evaluating Evidence And Examples

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

The first paragraph's invocation of the Declaration of Right is intended to accomplish which of the following?

Possible Answers:

To provide an example of progressive, revolutionary political reasoning derived from an analogously tumultuous period

To demonstrate the flawed thinking of liberal revolutionary sympathizers with an extended metaphor

To excite the religious passions of the reader with an allegory

To provide an example of the possible negative consequences of reactionary political legislation from an analogously tumultuous period

To provide an example of tradition-oriented political reasoning derived from an analogously tumultuous period

Correct answer:

To provide an example of tradition-oriented political reasoning derived from an analogously tumultuous period

Explanation:

The invocation of the language of, and reasoning behind, the Declaration of Right primarily functions as an example of tradition-oriented political reasoning ("their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties, that had been long possessed"), from an analogously tumultuous period ("which had lately been endangered"). Burke's citation of the Declaration of Right provides an established framework that both is derived from, and functions as evidentiary justification for, his argument that political traditions and rights are inherited and must be conserved.

The quoting and discussion of the Declaration is neither a metaphor nor an allegory; it is a citation of a relevant piece of legislation. 

Burke assumes the audience's support for and belief in the fundamental necessity of the Declaration, hence his using it as support for his own arguments.

Example Question #2 : Word Choice And Effect

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

In context, the use of the underlined and bolded word "above" is primarily intended to accomplish what?

Possible Answers:

To suggest that innovation is the highest form of human endeavor

To imply that adherence to natural tradition is not only a better policy than revolutionary progressivism, but a fundamentally superior one

To suggest that reason is a superior mode of thought to mysticism

To imply that carefully reasoned and rationally justified policies not only achieve better results, but also are fundamentally morally superior to policies motivated and justified by tradition

To draw attention to the arrogant, superior attitude of many conservative political writers

Correct answer:

To imply that adherence to natural tradition is not only a better policy than revolutionary progressivism, but a fundamentally superior one

Explanation:

In context, the author uses "above" to imply that adherence to natural tradition is not only a better policy than revolutionary progressivism, but also that it is the fundamentally superior policy. Progressivism, rooted as Burke sees it in rational thinking that fails to adequately consider or respect traditions, is beneath a traditionalist outlook on the fundamental level of "spirit," failing both on the level of "reflection" and of honor.

The author in this passage is NOT attempting to mock or draw attention to the arrogance of conservative, traditionalist social commenters—he is one. This passage is sincerely advocating for a traditionalist viewpoint. The author specifically denounces "the spirit of innovation."

The author makes little specific reference to mysticism, but holds rationality at some distance through the general tone of reverence for "tradition" and "spirit," hardly concepts associated with rationalist thinking in this period.

Example Question #3 : Purpose In Law Passages

Adapted from Criminal Psychology: A Manual for Judges, Practitioners, and Students by Hans Gross (1911)

Socrates, in the Meno, sends for one of Meno's servants, to prove the possibility of absolutely certain a priori knowledge. The servant is to determine the length of a rectangle, the area of which is twice that of one measuring two feet. He is to have no previous knowledge of the matter and is to discover the answer for himself. The servant first gives out an incorrect answer, that the length of a rectangle having twice the area of the one mentioned is four feet, thinking that the length doubles with the area. Thereupon Socrates triumphantly points out to Meno that the servant does as a matter of fact not yet quite know the truth under consideration, but that he really thinks he knows it; and then Socrates, in his own Socratic way, leads the servant to the correct solution.

When we properly consider what we have to do with a witness who has to relate any fact, we may see in the Socratic method the simplest example of our task. We must never forget that the majority of mankind dealing with any subject whatever always believe that they know and repeat the truth, and even when they say doubtfully, “I believe— It seems to me,'' there is, in this diffidence, more meant than meets the ear. When people say “I believe that—‘' it merely means that they intend to ensure themselves against the event of being contradicted by better informed persons; but they certainly have not the doubt their expression indicates. When, however, the report of some bare fact is in question (“It rained,” “It was 9 o’clock,'' or “His beard was brown,”) it does not matter to the narrator, and if he or she imparts such facts with the introduction “I believe,'' then he or she was really uncertain. The matter becomes important only where the issue involves partly-concealed observations, conclusions, and judgments. In such cases another factor enters—conceit; what the witness asserts he or she is fairly certain of just because he or she asserts it, and all the “I believes,'' “Perhapses,'' and “It seemeds'' are merely insurance against all accidents.

Generally, statements are made without such reservations and with full assurance. This holds also and more intensely of court witnesses, particularly in crucial matters. Anybody experienced in his or her conduct comes to be absolutely convinced that witnesses do not know what they know. A series of assertions are made with utter certainty. Yet when these are successively subjected to closer examinations, tested for their ground and source, only a very small portion can be retained unaltered. Of course, one may here overshoot the mark. It often happens, even in the routine of daily life, that a person may be made to feel shaky in his most absolute convictions, by means of an energetic attack and searching questions. Conscientious and sanguine people are particularly easy subjects of such doubts. Somebody narrates an event; questioning begins as to the indubitability of the fact, as to the exclusion of possible deception; the narrator becomes uncertain, recalling that, because of a lively imagination, he or she has already believed him- or herself to have seen things otherwise than they actually were, and finally he or she admits that the matter might probably have been different. During trials this is still more frequent. The circumstance of being in court of itself excites most people; the consciousness that one's statement is, or may be, of great significance increases the excitement; and the authoritative character of the official subdues very many people to conform their opinions to his or hers. What wonder then, that however much a person may be convinced of the correctness of his or her evidence, he or she may yet fail in the face of the doubting judge to know anything certainly?

Now one of the most difficult tasks of the criminalist is to hit, in just such cases, upon the truth—neither to accept the testimony blindly and uncritically, nor to render the witness, who otherwise is telling the truth, vacillating and doubtful. But it is still more difficult to lead the witness, who is not intentionally falsifying, but has merely observed incorrectly or has made false conclusions, to a statement of the truth as Socrates leads the servant in the Meno. It is as modern as it is comfortable to assert that this is not the judge's business—that the witness is to depose, his or her evidence is to be accepted, and the judge is to judge. Yet it is supposed before everything else that the duty of the court is to establish the material truth—that the formal truth is insufficient. Moreover, if we notice false observations and let them by, then, under certain circumstance, we are minus one important piece of evidence pro and con, and the whole case may be turned topsy-turvy. We shall, then, proceed in the Socratic fashion. But, inasmuch as we are not concerned with mathematics, and are hence more badly placed in the matter of proof, we shall have to proceed more cautiously and with less certainty than when the question is merely one of the area of a square. On the one hand we know only in the rarest cases that we are not ourselves mistaken, so that we must not, without anything further, lead another to agree with us; on the other hand, we must beware of perverting the witness from his or her possibly sound opinions. Whoever is able to correct the witness's apparently false conceptions and to lead him or her to discover his or her error of his or her own accord and then to speak the truth— whoever can do this and yet does not go too far, deducing from the facts nothing that does not actually follow from them—that person is a master among us.

The primary purpose of this passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

to promote the efficacy of the Socratic Method in contemporary legal practice

to demonstrate the significance of circumstance on the honesty of witness testimony

to undermine the research done by other legal historians in the field of witness testimony

to advise lawyers and judges on how to encourage veracity and assuredness from witnesses

to help criminalists figure out how to manipulate witnesses in order to engender a favorable verdict

Correct answer:

to advise lawyers and judges on how to encourage veracity and assuredness from witnesses

Explanation:

The primary purpose of this passage is to advise lawyers and judges on how to draw out truthful and certain statements from witnesses. Due to the extensive mention of the Socratic method in the introduction and throughout, it might be reasonable to select that answer choice, but it is more a piece of evidence used to support the author’s argument rather than the primary purpose of the passage. It cannot reasonably be said that the author is trying to aid criminalists in manipulating witnesses because the author focuses on how to encourage veracity, not the engineering of a favorable verdict. The primary purpose of the passage is most clearly explained at the very end, where the author declares, “Whoever is able to correct the witness's apparently false conceptions and to lead him or her to discover his or her error of his or her own accord and then to speak the truth— whoever can do this and yet does not go too far, deducing from the facts nothing that does not actually follow from them—that person is a master among us."

Example Question #4 : Purpose In Law Passages

Adapted from Criminal Psychology: A Manual for Judges, Practitioners, and Students by Hans Gross (1911)

Socrates, in the Meno, sends for one of Meno's servants, to prove the possibility of absolutely certain a priori knowledge. The servant is to determine the length of a rectangle, the area of which is twice that of one measuring two feet. He is to have no previous knowledge of the matter and is to discover the answer for himself. The servant first gives out an incorrect answer, that the length of a rectangle having twice the area of the one mentioned is four feet, thinking that the length doubles with the area. Thereupon Socrates triumphantly points out to Meno that the servant does as a matter of fact not yet quite know the truth under consideration, but that he really thinks he knows it; and then Socrates, in his own Socratic way, leads the servant to the correct solution.

When we properly consider what we have to do with a witness who has to relate any fact, we may see in the Socratic method the simplest example of our task. We must never forget that the majority of mankind dealing with any subject whatever always believe that they know and repeat the truth, and even when they say doubtfully, “I believe— It seems to me,'' there is, in this diffidence, more meant than meets the ear. When people say “I believe that—‘' it merely means that they intend to ensure themselves against the event of being contradicted by better informed persons; but they certainly have not the doubt their expression indicates. When, however, the report of some bare fact is in question (“It rained,” “It was 9 o’clock,'' or “His beard was brown,”) it does not matter to the narrator, and if he or she imparts such facts with the introduction “I believe,'' then he or she was really uncertain. The matter becomes important only where the issue involves partly-concealed observations, conclusions, and judgments. In such cases another factor enters—conceit; what the witness asserts he or she is fairly certain of just because he or she asserts it, and all the “I believes,'' “Perhapses,'' and “It seemeds'' are merely insurance against all accidents.

Generally, statements are made without such reservations and with full assurance. This holds also and more intensely of court witnesses, particularly in crucial matters. Anybody experienced in his or her conduct comes to be absolutely convinced that witnesses do not know what they know. A series of assertions are made with utter certainty. Yet when these are successively subjected to closer examinations, tested for their ground and source, only a very small portion can be retained unaltered. Of course, one may here overshoot the mark. It often happens, even in the routine of daily life, that a person may be made to feel shaky in his most absolute convictions, by means of an energetic attack and searching questions. Conscientious and sanguine people are particularly easy subjects of such doubts. Somebody narrates an event; questioning begins as to the indubitability of the fact, as to the exclusion of possible deception; the narrator becomes uncertain, recalling that, because of a lively imagination, he or she has already believed him- or herself to have seen things otherwise than they actually were, and finally he or she admits that the matter might probably have been different. During trials this is still more frequent. The circumstance of being in court of itself excites most people; the consciousness that one's statement is, or may be, of great significance increases the excitement; and the authoritative character of the official subdues very many people to conform their opinions to his or hers. What wonder then, that however much a person may be convinced of the correctness of his or her evidence, he or she may yet fail in the face of the doubting judge to know anything certainly?

Now one of the most difficult tasks of the criminalist is to hit, in just such cases, upon the truth—neither to accept the testimony blindly and uncritically, nor to render the witness, who otherwise is telling the truth, vacillating and doubtful. But it is still more difficult to lead the witness, who is not intentionally falsifying, but has merely observed incorrectly or has made false conclusions, to a statement of the truth as Socrates leads the servant in the Meno. It is as modern as it is comfortable to assert that this is not the judge's business—that the witness is to depose, his or her evidence is to be accepted, and the judge is to judge. Yet it is supposed before everything else that the duty of the court is to establish the material truth—that the formal truth is insufficient. Moreover, if we notice false observations and let them by, then, under certain circumstance, we are minus one important piece of evidence pro and con, and the whole case may be turned topsy-turvy. We shall, then, proceed in the Socratic fashion. But, inasmuch as we are not concerned with mathematics, and are hence more badly placed in the matter of proof, we shall have to proceed more cautiously and with less certainty than when the question is merely one of the area of a square. On the one hand we know only in the rarest cases that we are not ourselves mistaken, so that we must not, without anything further, lead another to agree with us; on the other hand, we must beware of perverting the witness from his or her possibly sound opinions. Whoever is able to correct the witness's apparently false conceptions and to lead him or her to discover his or her error of his or her own accord and then to speak the truth— whoever can do this and yet does not go too far, deducing from the facts nothing that does not actually follow from them—that person is a master among us.

The author includes the story about Socrates and the servant to demonstrate __________.

Possible Answers:

that Socrates was a brilliant teacher from whom we can learn a great deal

that the Socratic Method is an outdated way of teaching

that if people cannot fathom simple mathematics, we cannot expect people to know what they have and have not observed

that people are inclined to believe they know the truth even when they do not

that the common person is foolish and likely to assume he or she knows a great deal more than he or she actually does

Correct answer:

that people are inclined to believe they know the truth even when they do not

Explanation:

In the opening paragraph, the author uses the story about Socrates and the servant to demonstrate a significant part of his overall thesis—namely, that people are inclined to believe they know the truth even when they do not. The servant believes that he knows how to correctly determine the relationship between the area of a rectangle and its length and expresses his belief with confidence, even though he is initially incorrect. Emphasizing this at the conclusion of the story, the author states, “We must never forget that the majority of mankind dealing with any subject whatever always believe that they know and repeat the truth.”

← Previous 1
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: