LSAT Reading : Understanding Context-Dependent Vocabulary and Phrasing 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 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing 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 is closest in meaning to the word "manifest" (underlined) as it is used in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Demonstrable

Obvious

Formalized

Deliniated

Emergent

Correct answer:

Obvious

Explanation:

In this case, "manifest" is being used as an adjective to claim that the "good sense" of the aforementioned laws is obvious to all. While "demonstrable" might seem to be equivalent in meaning to "obvious," the nuances of meaning suggest that a different response, one implying that the good sense of these laws is so plain as to need no demonstration, should be chosen. The other responses relate to other meanings of "manifest" coming from the verb and noun forms of "manifest," or are unrelated.

Example Question #2 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing 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 use of the underlined phrase "heated discussion“ in the context of the last paragraph of the passage most closely means __________.

Possible Answers:

unfair exchange

combative discourse

emotional conversation

strong debate

intense persuasion 

Correct answer:

strong debate

Explanation:

The phrase, "heated discussion" appears in the last paragraph in this sentence: "There has been heated discussion as to whether Rwanda should sign the CISG." Given the context in which the phrase appears, it seems to mean that strong arguments are being made both for and against membership in the CISG. As such, "strong debate" is the best answer, as the discoure is not emotional, is not characerized as being combative, nor unfair, and there is no indication that "intense persuasion" is being utilized. 

Example Question #3 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Law Passages

Adapted from The Path of Law, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1897)

When we study law we are not studying a mystery but a well known profession. We are studying what we shall want in order to appear before judges, or to advise people in such a way as to keep them out of court. The reason why it is a profession, why people will pay lawyers to argue for them or to advise them, is that in societies like ours the command of the public force is intrusted to the judges in certain cases, and the whole power of the state will be put forth, if necessary, to carry out their judgments and decrees. People want to know under what circumstances and how far they will run the risk of coming against what is so much stronger than themselves, and hence it becomes a business to find out when this danger is to be feared. The object of our study, then, is prediction, the prediction of the incidence of the public force through the instrumentality of the courts.

The means of the study are a body of reports, of treatises, and of statutes, in this country and in England, extending back for six hundred years, and now increasing annually by hundreds. In these sibylline leaves are gathered the scattered prophecies of the past upon the cases in which the axe will fall. These are what properly have been called the oracles of the law. Far the most important and pretty nearly the whole meaning of every new effort of legal thought is to make these prophecies more precise, and to generalize them into a thoroughly connected system. The process is one, from a lawyer's statement of a case, eliminating as it does all the dramatic elements with which his client's story has clothed it, and retaining only the facts of legal import, up to the final analyses and abstract universals of theoretic jurisprudence. The reason why a lawyer does not mention that his client wore a white hat when he made a contract, while Mrs. Quickly would be sure to dwell upon it along with the parcel gilt goblet and the sea-coal fire, is that he foresees that the public force will act in the same way whatever his client had upon his head. It is to make the prophecies easier to be remembered and to be understood that the teachings of the decisions of the past are put into general propositions and gathered into textbooks, or that statutes are passed in a general form. The primary rights and duties with which jurisprudence busies itself again are nothing but prophecies. One of the many evil effects of the confusion between legal and moral ideas, about which I shall have something to say in a moment, is that theory is apt to get the cart before the horse, and consider the right or the duty as something existing apart from and independent of the consequences of its breach, to which certain sanctions are added afterward. But, as I shall try to show, a legal duty so called is nothing but a prediction that if a man does or omits certain things he will be made to suffer in this or that way by judgment of the court; and so of a legal right.

The number of our predictions when generalized and reduced to a system is not unmanageably large. They present themselves as a finite body of dogma which may be mastered within a reasonable time. It is a great mistake to be frightened by the ever-increasing number of reports. The reports of a given jurisdiction in the course of a generation take up pretty much the whole body of the law, and restate it from the present point of view. We could reconstruct the corpus from them if all that went before were burned.

Which of the following most closely matches the meaning of the phrase "sibylline leaves" (underlined) as it is used in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

volumnous annals

hissing dicta

prophetic pages

soft words

prescient predictions

Correct answer:

prophetic pages

Explanation:

The implication of the author's phrasing is that the accumulated reports of the decisions of courts of law can be used, with effort and study, to help predict, if imperfectly, how courts will act in the future. Thus, the credited response is the one that best captures the idea of the pages of law reports being used to prophesy future decisions. Other responses either do not capture this idea, or are based in a confusion of terms—like "sibilant," or hissing, for "sibyline."

Example Question #1 : Word Meaning

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 bolded and underlined word "derived" in the second paragraph is best understood to mean which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Passed on

Forfeited

Understood from

Taken out of

Collected

Correct answer:

Passed on

Explanation:

In this context, the word "derived" most closely means passed on. In context: "an entailed inheritance passed on to us from our forefathers." The use of "to" in the sentence makes "passed on" the best choice grammatically as well as contextually.

"Understood from," "taken out of," and "collected" can, in some contexts, be used synonymously with "derived," but none makes as much sense grammatically or in relation to the content of the passage as "passed on" does in this context.

"Forfeited" is an antonym of "derived."

Example Question #4 : Understanding Context Dependent Vocabulary And Phrasing In Law Passages

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 the underlined excerpt, "inheritance" is characterized as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

A longstanding, regressive aspect of a political system in desperate need of change.

A fundamental, irresistible principle of the British political system that has been passively carried through by legislators.

An unexamined, naturally occurring aspect of the British political system.

A fundamental principle of the British political system that has been actively chosen and pursued.

An important intellectual principle that needs to be incorporated into the fundamental structure of the British political system.

Correct answer:

A fundamental principle of the British political system that has been actively chosen and pursued.

Explanation:

In the excerpt, "inheritance" is characterized as a fundamental principle of the British political system, incorporated actively and by "choice."

The author asserts that this choice has already been made and had huge influence, not that it "needs" to begin to be incorporated. The author's characterization of this system is positive, not as a regressive system in need of change.

The author specifically figures the incorporation of this system is that it is "a choice," not an irresistible force (hence the author's need to advocate for it).

Example Question #37 : Word Meaning In Context

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 highlighted word "sophisters" is best understood to refer to which of the following?

Possible Answers:

People who are incapable of forming arguments

Lawyers

People who are in favor of monarchical governments

People reasoning in a clever but fallacious manner

Politicians

Correct answer:

People reasoning in a clever but fallacious manner

Explanation:

In this context, the word "sophisters" can be best understood to refer to those who reason in a clever but ultimately fallacious manner. The statement that the "sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course [England is currently pursuing]" assumes that the "sophisters" are, in fact, capable of reasoning, and in the context of the whole passage, it is clear that the author believes some of their reasoning clever, if fundamentally flawed and ignorant of tradition. 

Lawyers are often called "solicitors" (especially in England), not "sophisters." While many of the "sophisters" the author is talking about may, in fact, be politicians or political activists, the word itself does refer to a way of reasoning and arguing, not those in the political profession. The word also does not refer to those in favor of monarchical governments (who the author would not consider sophisters anyway, as they would support the author's assertions).

Example Question #37 : Ap English Language

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 underlined and bolded word "conformity" is closest in meaning to which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Adherence

Resistance

Resignation

Submission

Passive obedience

Correct answer:

Adherence

Explanation:

In context, "conformity" is intended to mean adherence. "Through the same plan of an adherence 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."

In this context, "adherence" is the best of the options provided because it connotes an active, intentional "conformity" to nature. The adherence implied is not "passive" or the result of a "submissive" or "resigned" relationship to nature; this would also have negative connotations toward "nature" in context, which is not the author's intention.

"Resistance" is an antonym of "conformity."

Example Question #6 : Content Of Law Passages

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

It is a mistake to suppose that it is enough in most cases to study that side of a person that is at the moment important—his or her dishonesty only, his or her laziness, etc. That will naturally lead to merely one-sided judgment and anyway be much harder than keeping the whole person in eye and studying him or her as an entirety. Every individual quality is merely a symptom of a whole nature and can be explained only by the whole complex; the good properties depend as much on the bad ones as the bad on the good ones. At the very least, the quality and quantity of a good or bad characteristic shows the influence of all the other good and bad characteristics. Kindliness is influenced and partly created through weakness, indetermination, too great susceptibility, a minimum acuteness, false constructiveness, untrained capacity for inference; in the same way, again, the most cruel hardness depends on properties which, taken in themselves, are good: determination, energy, purposeful action, clear conception of one's fellows, healthy egotism, etc. Every person is the result of his or her nature and nurture, i.e. of countless individual conditions, and every one of his or her expressions, again, is the result of all of these conditions. If, therefore, he or she is to be judged, he or she must be judged in the light of them all.

For this reason, all those indications that show us the person as a whole are for us the most important, but also those others are valuable which show him or her up on one side only; however, in the latter case, they are to be considered only as an index that never relieves us from the need further to study the nature of our subject.

We ask, for example, what kind of person will give us the best and most reliable information about the conduct and activity, the nature and character, of an individual? We are told: that sort of person who is usually asked for the information—his or her nearest friends and acquaintances and the authorities. Before all of these people do not show themselves as they are because the most honest will show themselves before people in whose judgment they have an interest at least as good as, if not better than they are—that is fundamental to the general egoistic essence of humanity, which seeks at least to avoid reducing its present welfare. Authorities who are asked to make a statement concerning any person can say reliably only how often the individual was punished or came otherwise in contact with the law or themselves. But concerning the individual's social characteristics the authorities have nothing to say; the detectives have to bring an answer. Then the detectives are, at most, simply people who have had the opportunity to watch and interrogate the servants, house-furnishers, porters, and corner-loafers, and other people in the employ of the individual. Why we do not question these people ourselves I cannot say; if we did, we might know these people on whom we depend for important information and might put our questions according to the answers that we need. 

It is a purely negative thing that an official declaration is nowadays not infrequently presented to us in the disgusting form of gossip. But in itself, the form of getting information about people through those who work for them is correct. People show their weaknesses most readily before those whom they hold of no account. This fact is well-known, but not sufficiently studied. It is of considerable importance. The Styrian, Peter Rosegger, one of the best students of mankind, once told a first-rate story of how the most intimate secrets of certain people became common talk although all concerned assured him that nobody had succeeded in getting knowledge of them. The news-agent was finally discovered in the person of an old, quiet woman who worked by the day in various homes and had found a place, unobserved and apparently indifferent, in the corner of the sitting-room. Nobody had told her any secrets, but things were allowed to occur before her from which she might guess and put them together. Nobody had watched this disinterested, ancient lady; she worked like a machine; her thoughts, when she noted a quarrel or anxiety or disagreement or joy, were indifferent to all concerned, and so she discovered a great deal that was kept secret from people perceived to be more important. This simple story is very significant—we are not to pay attention to gossips but to keep in mind that the information of people is in the rule more important and more reliable when the question under consideration is indifferent to them than when it is important.

Which of these best restates the author’s meaning in the underlined portion of text, “Every individual quality is merely a symptom of a whole nature and can be explained only by the whole complex; the good properties depend as much on the bad ones as the bad on the good ones"?

Possible Answers:

The nature of an individual is the combined sum of the whole of his or her unique characteristics; the positive and the negative are distinct, but of equal value to those who are tasked with judging the individual.

Every individual has a distinct nature different from all other individuals, and if we wish to understand his or her positive and negative characteristics, we must consider the manner in which the individual in question differs from other individuals.

It is impossible to determine the whole personality of an individual because his or her positive and negative characteristics are so inextricably wound together.

A person’s character traits can be viewed as either positive or negative, but the positive and negative characteristics are inseparably related to one another and combine to make up the whole nature of that person.

It is the duty of the judge to determine the personality of an individual through intensive examination of the whole of his or her nature; both the positive and negative aspects of his personality must be considered as part of the sum.

Correct answer:

A person’s character traits can be viewed as either positive or negative, but the positive and negative characteristics are inseparably related to one another and combine to make up the whole nature of that person.

Explanation:

Many of these answer choices are very similar, and almost all of them have some part of them that accurately restates the author’s meaning in the underlined portion of text. The key to solving this question is to consider which answer choices have words or ideas that are extraneous, or not contained in the text. For example, the answer choice “It is the duty of the judge to determine the personality of an individual through intensive examination of the whole of his or her nature; both the positive and negative aspects of his personality must be considered as part of the sum” is incorrect because the author makes no mention of “duty” or “responsibility.” The answer choice “Every individual has a distinct nature different from all other individuals, and if we wish to understand his or her positive and negative characteristics, we must consider the manner in which the individual in question differs from other individuals” is incorrect because the author does not focus on how all individuals are unique and distinct from others. The correct answer is right because it incorporates the author’s focus on the inseparable relationship between the positive and negative characteristics of an individual: "A person’s character traits can be viewed as either positive or negative, but the positive and negative characteristics are inseparably related to one another and combine to make up the whole nature of that person."

Example Question #41 : Analyzing 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.

As used in this passage, the underlined word “conceit” that appears near the end of the second paragraph most nearly means which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Haughtiness

Despondency 

Assuredness 

Prevalence 

Deception

Correct answer:

Haughtiness

Explanation:

The word “conceit” can mean deception or the hidden layer of a story; it can also mean arrogance and haughtiness. In this context, the author says, “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.” Because the author is discussing the dubious assumption on the part of the witness that he or she knows the truth when he or she does not, we can infer that the author is using the meaning of the word to convey “haughtiness” as opposed to “deception.”

Example Question #42 : Analyzing 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.

As used in this passage's second paragraph, the underlined word “diffidence” most nearly means which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Modesty 

Tentativeness

Brashness

Abasement

Quietness

Correct answer:

Tentativeness

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “even when they say doubtfully, “I believe— It seems to me,'' there is, in this diffidence, more meant than meets the ear.” From the author’s further description of his belief in the nature of the uncertainty of witness statements, we can reasonably infer that by the word “diffidence,” the author means tentativeness or uncertainty. This is as opposed to the more common meaning of the word “diffidence,” that is quietness or deference.

← Previous 1
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

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