GRE Verbal : Reading Comprehension

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store varsity tutors amazon store varsity tutors ibooks store

Example Questions

← Previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 23 24

Example Question #1 : Reading Comprehension

Passage adapted from John Dewey's "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" (1915)

Intellectual advance occurs in two ways. At times increase of knowledge is organized about old conceptions, while these are expanded, elaborated and refined, but not seriously revised, much less abandoned. At other times, the increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. Men's minds grow cold to their former intellectual concerns; ideas that were burning fade; interests that were urgent seem remote. Men face in another direction; their older perplexities are unreal; considerations passed over as negligible loom up. Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions.

Philosophy is no exception to the rule. But it is unusually conservative--not, necessarily, in proffering solutions, but in clinging to problems. It has been so allied with theology and theological morals as representatives of men's chief interests, that radical alteration has been shocking. Men's activities took a decidedly new turn, for example, in the seventeenth century, and it seems as if philosophy, under the lead of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes, was to execute an about-face. But, in spite of the ferment, it turned out that many of the older problems were but translated from Latin into the vernacular or into the new terminology furnished by science.

The association of philosophy with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism. Scholastic philosophy persisted in universities after men's thoughts outside of the walls of colleges had moved in other directions. In the last hundred years intellectual advances of science and politics have in like fashion been crystallized into material of instruction and now resist further change. I would not say that the spirit of teaching is hostile to that of liberal inquiry, but a philosophy which exists largely as something to be taught rather than wholly as something to be reflected upon is conducive to discussion of views held by others rather than to immediate response. Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems. It tends, also, to emphasize points upon which men have divided into schools, for these lend themselves to retrospective definition and elaboration. Consequently, philosophical discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics.

Which of the following could be an additional explanation that Dewey could cogently claim for his main point?

A. Philosophy is conservative because the human mind asks the same basic questions in all periods of history.

B. Philosophy is conservative because new ideas are merely copies of older ones.

C. Philosophy is conservative because people are not always aware of the novelty of their current social and historical conditions.

Possible Answers:

A and C

C

B

A and B

A

Correct answer:

C

Explanation:

We certainly should not choose option B. Dewey clearly does not stand for this conception of human thought at the end of the second paragraph. In that place, he is saying that there was indeed a change of mind in the seventeenth century. It just happened that many ideas were merely translated from one way of speaking to another—without radically reordering the structure of ideas in line with the changes that did take place on some level. This is a contingent fact, not necessarily something being claimed about philsophy as a whole (or essentially).

Likewise, there is nothing in the passage that can make us believe that A is correct. Dewey is stressing that at certain times, things qualitatively change in the human outlook.

At the end of the first paragraph, it is obvious that Dewey thinks that there are time when people do experience major changes in perspective, having new concerns. If people do not notice this fact, they may well not realize that there are new philosophical questions to be asked. This would lead to a kind of conservatism like that discussed elsewhere in the selection.

Example Question #2 : Reading Comprehension

Passage adapted from H.G Wells' Anticipations (1901)

Democracy of the modern type—manhood suffrage and so forth—became a conspicuous phenomenon in the world only in the closing decades of the eighteenth century. Its genesis is so intimately connected with the first expansion of the productive element in the State, through mechanism and a co-operative organization, as to point at once to a causative connection. The more closely one looks into the social and political life of the eighteenth century the more plausible becomes this view. New and potentially influential social factors had begun to appear—the organizing manufacturer, the intelligent worker, the skilled tenant, and the urban abyss, and the traditions of the old land-owning non-progressive aristocratic monarchy that prevailed in Christendom, rendered it incapable—without some destructive shock or convulsion—of any re-organization to incorporate or control these new factors. In the case of the British Empire an additional stress was created by the incapacity of the formal government to assimilate the developing civilization of the American colonies. Everywhere there were new elements, not as yet clearly analyzed or defined, arising as mechanism arose; everywhere the old traditional government and social system, defined and analyzed all too well, appeared increasingly obstructive, irrational, and feeble in its attempts to include and direct these new powers.

But now comes a point to which I am inclined to attach very great importance. The new powers were as yet shapeless. It was not the conflict of a new organization with the old. It was the preliminary dwarfing and deliquescence of the mature old beside the embryonic mass of the new. It was impossible then—it is, I believe, only beginning to be possible now—to estimate the proportions, possibilities, and inter-relations of the new social orders out of which a social organization has still to be built in the coming years. No formula of definite reconstruction had been evolved, or has even been evolved yet, after a hundred years. And these swelling inchoate new powers, whose very birth condition was the crippling, modification, or destruction of the old order, were almost forced to formulate their proceedings for a time, therefore, in general affirmative propositions that were really in effect not affirmative propositions at all, but propositions of repudiation and denial. "These kings and nobles and people privileged in relation to obsolescent functions cannot manage our affairs"—that was evident enough, that was the really essential question at that time, and since no other effectual substitute appeared ready made, the working doctrine of the infallible judgment of humanity in the gross, as distinguished from the quite indisputable incapacity of sample individuals, became, in spite of its inherent absurdity, a convenient and acceptable working hypothesis.

Which of the following sentences best describes the author's opinion regarding the organization of the forces leading to the social changes discussed in the passage?

Possible Answers:

It was impossible then—it is, I believe, only beginning to be possible now—to estimate the proportions, possibilities, and inter-relations of the new social orders out of which a social organization has still to be built in the coming years.

No formula of definite reconstruction had been evolved, or has even been evolved yet, after a hundred years. 

It was the preliminary dwarfing and deliquescence of the mature old beside the embryonic mass of the new.

The new powers were as yet shapeless.

It was not the conflict of a new organization with the old.

Correct answer:

The new powers were as yet shapeless.

Explanation:

The entire second paragraph is focused on what the author takes to be a pivotal point, namely that the social forces in question were not organized as a single whole. They exerted themselves as a kind of amorphous force on the existing structures, without yet having social structures and mechanisms that would be unique to them and their ways of life. Thus, the simple, "The new powers were as yet shapeless," is the best answer regarding his description of this matter.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Quotations Based On Their Function In The Passage

Passage adapted from "The Mission of Humour" (1912) by Agnes Repplier

American humour is the pride of American hearts. It is held to be our splendid national characteristic, which we flaunt in the faces of other nations, conceiving them to have been less favoured by Providence. Just as the most effective way to disparage an author or an acquaintance—and we have often occasion to disparage both—is to say that he lacks a sense of humour, so the most effective criticism we can pass upon a nation is to deny it this valuable quality. American critics have written the most charming things about the keenness of American speech, the breadth and insight of American drollery, the electric current in American veins; and we, reading these pleasant felicitations, are wont to thank God with greater fervour than the occasion demands that we are more merry and wise than our neighbours. Mr. Brander Matthews, for example, has told us that there are newspaper writers in New York who have cultivated a wit, "not unlike Voltaire's." He mistrusts this wit because he finds it "corroding and disintegrating"; but he makes the comparison with that casual assurance which is a feature of American criticism.

Indeed, our delight in our own humour has tempted us to overrate both its literary value and its corrective qualities. We are never so apt to lose our sense of proportion as when we consider those beloved writers whom we hold to be humourists because they have made us laugh. It may be conceded that, as a people, we have an abiding and somewhat disquieting sense of fun. We are nimble of speech, we are more prone to levity than to seriousness, we are able to recognize a vital truth when it is presented to us under the familiar aspect of a jest, and we habitually allow ourselves certain forms of exaggeration, accepting, perhaps unconsciously, Hazlitt's verdict: "Lying is a species of wit, and shows spirit and invention." It is true also that no adequate provision is made in this country for the defective but valuable class without humour, which in England is exceedingly well cared for. American letters, American journalism, and American speech are so coloured by pleasantries, so accentuated by ridicule, that the silent and stodgy men, who are apt to represent a nation's real strength, hardly know where to turn for a little saving dulness. A deep vein of irony runs through every grade of society, making it possible for us to laugh at our own bitter discomfiture, and to scoff with startling distinctness at the evils which we passively permit. Just as the French monarchy under Louis the Fourteenth was wittily defined as despotism tempered by epigram, so the United States have been described as a free republic fettered by jokes, and the taunt conveys a half-truth which it is worth our while to consider.

Now there are many who affirm that the humourist's point of view is, on the whole, the fairest from which the world can be judged. It is equally remote from the misleading side-lights of the pessimist and from the wilful blindness of the optimist. It sees things with uncompromising clearness, but it judges of them with tolerance and good temper. Moreover, a sense of the ridiculous is a sound preservative of social virtues. It places a proper emphasis on the judgments of our associates, it saves us from pitfalls of vanity and self-assurance, it lays the basis of that propriety and decorum of conduct upon which is founded the charm of intercourse among equals. And what it does for us individually, it does for us collectively. Our national apprehension of a jest fosters whatever grace of modesty we have to show. We dare not inflate ourselves as superbly as we should like to do, because our genial countrymen stand ever ready to prick us into sudden collapse. "It is the laugh we enjoy at our own expense which betrays us to the rest of the world."

Identify the beginning of the sentence in the passage which conveys the idea that confidence invites criticism. 

Possible Answers:

Our national apprehension...

Just as the most effective way to disparage...

We are never so apt to lose...

A deep vein of irony...

We dare not...

Correct answer:

We dare not...

Explanation:

The line, "We dare not inflate ourselves as superbly as we should like to do, because our genial countrymen stand ever ready to prick us into sudden collapse," can be summarized by stating that we do not boast as much as we'd like, because it will invite others to take us down a peg.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Quotations Based On Their Function In The Passage

Passage adapted from "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846) by Edgar Allan Poe

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled --but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point -- this Fortunato -- although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; --I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him --"My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."

"How?" said he. "Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!"

"I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."

"Amontillado!"

"I have my doubts."

"Amontillado!"

"And I must satisfy them."

"Amontillado!"

"As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me --"

"Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."

"And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.

"Come, let us go."

"Whither?"

"To your vaults."

"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchresi--"

"I have no engagement; --come."

"My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre."

"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado."

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm; and putting on a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.

"These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned," shows the reader what about the narrator's attendants?

Possible Answers:

That they'd rather be working for Fortunato

That they have all been fired

That they do not respect the narrator's orders

That the narrator is not a rich man

That they are loyal

Correct answer:

That they do not respect the narrator's orders

Explanation:

The narrator is using irony here. He has told his staff to stay away from the carnival and not leave their rooms, that way he can be certain they will all be out of the house.

Example Question #5 : Reading Comprehension

Passage adapted from John Dewey's "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" (1915)

Intellectual advance occurs in two ways. At times increase of knowledge is organized about old conceptions, while these are expanded, elaborated and refined, but not seriously revised, much less abandoned. At other times, the increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. Men's minds grow cold to their former intellectual concerns; ideas that were burning fade; interests that were urgent seem remote. Men face in another direction; their older perplexities are unreal; considerations passed over as negligible loom up. Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions.

Philosophy is no exception to the rule. But it is unusually conservative--not, necessarily, in proffering solutions, but in clinging to problems. It has been so allied with theology and theological morals as representatives of men's chief interests, that radical alteration has been shocking. Men's activities took a decidedly new turn, for example, in the seventeenth century, and it seems as if philosophy, under the lead of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes, was to execute an about-face. But, in spite of the ferment, it turned out that many of the older problems were but translated from Latin into the vernacular or into the new terminology furnished by science.

The association of philosophy with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism. Scholastic philosophy persisted in universities after men's thoughts outside of the walls of colleges had moved in other directions. In the last hundred years intellectual advances of science and politics have in like fashion been crystallized into material of instruction and now resist further change. I would not say that the spirit of teaching is hostile to that of liberal inquiry, but a philosophy which exists largely as something to be taught rather than wholly as something to be reflected upon is conducive to discussion of views held by others rather than to immediate response. Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems. It tends, also, to emphasize points upon which men have divided into schools, for these lend themselves to retrospective definition and elaboration. Consequently, philosophical discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics.

Which of the following sentences expresses an explanation for why philosophical education has an inherently conservative bias according to Dewey?

Possible Answers:

In spite of the ferment, it turned out that many of the older problems were but translated from Latin into the vernacular or into the new terminology furnished by science. 

Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions.

Philosophical discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). 

The increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. 

Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems.

Correct answer:

Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems.

Explanation:

The key expression in the correct answer is Dewey's remark that the teaching of philosophy "inevitably magnifies the history of past thought." That is, when it is taught, it makes the people and topics discussed seem to be important merely by being discussed. The implication is that this leads the teachers and students to over-value the past, thinking it to be determinative of what should be discussed in the current day.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Text In Other Ways In Multiple Answer Questions

Choose the word or word set which best completes the following sentence.

A routine visit to the doctor revealed a _________ tumor in Johnny's lungs, but fortunately the doctor determined that it was _________.

Possible Answers:

large . . . benign

hidden . . . incorrigible

obtrusive . . . indicative

spurious . . . clinical

fatal . . . incurable

Correct answer:

large . . . benign

Explanation:

A "large" tumor seems to be a horrible thing, but if the doctor determines it to be "benign", that is a fortunate. None of the other answer match the logic or emotional tenor of the sentence.

Example Question #2 : Reading Comprehension

Passage adapted from H.G Wells' Anticipations (1901)

Democracy of the modern type—manhood suffrage and so forth—became a conspicuous phenomenon in the world only in the closing decades of the eighteenth century. Its genesis is so intimately connected with the first expansion of the productive element in the State, through mechanism and a co-operative organization, as to point at once to a causative connection. The more closely one looks into the social and political life of the eighteenth century the more plausible becomes this view. New and potentially influential social factors had begun to appear—the organizing manufacturer, the intelligent worker, the skilled tenant, and the urban abyss, and the traditions of the old land-owning non-progressive aristocratic monarchy that prevailed in Christendom, rendered it incapable—without some destructive shock or convulsion—of any re-organization to incorporate or control these new factors. In the case of the British Empire an additional stress was created by the incapacity of the formal government to assimilate the developing civilization of the American colonies. Everywhere there were new elements, not as yet clearly analyzed or defined, arising as mechanism arose; everywhere the old traditional government and social system, defined and analyzed all too well, appeared increasingly obstructive, irrational, and feeble in its attempts to include and direct these new powers.

But now comes a point to which I am inclined to attach very great importance. The new powers were as yet shapeless. It was not the conflict of a new organization with the old. It was the preliminary dwarfing and deliquescence of the mature old beside the embryonic mass of the new. It was impossible then—it is, I believe, only beginning to be possible now—to estimate the proportions, possibilities, and inter-relations of the new social orders out of which a social organization has still to be built in the coming years. No formula of definite reconstruction had been evolved, or has even been evolved yet, after a hundred years. And these swelling inchoate new powers, whose very birth condition was the crippling, modification, or destruction of the old order, were almost forced to formulate their proceedings for a time, therefore, in general affirmative propositions that were really in effect not affirmative propositions at all, but propositions of repudiation and denial. "These kings and nobles and people privileged in relation to obsolescent functions cannot manage our affairs"—that was evident enough, that was the really essential question at that time, and since no other effectual substitute appeared ready made, the working doctrine of the infallible judgment of humanity in the gross, as distinguished from the quite indisputable incapacity of sample individuals, became, in spite of its inherent absurdity, a convenient and acceptable working hypothesis.

Which of the following is a likely conclusion that could be drawn from Wells' remarks?

A. The newly emerging society eventually would look quite like mob rule.

B. The new forms of government would collapse under their absurd forms.

C. There would likely be widespread repudiation of the new forms of government.

Possible Answers:

A and B

A

A, B, and C

B

A and C

Correct answer:

A

Explanation:

The point of Wells' last sentence is that most of the new forms of government did not have a centrally intelligible organizational structure or ideal. Their governing democratic ideal presupposed that mankind, taken as a whole, was able to judge correctly, even if some individuals did not. This type of governmental organization could well lead to mob rule by the largest group of people agreeing. Thus, option A is acceptable. We can really infer nothing of its potential collapse (B) or its potential wholesale repudiation (C). B is likely most tempting, given Wells' negative assessment of this presupposition—its "inherent absurdity". As a general rule, do not go beyond what you can most directly say about a passage.

Example Question #2 : Multiple Answer Questions

Passage adapted from John Dewey's "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" (1915)

Intellectual advance occurs in two ways. At times increase of knowledge is organized about old conceptions, while these are expanded, elaborated and refined, but not seriously revised, much less abandoned. At other times, the increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. Men's minds grow cold to their former intellectual concerns; ideas that were burning fade; interests that were urgent seem remote. Men face in another direction; their older perplexities are unreal; considerations passed over as negligible loom up. Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions.

Philosophy is no exception to the rule. But it is unusually conservative--not, necessarily, in proffering solutions, but in clinging to problems. It has been so allied with theology and theological morals as representatives of men's chief interests, that radical alteration has been shocking. Men's activities took a decidedly new turn, for example, in the seventeenth century, and it seems as if philosophy, under the lead of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes, was to execute an about-face. But, in spite of the ferment, it turned out that many of the older problems were but translated from Latin into the vernacular or into the new terminology furnished by science.

The association of philosophy with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism. Scholastic philosophy persisted in universities after men's thoughts outside of the walls of colleges had moved in other directions. In the last hundred years intellectual advances of science and politics have in like fashion been crystallized into material of instruction and now resist further change. I would not say that the spirit of teaching is hostile to that of liberal inquiry, but a philosophy which exists largely as something to be taught rather than wholly as something to be reflected upon is conducive to discussion of views held by others rather than to immediate response. Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems. It tends, also, to emphasize points upon which men have divided into schools, for these lend themselves to retrospective definition and elaboration. Consequently, philosophical discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics.

Which of the following might Dewey recommend, based on the remarks in the selection above:

A. A repudiation of concern with philosophical questions.

B. The reorientation of philosophical questions asked by thinkers.

C. The end of the professional teaching of philosophy.

Possible Answers:

C

B and C

A, B, and C

B

A and C

Correct answer:

B and C

Explanation:

In the essay, Dewey does not seem to indicate that philosophy as such is a problem. Therefore, he is unlikely to call for a complete repudiation of philosophical questioning (A). He does, however think that the teaching of philosophy has distorted philosophical thinking. Therefore, it is not unlikely that he could call for the reorientation of philosophical questions, turning from the older and more "conservative" sorts of questions that are asked in scholastic / academic environments. Hence, B is one correct answer. It is possible, at least based upon this selection, to think that Dewey could call for the end of the professional teaching of philosophy. As he says, "The association of philosophy with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism." Thus, it is possible that he would wish—for the very sake of saving philosophy—to call for an end to all professional teaching of philosophy.

Example Question #1 : Reading Comprehension

Passage adapted from John Dewey's "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" (1915)

Intellectual advance occurs in two ways. At times increase of knowledge is organized about old conceptions, while these are expanded, elaborated and refined, but not seriously revised, much less abandoned. At other times, the increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. Men's minds grow cold to their former intellectual concerns; ideas that were burning fade; interests that were urgent seem remote. Men face in another direction; their older perplexities are unreal; considerations passed over as negligible loom up. Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions.

Philosophy is no exception to the rule. But it is unusually conservative--not, necessarily, in proffering solutions, but in clinging to problems. It has been so allied with theology and theological morals as representatives of men's chief interests, that radical alteration has been shocking. Men's activities took a decidedly new turn, for example, in the seventeenth century, and it seems as if philosophy, under the lead of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes, was to execute an about-face. But, in spite of the ferment, it turned out that many of the older problems were but translated from Latin into the vernacular or into the new terminology furnished by science.

The association of philosophy with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism. Scholastic philosophy persisted in universities after men's thoughts outside of the walls of colleges had moved in other directions. In the last hundred years intellectual advances of science and politics have in like fashion been crystallized into material of instruction and now resist further change. I would not say that the spirit of teaching is hostile to that of liberal inquiry, but a philosophy which exists largely as something to be taught rather than wholly as something to be reflected upon is conducive to discussion of views held by others rather than to immediate response. Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems. It tends, also, to emphasize points upon which men have divided into schools, for these lend themselves to retrospective definition and elaboration. Consequently, philosophical discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics.

If Dewey's remarks are correct, which of the following likely describes the situation at a University at his time?

A. Philosophy departments are stifling all questioning about new problems expressed on campus.

B. The most radical members of a campus are members of other departments, like sociology, anthropology, and literature.

C. There is little that is culturally beneficial coming out of the work of the philosophy departments.

Possible Answers:

C

A and C

B and C

A, B, and C

A

Correct answer:

B and C

Explanation:

The first answer can be immediately eliminated, as we do not know anything about how the philosophy faculties are treating other faculties on campuses. Therefore, we should not choose this (even if it does seem that they would be rather likely to do this, given Dewey's description of the current situation).

Answer choice C is most obviously correct. At the very end of the selection, Dewey says, "Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics." If "contemporary difficulties" are being dealt with outside of philosophy departments, it would seem that very little that is culturally beneficial is being done in those departments. By the same token, it is at least arguable that more radical members of a campus would be in departments like sociology, anthropology, and literature. Dewey implies this regarding literature in the same sentence. For our purposes, it is safe enough to think that departments like sociology and anthropology are also like this.

Example Question #8 : Reading Comprehension

Passage adapted from John Dewey's "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" (1915)

Intellectual advance occurs in two ways. At times increase of knowledge is organized about old conceptions, while these are expanded, elaborated and refined, but not seriously revised, much less abandoned. At other times, the increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. Men's minds grow cold to their former intellectual concerns; ideas that were burning fade; interests that were urgent seem remote. Men face in another direction; their older perplexities are unreal; considerations passed over as negligible loom up. Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions.

Philosophy is no exception to the rule. But it is unusually conservative--not, necessarily, in proffering solutions, but in clinging to problems. It has been so allied with theology and theological morals as representatives of men's chief interests, that radical alteration has been shocking. Men's activities took a decidedly new turn, for example, in the seventeenth century, and it seems as if philosophy, under the lead of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes, was to execute an about-face. But, in spite of the ferment, it turned out that many of the older problems were but translated from Latin into the vernacular or into the new terminology furnished by science.

The association of philosophy with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism. Scholastic philosophy persisted in universities after men's thoughts outside of the walls of colleges had moved in other directions. In the last hundred years intellectual advances of science and politics have in like fashion been crystallized into material of instruction and now resist further change. I would not say that the spirit of teaching is hostile to that of liberal inquiry, but a philosophy which exists largely as something to be taught rather than wholly as something to be reflected upon is conducive to discussion of views held by others rather than to immediate response. Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems. It tends, also, to emphasize points upon which men have divided into schools, for these lend themselves to retrospective definition and elaboration. Consequently, philosophical discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics.

Which of the following express Dewey's overall contention adequately?

A. Theology has exerted too much influence on the development of philosophy.

B. At certain rare moments in history, philosophy nearly made a radical break with its past forms of expression.

C. Philosophy is susceptible to its own particular impediments to development.

Possible Answers:

B and C

C

A

A, B, and C

B

Correct answer:

C

Explanation:

In a way, almost all of these answers are correct; however, you must answer exactly what is asked, namely, what is Dewey's overall contention. Therefore, you cannot provide any answer that might just be a detail. On the whole, this selection shows Dewey arguing that philosophy has its own particular way of being conservative—especially as regards its manner of being taught. This is the general contention. The other two options are indeed in the essay; however, they are merely supporting details, part of his overall argument.

← Previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 23 24
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors