LSAT Reading : Purpose in Social Science Passages

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Example Question #1 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from the third volume of The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1782)

The spectator who casts a mournful view over the ruins of ancient Rome, is tempted to accuse the memory of the Goths and Vandals, for the mischief which they had neither leisure, nor power, nor perhaps inclination, to perpetrate. The tempest of war might strike some lofty turrets to the ground; but the destruction which undermined the foundations of those massy fabrics was prosecuted, slowly and silently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of interest, that afterwards operated without shame or control, were severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian. The decay of the city had gradually impaired the value of the public works. The circus and theaters might still excite, but they seldom gratified, the desires of the people: the temples, which had escaped the zeal of the Christians, were no longer inhabited, either by gods or men; the diminished crowds of the Romans were lost in the immense space of their baths and porticos; and the stately libraries and halls of justice became useless to an indolent generation, whose repose was seldom disturbed, either by study or business. The monuments of consular, or Imperial, greatness were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient than the distant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addressed to the easy magistrates of Rome, which stated the want of stones or bricks, for some necessary service: the fairest forms of architecture were rudely defaced, for the sake of some paltry, or pretended, repairs; and the degenerate Romans, who converted the spoil to their own emolument, demolished, with sacrilegious hands, the labors of their ancestors. Majorian, who had often sighed over the desolation of the city, applied a severe remedy to the growing evil.

He reserved to the prince and senate the sole cognizance of the extreme cases which might justify the destruction of an ancient edifice; imposed a fine of fifty pounds of gold (two thousand pounds sterling) on every magistrate who should presume to grant such illegal and scandalous license, and threatened to chastise the criminal obedience of their subordinate officers, by a severe whipping, and the amputation of both their hands. In the last instance, the legislator might seem to forget the proportion of guilt and punishment; but his zeal arose from a generous principle, and Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of those ages, in which he would have desired and deserved to live. The emperor conceived that it was his interest to increase the number of his subjects; and that it was his duty to guard the purity of the marriage-bed: but the means which he employed to accomplish these salutary purposes are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable, kind. The pious maids, who consecrated their virginity to Christ, were restrained from taking the veil till they had reached their fortieth year. Widows under that age were compelled to form a second alliance within the term of five years, by the forfeiture of half their wealth to their nearest relations, or to the state. Unequal marriages were condemned or annulled. The punishment of confiscation and exile was deemed so inadequate to the guilt of adultery, that, if the criminal returned to Italy, he might, by the express declaration of Majorian, be slain with impunity.

The author most likely lists some of Majorian's population control methods primarily to __________.

Possible Answers:

describe at length the procedures used as an example

show that Majorian was striving, beyond reasonable morals, to reinstate Rome's greatness

bring the subjects of religion and marriage into the argument

criticize the policy

honor the decisiveness of such a controversial set of rules, which by modern methods would be considered extreme

Correct answer:

show that Majorian was striving, beyond reasonable morals, to reinstate Rome's greatness

Explanation:

The author quite clearly respects Majorian yet disagrees with the brutality of some of his methods, as he switches between the apologetic tone found in the line “Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of those ages, in which he would have desired and deserved to live,” and the questioning tone of the line “the means which he employed to accomplish these salutary purposes are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable, kind.” So we can only really say that the author is stating the methods with which Majorian was trying to reinstate Rome's greatness and how they were questionable measures from a modern perspective.

Example Question #2 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from the third volume of The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1782)

The spectator who casts a mournful view over the ruins of ancient Rome, is tempted to accuse the memory of the Goths and Vandals, for the mischief which they had neither leisure, nor power, nor perhaps inclination, to perpetrate. The tempest of war might strike some lofty turrets to the ground; but the destruction which undermined the foundations of those massy fabrics was prosecuted, slowly and silently, during a period of ten centuries; and the motives of interest, that afterwards operated without shame or control, were severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian. The decay of the city had gradually impaired the value of the public works. The circus and theaters might still excite, but they seldom gratified, the desires of the people: the temples, which had escaped the zeal of the Christians, were no longer inhabited, either by gods or men; the diminished crowds of the Romans were lost in the immense space of their baths and porticos; and the stately libraries and halls of justice became useless to an indolent generation, whose repose was seldom disturbed, either by study or business. The monuments of consular, or Imperial, greatness were no longer revered, as the immortal glory of the capital: they were only esteemed as an inexhaustible mine of materials, cheaper, and more convenient than the distant quarry. Specious petitions were continually addressed to the easy magistrates of Rome, which stated the want of stones or bricks, for some necessary service: the fairest forms of architecture were rudely defaced, for the sake of some paltry, or pretended, repairs; and the degenerate Romans, who converted the spoil to their own emolument, demolished, with sacrilegious hands, the labors of their ancestors. Majorian, who had often sighed over the desolation of the city, applied a severe remedy to the growing evil.

He reserved to the prince and senate the sole cognizance of the extreme cases which might justify the destruction of an ancient edifice; imposed a fine of fifty pounds of gold (two thousand pounds sterling) on every magistrate who should presume to grant such illegal and scandalous license, and threatened to chastise the criminal obedience of their subordinate officers, by a severe whipping, and the amputation of both their hands. In the last instance, the legislator might seem to forget the proportion of guilt and punishment; but his zeal arose from a generous principle, and Majorian was anxious to protect the monuments of those ages, in which he would have desired and deserved to live. The emperor conceived that it was his interest to increase the number of his subjects; and that it was his duty to guard the purity of the marriage-bed: but the means which he employed to accomplish these salutary purposes are of an ambiguous, and perhaps exceptionable, kind. The pious maids, who consecrated their virginity to Christ, were restrained from taking the veil till they had reached their fortieth year. Widows under that age were compelled to form a second alliance within the term of five years, by the forfeiture of half their wealth to their nearest relations, or to the state. Unequal marriages were condemned or annulled. The punishment of confiscation and exile was deemed so inadequate to the guilt of adultery, that, if the criminal returned to Italy, he might, by the express declaration of Majorian, be slain with impunity.

The primary purpose of the passage is most likely to __________.

Possible Answers:

define the key aspects of the fall of Rome

show Majorian's anxiousness in the wake of war with the Goths

continue talking about the reign of Majorian

discuss the impact of barbarian tribes on Majorian's Rome

separate the reign of Majorian from the wars with outsiders

Correct answer:

continue talking about the reign of Majorian

Explanation:

The author is obviously discussing the reign of Majorian and is attempting to distinguish his reign from the damage done by the barbarians and others over the years. We can surmise that the passage appears somewhere in a section of text on the reign of Majorian because of the ease with which the author talks about him at the start of the paragraph: “were severely checked by the taste and spirit of the emperor Majorian” is not an introductory line, as it contains no dates or background information. Likewise, the passage shows no inclination to being introductory, and if it was it would be highly irregular as an introduction.

Example Question #2 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from an essay by Charles William Eliot in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

The first and principal contribution to which I shall ask your attention is the advance made in the United States, not in theory only, but in practice, toward the abandonment of war as the means of settling disputes between nations, the substitution of discussion and arbitration, and the avoidance of armaments. If the intermittent Indian fighting and the brief contest with the Barbary corsairs be disregarded, the United States have had only four years and a quarter of international war in the one hundred and seven years since the adoption of the Constitution. Within the same period the United States have been a party to forty-seven arbitrations—being more than half of all that have taken place in the modern world. The questions settled by these arbitrations have been just such as have commonly caused wars, namely, questions of boundary, fisheries, damage caused by war or civil disturbances, and injuries to commerce. Some of them were of great magnitude, the four made under the treaty of Washington (May 8, 1871) being the most important that have ever taken place. Confident in their strength, and relying on their ability to adjust international differences, the United States have habitually maintained, by voluntary enlistment for short terms, a standing army and a fleet which, in proportion to the population, are insignificant.

The beneficent effects of this American contribution to civilization are of two sorts: in the first place, the direct evils of war and of preparations for war have been diminished; and secondly, the influence of the war spirit on the perennial conflict between the rights of the single personal unit and the powers of the multitude that constitute organized society—or, in other words, between individual freedom and collective authority—has been reduced to the lowest terms. War has been, and still is, the school of collectivism, the warrant of tyranny. Century after century, tribes, clans, and nations have sacrificed the liberty of the individual to the fundamental necessity of being strong for combined defense or attack in war. Individual freedom is crushed in war, for the nature of war is inevitably despotic. It says to the private person: "Obey without a question, even unto death; die in this ditch, without knowing why; walk into that deadly thicket; mount this embankment, behind which are men who will try to kill you, lest you should kill them." At this moment every young man in Continental Europe learns the lesson of absolute military obedience, and feels himself subject to this crushing power of militant society, against which no rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness avail anything.

In the War of Independence there was a distinct hope and purpose to enlarge individual liberty. It made possible a confederation of the colonies, and, ultimately, the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. It gave to the thirteen colonies a lesson in collectivism, but it was a needed lesson on the necessity of combining their forces to resist an oppressive external authority. The War of 1812 is properly called the Second War of Independence, for it was truly a fight for liberty and for the rights of neutrals, in resistance to the impressment of seamen and other oppressions growing out of European conflicts. The Civil War of 1861-65 was waged, on the side of the North, primarily, to prevent the dismemberment of the country, and, secondarily and incidentally, to destroy the institution of slavery. On the Northern side it therefore called forth a generous element of popular ardor in defense of free institutions.

In all this series of fightings the main motives were self-defense, resistance to oppression, the enlargement of liberty, and the conservation of national acquisitions. The war with Mexico, it is true, was of a wholly different type. That was a war of conquest, and of conquest chiefly in the interest of African slavery. It was also an unjust attack made by a powerful people on a feeble one; but it lasted less than two years, and the number of men engaged in it was at no time large. Its results contradicted the anticipations both of those who advocated and of those who opposed it. It was one of the wrongs which prepared the way for the great rebellion; but its direct evils were of moderate extent, and it had no effect on the perennial conflict between individual liberty and public power.

The ordinary causes of war between nation and nation have been lacking in America for the last century and a quarter. How many wars in the world’s history have been due to contending dynasties; how many of the most cruel and protracted wars have been due to religious strife; how many to race hatred! No one of these causes of war has been efficacious in America since the French were overcome in Canada by the English in 1759. Looking forward into the future, we find it impossible to imagine circumstances under which any of these common causes of war can take effect on the North American continent. Therefore, the ordinary motives for maintaining armaments in time of peace, and concentrating the powers of government in such a way as to interfere with individual liberty, have not been in play in the United States as among the nations of Europe, and are not likely to be. Such have been the favorable conditions under which America has made its best contribution to the progress of civilization.

This essay is most likely __________.

Possible Answers:

a political speech given by a candidate in a local election

part of a longer essay about the various contributions America has made to the advancement of society and humanity

part of a longer essay about the history and progression of warfare

a response to another essay that was written to attack the contributions made by the United States to advancement of civilization

a stand-alone piece about the American contribution to the declining influence of warfare and tyranny

Correct answer:

part of a longer essay about the various contributions America has made to the advancement of society and humanity

Explanation:

This essay is most likely part of a longer essay about American contributions to the betterment of civilization. The most obvious piece of evidence that supports this is the opening line where the author declares “The first and principal contribution to which I shall ask your attention is the advance made in the United States, not in theory only, but in practice, toward the abandonment of war. . .” The fact that “the abandonment of war” is only the “first and principal contribution” suggests that there are other contributions that the author has made that he will go on to discuss. There is no evidence to support the notion that this essay is given in response to an earlier piece, nor does the essay seem to be about the history and progression of warfare.

Example Question #3 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from an essay by Charles William Eliot in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

The first and principal contribution to which I shall ask your attention is the advance made in the United States, not in theory only, but in practice, toward the abandonment of war as the means of settling disputes between nations, the substitution of discussion and arbitration, and the avoidance of armaments. If the intermittent Indian fighting and the brief contest with the Barbary corsairs be disregarded, the United States have had only four years and a quarter of international war in the one hundred and seven years since the adoption of the Constitution. Within the same period the United States have been a party to forty-seven arbitrations—being more than half of all that have taken place in the modern world. The questions settled by these arbitrations have been just such as have commonly caused wars, namely, questions of boundary, fisheries, damage caused by war or civil disturbances, and injuries to commerce. Some of them were of great magnitude, the four made under the treaty of Washington (May 8, 1871) being the most important that have ever taken place. Confident in their strength, and relying on their ability to adjust international differences, the United States have habitually maintained, by voluntary enlistment for short terms, a standing army and a fleet which, in proportion to the population, are insignificant.

The beneficent effects of this American contribution to civilization are of two sorts: in the first place, the direct evils of war and of preparations for war have been diminished; and secondly, the influence of the war spirit on the perennial conflict between the rights of the single personal unit and the powers of the multitude that constitute organized society—or, in other words, between individual freedom and collective authority—has been reduced to the lowest terms. War has been, and still is, the school of collectivism, the warrant of tyranny. Century after century, tribes, clans, and nations have sacrificed the liberty of the individual to the fundamental necessity of being strong for combined defense or attack in war. Individual freedom is crushed in war, for the nature of war is inevitably despotic. It says to the private person: "Obey without a question, even unto death; die in this ditch, without knowing why; walk into that deadly thicket; mount this embankment, behind which are men who will try to kill you, lest you should kill them." At this moment every young man in Continental Europe learns the lesson of absolute military obedience, and feels himself subject to this crushing power of militant society, against which no rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness avail anything.

In the War of Independence there was a distinct hope and purpose to enlarge individual liberty. It made possible a confederation of the colonies, and, ultimately, the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. It gave to the thirteen colonies a lesson in collectivism, but it was a needed lesson on the necessity of combining their forces to resist an oppressive external authority. The War of 1812 is properly called the Second War of Independence, for it was truly a fight for liberty and for the rights of neutrals, in resistance to the impressment of seamen and other oppressions growing out of European conflicts. The Civil War of 1861-65 was waged, on the side of the North, primarily, to prevent the dismemberment of the country, and, secondarily and incidentally, to destroy the institution of slavery. On the Northern side it therefore called forth a generous element of popular ardor in defense of free institutions.

In all this series of fightings the main motives were self-defense, resistance to oppression, the enlargement of liberty, and the conservation of national acquisitions. The war with Mexico, it is true, was of a wholly different type. That was a war of conquest, and of conquest chiefly in the interest of African slavery. It was also an unjust attack made by a powerful people on a feeble one; but it lasted less than two years, and the number of men engaged in it was at no time large. Its results contradicted the anticipations both of those who advocated and of those who opposed it. It was one of the wrongs which prepared the way for the great rebellion; but its direct evils were of moderate extent, and it had no effect on the perennial conflict between individual liberty and public power.

The ordinary causes of war between nation and nation have been lacking in America for the last century and a quarter. How many wars in the world’s history have been due to contending dynasties; how many of the most cruel and protracted wars have been due to religious strife; how many to race hatred! No one of these causes of war has been efficacious in America since the French were overcome in Canada by the English in 1759. Looking forward into the future, we find it impossible to imagine circumstances under which any of these common causes of war can take effect on the North American continent. Therefore, the ordinary motives for maintaining armaments in time of peace, and concentrating the powers of government in such a way as to interfere with individual liberty, have not been in play in the United States as among the nations of Europe, and are not likely to be. Such have been the favorable conditions under which America has made its best contribution to the progress of civilization.

What is the primary function of the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To establish that America’s contribution to civilization is irrefutable and irreversible

To disparage the European continent for its general malaise and malpractice in the nineteenth century

To illustrate the changing nature of warfare over the course of the nineteenth century, and how these changes are bringing personal liberty to the masses

To argue that America is much more advanced than continental Europe when it comes to promoting peace and equality

To discuss how America’s contribution to civilization is reducing the tyrannical impact of warfare and encouraging personal liberty

Correct answer:

To discuss how America’s contribution to civilization is reducing the tyrannical impact of warfare and encouraging personal liberty

Explanation:

The primary function of the second paragraph is to discuss the positive American contribution to civilization and the practice of warfare. The author is arguing that America has reduced the tyrannical impact of warfare and encouraged personal liberty, particularly in comparison to continental Europe. This can be most clearly seen in the paragraph's opening lines, “The beneficent effects of this American contribution to civilization are of two sorts: in the first place, the direct evils of war and of preparations for war have been diminished; and secondly, the influence of the war spirit on the perennial conflict between the rights of the single personal unit and the powers of the multitude that constitute organized society—or, in other words, between individual freedom and collective authority—has been reduced to the lowest terms.” In addition, a later quotation in the second paragraph continues this point: “Individual freedom is crushed in war, for the nature of war is inevitably despotic.” While in the second paragraph the author does seem to argue that America’s approach is relatively advanced compared to that of Continental Europe, this is merely evidence to support the primary function of the paragraph. All of the other answer choices are significantly further from being correct for various reasons.

Example Question #4 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from an essay by Charles William Eliot in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

The first and principal contribution to which I shall ask your attention is the advance made in the United States, not in theory only, but in practice, toward the abandonment of war as the means of settling disputes between nations, the substitution of discussion and arbitration, and the avoidance of armaments. If the intermittent Indian fighting and the brief contest with the Barbary corsairs be disregarded, the United States have had only four years and a quarter of international war in the one hundred and seven years since the adoption of the Constitution. Within the same period the United States have been a party to forty-seven arbitrations—being more than half of all that have taken place in the modern world. The questions settled by these arbitrations have been just such as have commonly caused wars, namely, questions of boundary, fisheries, damage caused by war or civil disturbances, and injuries to commerce. Some of them were of great magnitude, the four made under the treaty of Washington (May 8, 1871) being the most important that have ever taken place. Confident in their strength, and relying on their ability to adjust international differences, the United States have habitually maintained, by voluntary enlistment for short terms, a standing army and a fleet which, in proportion to the population, are insignificant.

The beneficent effects of this American contribution to civilization are of two sorts: in the first place, the direct evils of war and of preparations for war have been diminished; and secondly, the influence of the war spirit on the perennial conflict between the rights of the single personal unit and the powers of the multitude that constitute organized society—or, in other words, between individual freedom and collective authority—has been reduced to the lowest terms. War has been, and still is, the school of collectivism, the warrant of tyranny. Century after century, tribes, clans, and nations have sacrificed the liberty of the individual to the fundamental necessity of being strong for combined defense or attack in war. Individual freedom is crushed in war, for the nature of war is inevitably despotic. It says to the private person: "Obey without a question, even unto death; die in this ditch, without knowing why; walk into that deadly thicket; mount this embankment, behind which are men who will try to kill you, lest you should kill them." At this moment every young man in Continental Europe learns the lesson of absolute military obedience, and feels himself subject to this crushing power of militant society, against which no rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness avail anything.

In the War of Independence there was a distinct hope and purpose to enlarge individual liberty. It made possible a confederation of the colonies, and, ultimately, the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. It gave to the thirteen colonies a lesson in collectivism, but it was a needed lesson on the necessity of combining their forces to resist an oppressive external authority. The War of 1812 is properly called the Second War of Independence, for it was truly a fight for liberty and for the rights of neutrals, in resistance to the impressment of seamen and other oppressions growing out of European conflicts. The Civil War of 1861-65 was waged, on the side of the North, primarily, to prevent the dismemberment of the country, and, secondarily and incidentally, to destroy the institution of slavery. On the Northern side it therefore called forth a generous element of popular ardor in defense of free institutions.

In all this series of fightings the main motives were self-defense, resistance to oppression, the enlargement of liberty, and the conservation of national acquisitions. The war with Mexico, it is true, was of a wholly different type. That was a war of conquest, and of conquest chiefly in the interest of African slavery. It was also an unjust attack made by a powerful people on a feeble one; but it lasted less than two years, and the number of men engaged in it was at no time large. Its results contradicted the anticipations both of those who advocated and of those who opposed it. It was one of the wrongs which prepared the way for the great rebellion; but its direct evils were of moderate extent, and it had no effect on the perennial conflict between individual liberty and public power.

The ordinary causes of war between nation and nation have been lacking in America for the last century and a quarter. How many wars in the world’s history have been due to contending dynasties; how many of the most cruel and protracted wars have been due to religious strife; how many to race hatred! No one of these causes of war has been efficacious in America since the French were overcome in Canada by the English in 1759. Looking forward into the future, we find it impossible to imagine circumstances under which any of these common causes of war can take effect on the North American continent. Therefore, the ordinary motives for maintaining armaments in time of peace, and concentrating the powers of government in such a way as to interfere with individual liberty, have not been in play in the United States as among the nations of Europe, and are not likely to be. Such have been the favorable conditions under which America has made its best contribution to the progress of civilization.

The primary function of the fourth paragraph is to __________.

Possible Answers:

vehemently disparage the United States' government for turning its back on the mission of personal liberty

introduce a foreseen refutation of the author’s thesis and downplay the significance of this argument

support the author’s primary argument by introducing new evidence that supports the thesis

condemn the Mexican government for their bellicose behavior in the build-up to the Mexican War

confess to one flaw in the author’s argument and demonstrate why this flaw is relevant, but not enough to overturn the author’s thesis

Correct answer:

introduce a foreseen refutation of the author’s thesis and downplay the significance of this argument

Explanation:

The primary function of the fourth paragraph is to address the problems to the author’s overall thesis presented by the Mexican-American War. The author seems to recognize that the causes of the Mexican-American War, and the manner in which it was carried out, represent a hole in his argument. He foresees that someone who might offer a refutation to his thesis would bring up this conflict, so he seeks to downplay the significance of it. You can tell the author believes that the Mexican-American War represents a deviation from his thesis because he says, “[The Mexican-American War] was a war of conquest, and of conquest chiefly in the interest of African slavery. It was also an unjust attack made by a powerful people on a feeble one . . .” After this quotation, you can see the manner in which the author tries to downplay the conflict: “. . . but it lasted less than two years, and the number of men engaged in it was at no time large . . . its direct evils were of moderate extent, and it had no effect on the perennial conflict between individual liberty and public power.”

Example Question #5 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from “Federalist No. 5. The Same Subject Continued (Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)” by John Jay in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

The history of Great Britain is the one with which we are in general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful lessons. Although it seems obvious to common sense that the people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another.

Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations, would not the same thing happen? Instead of their being "joined in affection" and free from all apprehension of different "interests," envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most other bordering nations, they would always be either involved in disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.

The most sanguine advocates for three or four confederacies cannot reasonably suppose that they would long remain exactly on an equal footing in point of strength, even if it was possible to form them so at first; but, admitting that to be practicable, yet what human contrivance can secure the continuance of such equality? Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance, if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her importance. She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them. Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.

From these considerations it appears that those gentlemen are greatly mistaken who suppose that alliances offensive and defensive might be formed between these confederacies, and would produce that combination and union of wills of arms and of resources, which would be necessary to put and keep them in a formidable state of defense against foreign enemies.

When did the independent states, into which Britain and Spain were formerly divided, combine in such alliance, or unite their forces against a foreign enemy? The proposed confederacies will be distinct nations with different degrees of political attachment to and connection with different foreign nations. Hence it might and probably would happen that the foreign nation with whom the southern confederacy might be at war would be the one with whom the northern confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and friendship. An alliance so contrary to their immediate interest would not therefore be easy to form, nor, if formed, would it be observed and fulfilled with perfect good faith.

Nay, it is far more probable that in America, as in Europe, neighboring nations, acting under the impulse of opposite interests and unfriendly passions, would frequently be found taking different sides. Considering our distance from Europe, it would be more natural for these confederacies to apprehend danger from one another than from distant nations, and therefore that each of them should be more desirous to guard against the others by the aid of foreign alliances, than to guard against foreign dangers by alliances between themselves. And here let us not forget how much more easy it is to receive foreign fleets into our ports, and foreign armies into our country, than it is to persuade or compel them to depart. How many conquests did the Romans and others make in the characters of allies, and what innovations did they under the same character introduce into the governments of those whom they pretended to protect.

The author’s purpose for writing this essay is most likely __________.

Possible Answers:

to contend that the United States ought to carefully consider the choices made by the electorate in the coming election

to argue against the idea that the United States would have better fortune as a group of regional confederacies

to urge the audience to consider the lessons of British and European history

to defend the newly independent United States from relapsing into European control

to undermine the attempts of local politicians to establish a central federal government

Correct answer:

to argue against the idea that the United States would have better fortune as a group of regional confederacies

Explanation:

The author’s primary purpose in writing this essay is to argue against the breakup of the newly independent United States into several regional confederacies. It is obvious the author is arguing against some other opinion perhaps commonly held at the time because he states, “The most sanguine advocates for three or four confederacies cannot reasonably suppose that they would long remain exactly on an equal footing in point of strength, even if it was possible to form them so at first.“ The answer choice that reads “to urge the audience to consider the lessons of British and European history” is closer to part of the author’s argument that he uses to achieve the aforementioned purpose. The answer choice that reads “to defend the newly independent United States from relapsing into European control” is possibly part of the author’s motivation, but not his primary purpose in this instance.

Example Question #6 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from “Federalist No. 5. The Same Subject Continued (Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence)” by John Jay in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

The history of Great Britain is the one with which we are in general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful lessons. Although it seems obvious to common sense that the people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another.

Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations, would not the same thing happen? Instead of their being "joined in affection" and free from all apprehension of different "interests," envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most other bordering nations, they would always be either involved in disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.

The most sanguine advocates for three or four confederacies cannot reasonably suppose that they would long remain exactly on an equal footing in point of strength, even if it was possible to form them so at first; but, admitting that to be practicable, yet what human contrivance can secure the continuance of such equality? Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance, if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her importance. She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them. Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.

From these considerations it appears that those gentlemen are greatly mistaken who suppose that alliances offensive and defensive might be formed between these confederacies, and would produce that combination and union of wills of arms and of resources, which would be necessary to put and keep them in a formidable state of defense against foreign enemies.

When did the independent states, into which Britain and Spain were formerly divided, combine in such alliance, or unite their forces against a foreign enemy? The proposed confederacies will be distinct nations with different degrees of political attachment to and connection with different foreign nations. Hence it might and probably would happen that the foreign nation with whom the southern confederacy might be at war would be the one with whom the northern confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and friendship. An alliance so contrary to their immediate interest would not therefore be easy to form, nor, if formed, would it be observed and fulfilled with perfect good faith.

Nay, it is far more probable that in America, as in Europe, neighboring nations, acting under the impulse of opposite interests and unfriendly passions, would frequently be found taking different sides. Considering our distance from Europe, it would be more natural for these confederacies to apprehend danger from one another than from distant nations, and therefore that each of them should be more desirous to guard against the others by the aid of foreign alliances, than to guard against foreign dangers by alliances between themselves. And here let us not forget how much more easy it is to receive foreign fleets into our ports, and foreign armies into our country, than it is to persuade or compel them to depart. How many conquests did the Romans and others make in the characters of allies, and what innovations did they under the same character introduce into the governments of those whom they pretended to protect.

The author mentions the Roman conquests to support his argument that __________.

Possible Answers:

the European nations are more likely to trade with the United States if it remains united

only Great Britain has succeeded as a collection of nations, and it would be unwise to follow its example

the political division of a nation or empire can only lead to animosity and war

there is great danger in inviting a foreign power into United States territory to help with regional in-fighting

without an effective and unified military, the United States would be easily conquered by the European powers

Correct answer:

there is great danger in inviting a foreign power into United States territory to help with regional in-fighting

Explanation:

The primary point of the concluding paragraph, in which the Roman conquests are mentioned, is that a divided United States would be more inclined to develop alliances against itself with the various European powers than it would be to work together against the influence of Europe. In addition, the author warns that it is much easier to invite foreign powers to come to one’s aid in times of war than it is to compel them to leave once the war has been finished. The author uses the example of Roman history to support his statement that if a foreign power is invited to enter one’s territory and to assist in a war, it is quite likely to stay and exert control in place of the enemy it helped defeat. This conclusion is supported by the statement that precedes the author’s mention of the Romans, where the author claims, “And here let us not forget how much more easy it is to receive foreign fleets into our ports, and foreign armies into our country, than it is to persuade or compel them to depart.” A careful reading of the sentence that mentions the Roman powers seems to confirm this conclusion: “How many conquests did the Romans and others make in the characters of allies, and what innovations did they under the same character introduce into the governments of those whom they pretended to protect.”

Example Question #7 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Family Among the Australian Aborigines: a Sociological Study by Bronislaw Malinowski (1913)

It seems beyond doubt that in the aboriginal society the husband exercised almost complete authority over his wife; she was entirely in his hands and he might ill-treat her, provided he did not kill her. Out of our thirty statements, in six cases (Kurnai, Bangerang, Lower Murray tribes, according to Bonney, Geawe-Gal, Port Jackson tribes, North-west Central Queenslanders) the absolute authority of the husband is explicitly affirmed. We read in them either the bare statement that the husband had an absolute power over his family; or, in the better of them, we are more exactly informed that he had only to abstain from inflicting death on his wife. It was the latter's kinsman who would avenge her (Kurnai, Bangerang, North-west Central Queenslanders). It is difficult to ascertain in what form society would interfere with the husband if he transgressed the limits of his legal authority, i. e. killed his wife. Curr informs us that the woman's relatives would avenge her death. Howitt says that there would ensue a blood feud, which comes nearly to the same. It is very probable that the woman's kin retained some rights of protection. The remaining statements implicitly declare that the husband's authority was very extensive. (Encounter Bay tribes according to Meyer; New South Wales tribes according to Hodgson; Port Stephens tribes according to R. Dawson; Arunta; Herbert River tribes; Queenslanders according to Palmer; Moreton Bay tribes according to J. D. Lang; South-Western tribes according to Salvado; West Australians according to Grey.) It is clear that wherever we read of excessive harshness and bad treatment, wounds, blows inflicted on women, the husband must possess the authority to do it; in other words, he does not find any social barrier preventing him from ill-treatment. Especially as, in these statements, such ill-treatment is mentioned to be the rule and not an exception. In two statements we can gather no information on this point. According to the statement of J. Dawson on the West Victoria tribes, the husband's authority appears strictly limited by the potential intervention of the chief, who could even divorce the woman if she complained. But Curr warns us against Dawson's information concerning the chief and his power. Curr's arguments appear to be very conclusive. Too much weight cannot be attached, therefore, to Dawson's exceptional statement. Discarding it, we see that we have on this point fairly clear information. We may assume that society interfered but seldom with the husband, in fact, only in the extreme case of his killing his wife. Six statements are directly, and the remainder indirectly, in favor of this view, and the only one contradictory is not very trustworthy.

Which of the following statements best summarizes the author's purpose in writing this passage?

Possible Answers:

To belittle and mock the marriage practices of Australian aboriginal societies

To compare the marriage practices of Australian aboriginals to those of other indigenous societies

To argue with other academics who have studied the marriage practices of societies around the world

To outline the nature of authority in marriages among Australian aboriginal societies

To promote Western marriage values over those of Australian aboriginal societies

Correct answer:

To outline the nature of authority in marriages among Australian aboriginal societies

Explanation:

The author is extremely detailed, factual, and sourced, discussing the issue of authority in Australian aboriginal marriages as completely as possible. Notably, though, the author essentially never takes a stand on the values or quality of Australian aboriginal marriages. This means that his main purpose is simply to detail the nature of authority in Australian aboriginal marriages.

Example Question #8 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Adapted from “Darwinism and History" by J. B. Bury in Evolution in Modern Thought by Haeckel, Thomson, Weisman, and Others (1917 ed.)

The conception of the history of man as a causal development meant the elevation of historical inquiry to the dignity of a science. Just as the study of bees cannot become scientific so long as the student's interest in them is only to procure honey or to derive moral lessons from the labors of "the little busy bee," so the history of human societies cannot become the object of pure scientific investigation so long as man estimates its value in pragmatical scales. Nor can it become a science until it is conceived as lying entirely within a sphere in which the law of cause and effect has unreserved and unrestricted dominion. On the other hand, once history is envisaged as a causal process, which contains within itself the explanation of the development of humanity from its primitive state to the point that it has reached, such a process necessarily becomes the object of scientific investigation and the interest in it is scientific curiosity.

At the same time, the instruments were sharpened and refined. Here Wolf, a philologist with historical instinct, was a pioneer. His Prolegomena to Homer (1795) announced new modes of attack. Historical investigation was soon transformed by the elaboration of new methods.

"Progress" involves a judgment of value, which is not involved in the conception of history as a "genetic" process. It is also an idea distinct from that of evolution. Nevertheless, it is closely related to the ideas that revolutionized history at the beginning of the last century; it swam into people's ken simultaneously; and it helped effectively to establish the notion of history as a continuous process and to emphasize the significance of time. Passing over earlier anticipations, I may point to a Discours of Turgot (1750), where history is presented as a process in which "the total mass of the human race" "marches continually though sometimes slowly to an ever increasing perfection." That is a clear statement of the conception which Turgot's friend Condorcet elaborated in the famous work, published in 1795, Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain. This work first treated with explicit fullness the idea to which a leading role was to fall in the ideology of the nineteenth century. Condorcet's book reflects the triumphs of the Tiers état, whose growing importance had also inspired Turgot; it was the political changes in the eighteenth century that led to the doctrine, emphatically formulated by Condorcet, that the masses are the most important element in the historical process. I dwell on this because, though Condorcet had no idea of evolution, the predominant importance of the masses was the assumption that made it possible to apply evolutional principles to history. And it enabled Condorcet himself to maintain that the history of civilization, a progress still far from being complete, was a development conditioned by general laws.

The assimilation of society to an organism, which was a governing notion in the school of Savigny, and the conception of progress, combined to produce the idea of an organic development, in which the historian has to determine the central principle or leading character. This is illustrated by the apotheosis of democracy in Tocqueville's Démocratie en Amérique, where the theory is maintained that "the gradual and progressive development of equality is at once the past and the future of the history of men." The same two principles are combined in the doctrine of Spencer (who held that society is an organism, though he also contemplated its being what he calls a "super-organic aggregate"), that social evolution is a progressive change from militarism to industrialism.

Which of the following best expresses the author's purpose for writing this passage?

Possible Answers:

To praise Alexis de Tocqueville over other preeminent French historians

To look at the effects Condorcet's work has had on the work of other historians

To outline a change in how historians have viewed the nature of history

To belittle most of the historians who have come before him

To compare the different approaches used by English and French historians

Correct answer:

To outline a change in how historians have viewed the nature of history

Explanation:

This passage diligently goes through various views of history by citing a number of famous historians and their works. At the very end, though, the author lands on the view of progressivism as the ultimate culmination of these different terms. While he is not making an overt argument, the author does have a final point that he works toward throughout the passage.

Example Question #9 : Purpose In Social Science Passages

Passage adapted from Giuseppe Mazzini's The Duties of Man (1860)

Education, we have said; and this is the great word which sums up our whole doctrine. The vital question agitating our century is a question of education. What we have to do is not to establish a new order of things by violence. An order of things so established is also tyrannical even when it I better than the old. We have to overthrow by force the brute force which opposes itself to-day to every attempt at improvement, and then propose for the approval of the nation, free to express it will what we believe to be the best order of things and by every possible means educate men to develop it and act in conformity with it. The theory of rights enables us to rise and overthrow obstacles, but not to found a strong and lasting accord between all the elements which compose the nation. With the theory of happiness, of well-being, as the primary aim of existence we shall only form egoistic men, worshippers of the material, who will carry the old passions into the new order of things and corrupt it in a few months. We have therefore to find a principle of education superior to any such theory, which shall guide men to better things, teach them constancy in self-sacrifice and link them with their fellow men without making them dependent on the ideas of a single man or on the strength of all. And this principle is Duty. We must convince men that they, sons of one only God, must obey one only law, here on earth; that each one of them must live not for himself, but for others; that the object of their life is not to be more or less happy, but to make themselves and others better; that to fight against injustice and error for the benefit of their brothers is not only a right, but a duty; a duty not to be neglected without sin, — the duty of their whole life.

Italian Working-men, my Brothers! Understand me fully. When I say that the knowledge of their rights is not enough to enable men to effect any appreciable or lasting improvement, I do not ask you to renounce these rights; I only say that they cannot exist except as a consequence of duties fulfilled, and that one must begin with the latter in order to arrive at the former. And when I say that by proposing happiness, well-being, or material interest as the aim of existence, we run the risk of producing egoists, I do not mean that you should never strive after these things. I say that material interests pursued alone, and not as a means, but as an end, lead always to this most disastrous result. When under the Emperors, the old Romans asked for nothing but bread and amusements, they became the most abject race conceivable, and after submitting to the stupid and ferocious tyranny of the Emperors they basely fell into slavery to the invading Barbarians…

Material improvement is essential, and we shall strive to win it for ourselves; but not because the one thing necessary for men is to be well fed and housed, but rather because you cannot have a sense of your own dignity or any moral development while you are engaged, as in the present day, in a continual duel with want. You work ten or twelve hours a day: how can you find time to educate yourselves?

The author likely uses the word "brothers" throughout the passage in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

Create a division between men and their female counterparts 

Emphasize the need for dignity 

Denote a familial relationship 

Encourage solidarity among working men

Correct answer:

Encourage solidarity among working men

Explanation:

The author uses the word "brothers" throughout the passage in order to encourage solidarity among working men ("Italian working men, my brothers!"). The author is not denoting a literal familial relationship. Further, the author emphasizes "a sense of your own dignity [and] moral development" but does not use "brothers" in reference to dignity. Finally, the author does not refer to women at all, so the distinction between men and their female counterparts is irrelevant.

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