HSPT Reading : Drawing Conclusions in Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #2 : 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 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:

A and C

B

A, B, and C

B and C

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 #81 : Inferential 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.

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