TOEFL : Argumentation

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for TOEFL

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Argumentation

Adapted from Women and Economics by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1898)

All our virtues can be traced and accounted for. The great main stem of them all, what we call "love," is merely the first condition of social existence. It is cohesion, working among us at the constituent particles of society. Without some attraction to hold us together, we should not be able to hold together; and this attraction, as perceived by our consciousness, we call love.

The virtue of obedience consists in the surrender of the individual will, so often necessary to the common good; and it stands highest in military organization, wherein great numbers of men must act together against their personal interests, even to the sacrifice of life, in the service of the community. As we have grown into fuller social life, we have slowly and experimentally, painfully and expensively, discovered what kind of man was the best social factor. The type of a satisfactory member of society today is a man self-controlled, kind, gentle, strong, wise, brave, courteous, cheerful, true. In the Middle Ages, strong, brave, and true would have satisfied the demands of the time. We now require for our common good a larger range of qualities, a more elaborate moral organization. All this is a simple, evolutionary process of social life, and should have involved no more confusion, effort, and pain than any other natural process.

In the passage above, the author argues what about social life?

Possible Answers:

The author argues that obedience and love are social experiences that serve little purpose in life

The author argues that social life never truly changes, although humans feel that it does

The author argues that modern social life is more sophisticated than social life in the Middle Ages

The author argues that all aspects of social life are founded upon love

The author argues that as our social environments change, our social values evolve alongside

Correct answer:

The author argues that as our social environments change, our social values evolve alongside

Explanation:

The author provides clear evidence to how social values change over time, citing the socially acceptable man of the contemporary period, versus the qualities of the socially ideal man of the Middle Ages. These examples help the reader see that the social world is always changing and evolving.

Example Question #2 : Argumentation

Adapted from Women and Economics by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1898)

Away back in that early beginning, by dividing the economic conditions of women and men, we have divided their psychic development, and built into the constitution of the race the irreconcilable elements of these diverse characters. The incongruous behavior of this cross-bred product is the riddle of human life. We ourselves, by maintaining this artificial diversity between the genders, have constantly kept before us the enigma which we found so hard to solve, and have preserved in our own characters the confusion and contradiction which is our greatest difficulty in life.

The largest and most radical effect of restoring women to economic independence will be in its result in clarifying and harmonizing the human soul. With a homogeneous nature bred of two parents in the same degree of social development, we shall be able to feel simply, to see clearly, to agree with ourselves, to be one person and master of our own lives, instead of wrestling in such hopeless perplexity with what we have called "man's dual nature." Marry a civilized man to a primitive savage, and their child will naturally have a dual nature. Marry an Anglo-Saxon to an African or Oriental, and their child has a dual nature. Marry any man of a highly developed nation, full of the specialized activities of his race and their accompanying moral qualities, to the carefully preserved, rudimentary female creature he has so religiously maintained by his side, and you have as result what we all know so well,–the human soul in its pitiful, well-meaning efforts, its cross-eyed, purblind errors, its baby fits of passion, and its beautiful and ceaseless upward impulse through all this wavering.

According to the author, what is to blame for humans suffering the "greatest difficulty in life"? 

Possible Answers:

Because women receive less education than men, society suffers

Traditional, old-fashioned beliefs about men and women are no longer respected, which is causing society harm

Humans continuing to believe in fundamental differences between men and women causes society to suffer

The lack of proper education is the reason people are suffering

Men exerting their power over women in society causes society to suffer

Correct answer:

Humans continuing to believe in fundamental differences between men and women causes society to suffer

Explanation:

The author argues that "We ourselves, by maintaining this artificial diversity between the genders," are to cause for the "greatest difficulty in life." According to the author, the fact that we not only accept differences between the genders, but that we also adopt and perform these differences, is the reason why we struggle to become liberated from their constraints.

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