LSAT Reading : Analyzing Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #531 : Lsat Reading Comprehension

Adapted from Heroes and Hero Worship (1841) by Thomas Carlyle.

The Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, are productions of old ages, not to be repeated in the new. They presuppose a certain rudeness of conception, which the progress of mere scientific knowledge puts an end to. There needs to be, as it were, a world vacant, or almost vacant of scientific forms, if men in their loving wonder are to fancy their fellow-man either a god or one speaking with the voice of a god. Divinity and Prophet are past. We are now to see our Hero in the less ambitious, but also less questionable, character of Poet; a character which does not pass. The Poet is a heroic figure belonging to all ages; whom all ages possess, when once he is produced, whom the newest age as the oldest may produce;—and will produce, always when Nature pleases. Let Nature send a Hero-soul; in no age is it other than possible that he may be shaped into a Poet.

Hero, Prophet, Poet—many different names, in different times, and places, do we give to Great Men; according to varieties we note in them, according to the sphere in which they have displayed themselves! We might give many more names, on this same principle. I will remark again, however, as a fact not unimportant to be understood, that the different sphere constitutes the grand origin of such distinction; that the Hero can be Poet, Prophet, King, Priest, or what you will, according to the kind of world he finds himself born into. I confess, I have no notion of a truly great man that could not be all sorts of men. The Poet who could merely sit on a chair, and compose stanzas, would never make a stanza worth much. He could not sing the Heroic warrior, unless he himself were at least a Heroic warrior too. I fancy there is in him the Politician, the Thinker, Legislator, Philosopher—in one or the other degree, he could have been, he is all these. So too I cannot understand how a Mirabeau, with that great glowing heart, with the fire that was in it, with the bursting tears that were in it, could not have written verses, tragedies, poems, and touched all hearts in that way, had his course of life and education led him thitherward. The grand fundamental character is that of Great Man; that the man be great. Napoleon has words in him which are like Austerlitz Battles. Louis Fourteenth's Marshals are a kind of poetical men withal; the things Turenne says are full of sagacity and geniality, like sayings of Samuel Johnson. The great heart, the clear deep-seeing eye: there it lies; no man whatever, in what province soever, can prosper at all without these. Petrarch and Boccaccio did diplomatic messages, it seems, quite well; one can easily believe it; they had done things a little harder than these! Burns, a gifted songwriter, might have made a still better Mirabeau. Shakespeare—one knows not what he could not have made, in the supreme degree.

True, there are aptitudes of Nature too. Nature does not make all great men, more than all other men, in the self-same mold. Varieties of aptitude doubtless, but infinitely more of circumstance, and far oftenest it is the latter only that are looked to. But it is as with common men in the learning of trades. You take any man, as yet a vague capability of a man, who could be any kind of craftsman, and make him into a smith, a carpenter, a mason; he is then and thenceforth that and nothing else. And if, as Addison complains, you sometimes see a street-porter, staggering under his load on spindle-shanks, and near at hand a tailor with the frame of a Samson handling a bit of cloth and small Whitechapel needle, it cannot be considered that aptitude of Nature alone has been consulted here either! The Great Man also, to what shall he be bound apprentice? Given your Hero, is he to become Conqueror, King, Philosopher, Poet? It is an inexplicably complex controversial calculation between the world and him! He will read the world and its laws; the world with its laws will be there to be read. What the world, on this matter, shall permit and bid is, as we said, the most important fact about the world.

Poet and Prophet differ greatly in our loose modern notions of them. In some old languages, again, the titles are synonymous; “Vates” means both Prophet and Poet; and indeed at all times, Prophet and Poet, well understood, have much kindred of meaning. Fundamentally indeed they are still the same; in this most important respect especially, that they have penetrated both of them into the sacred mystery of the Universe; what Goethe calls "the open secret." "Which is the great secret?" asks one. "The open secret,” open to all, seen by almost none! That divine mystery, which lies everywhere in all Beings, "the Divine Idea of the World, that which lies at the bottom of Appearance," as Fichte styles it; of which all Appearance, from the starry sky to the grass of the field, but especially the Appearance of Man and his work, is but the vesture, the embodiment that renders it visible. This divine mystery is in all times and in all places; veritably is. In most times and places it is greatly overlooked; and the Universe, definable always in one or the other dialect, as the realized Thought of God, is considered a trivial, inert, commonplace matter—as if, says the Satirist, it were a dead thing, which some upholsterer had put together! It could do no good, at present, to speak much about this, but it is a pity for every one of us if we do not know it, live ever in the knowledge of it. Really a most mournful pity—a failure to live at all, if we live otherwise!

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

Possible Answers:

act as a change of view mid-argument

act as a refrain in the main body of a larger essay

act as the beginning to a section of a larger body of work

conclude a discussion on heroism

present a full argument for a pamphlet

Correct answer:

act as the beginning to a section of a larger body of work

Explanation:

It is quite obvious from the lofty first paragraph that the passage is from the beginning of either a section or an argument. From this, we can deduce that there is no definite conclusion, it is not a refrain in the form of a large “off-topic” description, and it is not a change in viewpoint. We can surmise that the author probably has more to say and that the in-depth discussion is probably not well suited to a pamphlet. So, it is part of a larger body of work but is more likely to be the beginning of a section rather than a passage which occurs mid-topic.

Example Question #11 : Tone, Structure, And Purpose Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Walking" by Henry David Thoreau (1862) in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from "idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer—a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of our enemies.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or rather an old, order—not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust. The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker—not the Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practiced this noble art; though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.

"When he came to grene wode,
In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notes small
Of byrdes mery syngynge.

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn,
That I was last here;
Me lyste a lytell for to shote
At the donne dere."

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

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

Possible Answers:

challenge the notion of walkers as rogues

argue about the ills of a regular working life

cause a political debate about the welfare of the working class

dissuade as many as possible from taking up walking

detail the changes in perceptions of walking and walkers

Correct answer:

detail the changes in perceptions of walking and walkers

Explanation:

The passage obviously does not dissuade readers from walking, and it is less about workers and the working classes than it is about walking in general. The only logical answer here is that the passage is predominantly written to detail the changing nature of perceptions of walkers and walking and to encourage people to side with the author in his viewpoint that walking is a good thing. While the first few paragraphs talk about the view of walkers as vagabonds, this is not the primary purpose of the passage as a whole.

Example Question #533 : Lsat Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "Walking" by Henry David Thoreau (1862) in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from "idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer—a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of our enemies.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or rather an old, order—not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust. The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker—not the Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practiced this noble art; though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.

"When he came to grene wode,
In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notes small
Of byrdes mery syngynge.

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn,
That I was last here;
Me lyste a lytell for to shote
At the donne dere."

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

The author most likely refers to the extract of a poem about Robin Hood in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

criticize those who would for a moment consider themselves amongst the class of walkers

associate walking with legendary figures

show how people can infer emotions from literature which they replicate in secluded ramblings

show how he is akin to a great figure

emphasise a point about outlaws that follows from his argument about knights and walkers

Correct answer:

emphasise a point about outlaws that follows from his argument about knights and walkers

Explanation:

While we could say that the author does this in order to “associate walking with legendary figures,” it is quite obvious that his reason for citing the poem is to emphasise a point about our ancestors being foresters and outlaws, which naturally fits his argument that walkers are a modern class descended from knights and chevaliers. The extract shows little about walking and is used more as a refrain to tie in to the overall argument of the previous three paragraphs.

Example Question #534 : Lsat Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "Walking" by Henry David Thoreau (1862) in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from "idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going à la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer—a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of our enemies.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or rather an old, order—not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust. The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker—not the Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practiced this noble art; though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.

"When he came to grene wode,
In a mery mornynge,
There he herde the notes small
Of byrdes mery syngynge.

"It is ferre gone, sayd Robyn,
That I was last here;
Me lyste a lytell for to shote
At the donne dere."

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. You may safely say, A penny for your thoughts, or a thousand pounds. When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shopkeepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them—as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon—I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.

The primary function of the fourth paragraph is to __________.

Possible Answers:

Distinguish the author from other walkers.

Develop the argument beyond the sense of historical walkers.

Bring the argument back to the concerns of the reader.

Transition to discussing the author's experience with walking.

Elevate the state of walkers above that of people, church and state.

Correct answer:

Transition to discussing the author's experience with walking.

Explanation:

We cannot for certain argue any of the other answers effectively. The paragraph makes the argument contemporary, as it turns to look at the author's point of view including details of his own experience. While it does develop the argument beyond the sense of historical walkers to an extent, this is not its primary purpose.

Example Question #535 : Lsat Reading Comprehension

Adapted from A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley (1710)

1. OBJECTS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either IDEAS actually imprinted on the senses; or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination—either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight I have the ideas of light and colors, with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odors; the palate with tastes; and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. And as several of these are observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain color, taste, smell, figure and consistence having been observed to go together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name APPLE. Other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book, and the like sensible things, which as they are pleasing or disagreeable excite the passions of love, hatred, joy, grief, and so forth.

2. MIND--SPIRIT--SOUL. But, besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations as willing, imagining, and remembering about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call MIND, SPIRIT, SOUL, or MYSELF, by which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, WHEREIN THEY EXIST, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived—for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.

3. HOW FAR THE ASSENT OF THE VULGAR CONCEDED. That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist WITHOUT the mind, is what EVERYBODY WILL ALLOW. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than IN a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this by any one that shall attend to WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM "EXIST," when applied to sensible things. The table I write on I say exists—that is, I see and feel it—and if I were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I were in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odor, that is, it was smelt; there was a sound, that is, it was heard; a color or figure, and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their ESSE is PERCIPI, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.

4. THE VULGAR OPINION INVOLVES A CONTRADICTION. It is indeed an opinion STRANGELY prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But, with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For, what are the fore-mentioned objects but the things we perceive by sense? And what do we PERCEIVE BESIDES OUR OWN IDEAS OR SENSATIONS? And is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any combination of them, should exist unperceived?

5. CAUSE OF THIS PREVALENT ERROR. If we thoroughly examine this tenet it will, perhaps, be found at bottom to depend on the doctrine of ABSTRACT IDEAS. For can there be a nicer strain of abstraction than to distinguish the existence of sensible objects from their being perceived, so as to conceive them existing unperceived? Light and colors, heat and cold, extension and figures—in a word, the things we see and feel—what are they but so many sensations, notions, ideas, or impressions on the sense? And is it possible to separate, even in thought, any of these from perception? For my part, I might as easily divide a thing from itself. I may, indeed, divide in my thoughts, or conceive apart from each other, those things which, perhaps, I never perceived by sense so divided. Thus, I imagine the trunk of a human body without the limbs, or conceive the smell of a rose without thinking on the rose itself. So far, I will not deny, I can abstract—if that may properly be called ABSTRACTION which extends only to the conceiving separately such objects as it is possible may really exist or be actually perceived asunder. But my conceiving or imagining power does not extend beyond the possibility of real existence or perception. Hence, as it is impossible for me to see or feel anything without an actual sensation of that thing, so is it impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or perception of it.

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

Possible Answers:

conclude a study of human psychology

attempt to explain how a person may come to the conclusion that there is no god

sort the process of human thinking into a logical list

discourage people from assuming they are in control of their minds

collect and discuss probable rules and laws concerning human thinking

Correct answer:

collect and discuss probable rules and laws concerning human thinking

Explanation:

While the piece is written as a list, we cannot say that it sorts the process of thinking into a logical list, as it is less a step-by-step guide than it is a discussion of how the author believes people think. We can say these are general rules or laws and they follow some logical pattern, but beyond that, none of the other answers are justifiable. If we look at the title of the piece, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge,it is virtually synonymous with the answer. The title of an essay often states the purpose of a piece as much as the piece itself makes apparent its purpose.

Example Question #536 : Lsat Reading Comprehension

Adapted from A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley (1710)

1. OBJECTS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either IDEAS actually imprinted on the senses; or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination—either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight I have the ideas of light and colors, with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odors; the palate with tastes; and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. And as several of these are observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain color, taste, smell, figure and consistence having been observed to go together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name APPLE. Other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book, and the like sensible things, which as they are pleasing or disagreeable excite the passions of love, hatred, joy, grief, and so forth.

2. MIND--SPIRIT--SOUL. But, besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations as willing, imagining, and remembering about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call MIND, SPIRIT, SOUL, or MYSELF, by which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, WHEREIN THEY EXIST, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived—for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.

3. HOW FAR THE ASSENT OF THE VULGAR CONCEDED. That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist WITHOUT the mind, is what EVERYBODY WILL ALLOW. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than IN a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this by any one that shall attend to WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM "EXIST," when applied to sensible things. The table I write on I say exists—that is, I see and feel it—and if I were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I were in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odor, that is, it was smelt; there was a sound, that is, it was heard; a color or figure, and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their ESSE is PERCIPI, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.

4. THE VULGAR OPINION INVOLVES A CONTRADICTION. It is indeed an opinion STRANGELY prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But, with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For, what are the fore-mentioned objects but the things we perceive by sense? And what do we PERCEIVE BESIDES OUR OWN IDEAS OR SENSATIONS? And is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any combination of them, should exist unperceived?

5. CAUSE OF THIS PREVALENT ERROR. If we thoroughly examine this tenet it will, perhaps, be found at bottom to depend on the doctrine of ABSTRACT IDEAS. For can there be a nicer strain of abstraction than to distinguish the existence of sensible objects from their being perceived, so as to conceive them existing unperceived? Light and colors, heat and cold, extension and figures—in a word, the things we see and feel—what are they but so many sensations, notions, ideas, or impressions on the sense? And is it possible to separate, even in thought, any of these from perception? For my part, I might as easily divide a thing from itself. I may, indeed, divide in my thoughts, or conceive apart from each other, those things which, perhaps, I never perceived by sense so divided. Thus, I imagine the trunk of a human body without the limbs, or conceive the smell of a rose without thinking on the rose itself. So far, I will not deny, I can abstract—if that may properly be called ABSTRACTION which extends only to the conceiving separately such objects as it is possible may really exist or be actually perceived asunder. But my conceiving or imagining power does not extend beyond the possibility of real existence or perception. Hence, as it is impossible for me to see or feel anything without an actual sensation of that thing, so is it impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or perception of it.

What is the most likely the author's primary reason for referring to the soul?

Possible Answers:

To show that emotions exist before perception

To incorporate a common term alongside things it is perhaps synonymous with

To distinguish it from the mind and perception.

To gain favor from a religious audience

To reconcile himself with a more philosophical mode of thought

Correct answer:

To incorporate a common term alongside things it is perhaps synonymous with

Explanation:

The author is using the “common term” of “soul” alongside what he considers to be the synonymous or nearly synonymous terms "mind," "spirit," and "myself," as he says in the second paragraph: “This perceiving, active being is what I call MIND, SPIRIT, SOUL, or MYSELF.” By this, the author means the place in which ideas exist. We cannot say that any of the other answers are true, and although they may be secondary reasons for the author using the phrase, they are in no way justified by the passage.

Example Question #11 : Tone, Structure, And Purpose Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley (1710)

1. OBJECTS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either IDEAS actually imprinted on the senses; or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination—either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight I have the ideas of light and colors, with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odors; the palate with tastes; and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition. And as several of these are observed to accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and so to be reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain color, taste, smell, figure and consistence having been observed to go together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name APPLE. Other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book, and the like sensible things, which as they are pleasing or disagreeable excite the passions of love, hatred, joy, grief, and so forth.

2. MIND--SPIRIT--SOUL. But, besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them, and exercises diverse operations as willing, imagining, and remembering about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call MIND, SPIRIT, SOUL, or MYSELF, by which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, WHEREIN THEY EXIST, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived—for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.

3. HOW FAR THE ASSENT OF THE VULGAR CONCEDED. That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist WITHOUT the mind, is what EVERYBODY WILL ALLOW. And it seems no less evident that the various sensations or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than IN a mind perceiving them. I think an intuitive knowledge may be obtained of this by any one that shall attend to WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM "EXIST," when applied to sensible things. The table I write on I say exists—that is, I see and feel it—and if I were out of my study I should say it existed, meaning thereby that if I were in my study I might perceive it, or that some other spirit actually does perceive it. There was an odor, that is, it was smelt; there was a sound, that is, it was heard; a color or figure, and it was perceived by sight or touch. This is all that I can understand by these and the like expressions. For as to what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived, that seems perfectly unintelligible. Their ESSE is PERCIPI, nor is it possible they should have any existence out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them.

4. THE VULGAR OPINION INVOLVES A CONTRADICTION. It is indeed an opinion STRANGELY prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But, with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For, what are the fore-mentioned objects but the things we perceive by sense? And what do we PERCEIVE BESIDES OUR OWN IDEAS OR SENSATIONS? And is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any combination of them, should exist unperceived?

5. CAUSE OF THIS PREVALENT ERROR. If we thoroughly examine this tenet it will, perhaps, be found at bottom to depend on the doctrine of ABSTRACT IDEAS. For can there be a nicer strain of abstraction than to distinguish the existence of sensible objects from their being perceived, so as to conceive them existing unperceived? Light and colors, heat and cold, extension and figures—in a word, the things we see and feel—what are they but so many sensations, notions, ideas, or impressions on the sense? And is it possible to separate, even in thought, any of these from perception? For my part, I might as easily divide a thing from itself. I may, indeed, divide in my thoughts, or conceive apart from each other, those things which, perhaps, I never perceived by sense so divided. Thus, I imagine the trunk of a human body without the limbs, or conceive the smell of a rose without thinking on the rose itself. So far, I will not deny, I can abstract—if that may properly be called ABSTRACTION which extends only to the conceiving separately such objects as it is possible may really exist or be actually perceived asunder. But my conceiving or imagining power does not extend beyond the possibility of real existence or perception. Hence, as it is impossible for me to see or feel anything without an actual sensation of that thing, so is it impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or perception of it.

What is the primary function of the passage's final paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To discuss the abstract at a level of detail not afforded to it in the other paragraphs.

To function as a break from the initial argument

To discuss a criticism of the argument presented by the author in the third and fourth paragraphs

To conclude the author's argument

To draw on the third and fourth paragraphs and attempt to pinpoint the source of the problem they deal with

Correct answer:

To draw on the third and fourth paragraphs and attempt to pinpoint the source of the problem they deal with

Explanation:

We can tell from the paragraphs' clear titles that the author intended to have the fifth paragraph pinpoint the problem discussed in the third and fourth paragraphs. In order, they are titled, “HOW FAR THE ASSENT OF THE VULGAR CONCEDED,” “THE VULGAR OPINION INVOLVES A CONTRADICTION,” and “CAUSE OF THIS PREVALENT ERROR.” The author does in part detail the abstract in this paragraph, but it is not the paragraph's primary function.

Example Question #12 : Tone, Structure, And Purpose Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Of Discourse" in Essays, Civil And Moral by Francis Bacon (1625) in Volume III, Part 1 of The Harvard Classics (1909-14)

Some, in their discourse, desire rather commendation of wit, in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment, in discerning what is true; as if it were a praise to know what might be said, and not what should be thought. Some have certain common places and themes wherein they are good and want variety, which kind of poverty is for the most part tedious, and when it is once perceived, ridiculous. The most honorable part of talk is to give the occasion, and again to moderate, and pass to somewhat else, for then a man leads the dance. It is good, in discourse and speech of conversation, to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments, tales with reasons, asking of questions with telling of opinions, and jest with earnest; for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, to jade, anything too far. As for jest, there be certain things that ought to be privileged from it, namely religion, matters of state, great persons, any man's present business of importance, and any case that deserves pity. Yet there be some who think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out something that is piquant and to the quick. That is a vein which would be bridled:

Parce, puer, stimulis, et fortius utere loris. ("Boy, spare the whip and grasp the reins more firmly." (Ovid))

And generally, men ought to find the difference between saltiness and bitterness. Certainly, he that has a satirical vein, as he makes others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others' memory. He that questions much shall learn much and content much, but especially if he applies his questions to the skill of the persons whom he asks; for he shall give them occasion to please themselves in speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge. But let his questions not be troublesome; for that is fit for a poser. And let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak. No, if there be any who would reign and take up all the time, let him find means to take them off, and to bring others on, as musicians do with those that dance too long galliards. If you dissemble sometimes your knowledge of that you are thought to know, you shall be thought at another time to know that you know not. Speech of a man's self ought to be seldom, and well chosen. I knew one was wont to say in scorn, "He must needs be a wise man, he speaks so much of himself." There is but one case wherein a man may commend himself with good grace, and that is in commending virtue in another, especially if it be such a virtue whereunto himself pretended. Speech of touch towards others should be sparingly used, for discourse ought to be as a field, without coming home to any man. I knew two noblemen of the west part of England whereof the one was given to scoff, but kept ever royal cheer in his house; the other would ask, of those that had been at the other's table, "Tell truly, was there never a flout or dry blow given?" To which the guest would answer, "Such and such a thing passed. The lord would say, 'I thought he would mar a good dinner.'" Discretion of speech is more than eloquence, and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal is more than to speak in good words, or in good order. A good continued speech, without a good speech of interlocution, shows slowness, and a good reply or second speech, without a good settled speech, shows shallowness and weakness. As we see in beasts, that those that are weakest in the course are yet nimblest in the turn, as it is betwixt the greyhound and the hare. To use too many circumstances, ere one come to the matter, is wearisome; to use none at all is blunt.

What is most likely the primary purpose of the passage?

Possible Answers:

To reflect on the etiquette of a discourse in relation to a contemporary society and the topics it holds dear

To solve the problem of people being unable to create a balanced discourse

To act as a set of strict rules for a debate

To present an argument on discourse advocating certain aspects and attempting to dissuade others

To act as advice on how to argue

Correct answer:

To present an argument on discourse advocating certain aspects and attempting to dissuade others

Explanation:

The author is most certainly making an argument about how he believes a discourse should be structured. He takes different aspects of a discourse and assesses their relevance or necessity in discourse. He holds that there should be a central initiator of the discourse but that this person should not judge, but discern what is true. He also gives us a general rule for what should not be included in a joking discourse: “As for jest, there be certain things, which ought to be privileged from it, namely religion, matters of state, great persons, any man's present business of importance, and any case that deserves pity.”

Example Question #13 : Tone, Structure, And Purpose Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Of Discourse" in Essays, Civil And Moral by Francis Bacon (1625) in Volume III, Part 1 of The Harvard Classics (1909-14)

Some, in their discourse, desire rather commendation of wit, in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment, in discerning what is true; as if it were a praise to know what might be said, and not what should be thought. Some have certain common places and themes wherein they are good and want variety, which kind of poverty is for the most part tedious, and when it is once perceived, ridiculous. The most honorable part of talk is to give the occasion, and again to moderate, and pass to somewhat else, for then a man leads the dance. It is good, in discourse and speech of conversation, to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion with arguments, tales with reasons, asking of questions with telling of opinions, and jest with earnest; for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, to jade, anything too far. As for jest, there be certain things that ought to be privileged from it, namely religion, matters of state, great persons, any man's present business of importance, and any case that deserves pity. Yet there be some who think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out something that is piquant and to the quick. That is a vein which would be bridled:

Parce, puer, stimulis, et fortius utere loris. ("Boy, spare the whip and grasp the reins more firmly." (Ovid))

And generally, men ought to find the difference between saltiness and bitterness. Certainly, he that has a satirical vein, as he makes others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others' memory. He that questions much shall learn much and content much, but especially if he applies his questions to the skill of the persons whom he asks; for he shall give them occasion to please themselves in speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge. But let his questions not be troublesome; for that is fit for a poser. And let him be sure to leave other men their turns to speak. No, if there be any who would reign and take up all the time, let him find means to take them off, and to bring others on, as musicians do with those that dance too long galliards. If you sometimes dissemble your knowledge of that you are thought to know, you shall be thought at another time to know that you know not. Speech of a man's self ought to be seldom, and well chosen. I knew one was wont to say in scorn, "He must needs be a wise man, he speaks so much of himself." There is but one case wherein a man may commend himself with good grace, and that is in commending virtue in another, especially if it be such a virtue whereunto himself pretended. Speech of touch towards others should be sparingly used, for discourse ought to be as a field, without coming home to any man. I knew two noblemen of the west part of England whereof the one was given to scoff, but kept ever royal cheer in his house; the other would ask, of those that had been at the other's table, "Tell truly, was there never a flout or dry blow given?" To which the guest would answer, "Such and such a thing passed. The lord would say, 'I thought he would mar a good dinner.'" Discretion of speech is more than eloquence, and to speak agreeably to him with whom we deal is more than to speak in good words, or in good order. A good continued speech, without a good speech of interlocution, shows slowness, and a good reply or second speech, without a good settled speech, shows shallowness and weakness. As we see in beasts, that those that are weakest in the course are yet nimblest in the turn, as it is betwixt the greyhound and the hare. To use too many circumstances, ere one come to the matter, is wearisome; to use none at all is blunt.

What is the most likely reason for the author's reference to musicians?

Possible Answers:

To show that discourse needs to be varied

To state that those who discourse are merely players

To abruptly change to a more interesting topic

To show that discourse should be like music

To state that knowledge of tempo is important to discourse than to music

Correct answer:

To show that discourse needs to be varied

Explanation:

The author introduces musicians midway through the last paragraph in an attempt to prove that discourse needs to be varied: “No, if there be any who would reign and take up all the time, let him find means to take them off, and to bring others on, as musicians do with those that dance too long galliards.” In other words, if there are those who continue in one frame of speech for too long, it would be better to change the conversation, as musicians would change the tune.

Example Question #14 : Tone, Structure, And Purpose Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from an article in The New Statesman by Bertrand Russell (May 24th, 1913)

Science, to the ordinary reader of newspapers, is represented by a varying selection of sensational triumphs, such as wireless telegraphy, airplanes, radio-activity, and the marvels of modern alchemy. It is not of this aspect of science that I wish to speak. Science, in this aspect, consists of detached up-to-date fragments, interesting only until they are replaced by something newer and more up-to-date, displaying nothing of the systems of patiently constructed knowledge out of which, almost as a casual incident, have come the practically useful results which interest the man in the street. The increased command over the forces of nature which is derived from science is undoubtedly an amply sufficient reason for encouraging scientific research, but this reason has been so often urged and is so easily appreciated that other reasons, to my mind quite as important, are apt to be overlooked. It is with these other reasons, especially with the intrinsic value of a scientific habit of mind in forming our outlook on the world that I shall be concerned in what follows.

From the point of view of training the mind, of giving that well-informed, impersonal outlook which constitutes culture in the good sense of this much-misused word, it seems to be generally held indisputable that a literary education is superior to one based on science. Even the warmest advocates of science are apt to rest their claims on the contention that culture ought to be sacrificed to utility. Those men of science who respect culture, when they associate with men learned in the classics, are apt to admit, not merely politely, but sincerely, a certain inferiority on their side, compensated doubtless by the services which science renders to humanity, but none the less real. And so long as this attitude exists among men of science, it tends to verify itself: the intrinsically valuable aspects of science tend to be sacrificed to the merely useful, and little attempt is made to preserve that leisurely, systematic survey by which the finer quality of mind is formed and nourished.

But even if there be, in present fact, any such inferiority as is supposed in the educational value of science, this is, I believe, not the fault of science itself, but the fault of the spirit in which science is taught. If its full possibilities were realized by those who teach it, I believe that its capacity of producing those habits of mind which constitute the highest mental excellence would be at least as great as that of literature, and more particularly of Greek and Latin literature. In saying this I have no wish whatever to disparage a classical education. One defect, however, does seem inherent in a purely classical education—namely, a too exclusive emphasis on the past. By the study of what is absolutely ended and can never be renewed, a habit of criticism towards the present and the future is engendered. The qualities in which the present excels are qualities to which the study of the past does not direct attention, and to which, therefore, the student of Greek civilization may easily become blind. In what is new and growing there is apt to be something crude, insolent, even a little vulgar, which is shocking to the man of sensitive taste; quivering from the rough contact, he retires to the trim gardens of a polished past, forgetting that they were reclaimed from the wilderness by men as rough and earth-soiled as those from whom he shrinks in his own day. The habit of being unable to recognize merit until it is dead is too apt to be the result of a purely bookish life, and a culture based wholly on the past will seldom be able to pierce through everyday surroundings to the essential splendor of contemporary things, or to the hope of still greater splendor in the future.

What function does the author’s discussion of the study of classics serve to the formation of his central argument?

Possible Answers:

The author discusses how the study of the classics receives more funding and more attention because society places greater value on a study of the past and how this mentality negatively impacts the progress of science.

The author employs a nuanced discussion of the classics to reveal his belief in the importance of having a balanced education that focuses on a collective study of the past, present, and future.

The author discusses the superiority felt by classicists when they discuss academics with scientists to demonstrate how scientists are inclined to feel inadequate and how this mentality permeates into the mind of young people and causes many students to neglect scientific study.

The author discusses the benefits of studying the classics to ensure a balanced debate that cannot be accused of bias or hypocrisy by a reader who holds differing opinions.

The author discusses the flaws of studying classics to illuminate the problems he believes are associated with focusing on studying the past, as opposed to studying science, which is a form of studying, or working towards, the future.

Correct answer:

The author discusses the flaws of studying classics to illuminate the problems he believes are associated with focusing on studying the past, as opposed to studying science, which is a form of studying, or working towards, the future.

Explanation:

This question really requires you to understand what the author’s central argument is before you can purport to claim what purpose the discussion of studying the classics serves to the formation of that argument. The author’s primary purpose and argument is to defend a scientific education and the benefits associated with it against the emphasis on a classical education and the problems thence derived. The author’s primary concerns with studying the past, as opposed to the present and the future, can be most clearly seen in the concluding paragraph, particularly at the very end, where the author states, “The habit of being unable to recognize merit until it is dead is too apt to be the result of a purely bookish life, and a culture based wholly on the past will seldom be able to pierce through everyday surroundings to the essential splendor of contemporary things, or to the hope of still greater splendor in the future.” Here, a scientific education is portrayed as an education working towards the future, and a classical education is portrayed as being stuck in the past.

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