LSAT Reading : Analyzing Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #441 : Humanities

Adapted from “The History of Freedom in Antiquity” in The History of Freedom and Other Essays by John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1900)

Liberty, next to religion, has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime from the sowing of the seed at Athens, two thousand four hundred and sixty years ago, until the ripened harvest was gathered by people of our time. It is the delicate fruit of a mature civilization, and scarcely a century has passed since nations that knew the meaning of the term resolved to be free. In every age its progress has been beset by its natural enemies, by ignorance and superstition, by lust of conquest and by love of ease, by the craving for power. During long intervals it has been utterly arrested, when nations were being rescued from the grasp of strangers and when the perpetual struggle for existence, depriving people of all interest and understanding in politics, has made them eager to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage, and ignorant of the treasure they resigned. At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities who have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own. This association, which is always dangerous, has been sometimes disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition, and by kindling dispute over the spoils in the hour of success. No obstacle has been so constant, or so difficult to overcome, as uncertainty and confusion touching the nature of true liberty. If hostile interests have wrought much injury, false ideas have wrought still more, and its advance is recorded in the increase of knowledge as much as in the improvement of laws. The history of institutions is often a history of deception and illusions, for their virtue depends on the ideas that produce and on the spirit that preserves them, and the form may remain unaltered when the substance has passed away.

By liberty I mean the assurance that every person shall be protected in doing what he or she believes to be his or her duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion. The state is competent to assign duties and draw the line between good and evil only in its immediate sphere. Beyond the limits of things necessary for its well-being, it can only give indirect help to fight the battle of life by promoting the influences which prevail against temptation—religion, education, and the distribution of wealth. In ancient times, the state absorbed authorities not its own, and intruded on the domain of personal freedom. In the Middle Ages it possessed too little authority, and suffered others to intrude. Modern states fall habitually into both excesses.

The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities. Liberty, by this definition, is the essential condition and guardian of religion, and it is in the history of the Israelites that the first illustrations of my subject are obtained. The government of the Israelites was a federation, held together by no political authority, but by the unity of heritage and faith, and founded, not on physical force, but on a voluntary covenant. The principle of self-government was carried out not only in each tribe, but in every group of at least one hundred and twenty families; and there was neither privilege of rank nor inequality before the law. Thus the example of the Hebrew nation laid down the parallel lines on which all freedom has been won—the doctrine of national tradition and the doctrine of the higher law, and the principle that a constitution grows from a root, by process of development, and not of essential change. The operation of these principles, in unison, or in antagonism, occupies the whole of the space that constitutes freedom.

According to the author, the concept of freedom has its earliest roots in __________.

Possible Answers:

the Renaissance

the era of the Israelites

contemporary times

ancient Greece

the Middle Ages

Correct answer:

ancient Greece

Explanation:

The concept of freedom has its earliest roots, in the author’s opinion, in ancient Greece. This can be demonstrated by the following excerpt from the opening paragraph: “Liberty, next to religion, has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime, from the sowing of the seed at Athens, two thousand four hundred and sixty years ago, until the ripened harvest was gathered by men of our time.” The “sowing of the seed” represents the earliest roots of the concept of freedom.

Example Question #442 : Humanities

Adapted from A Guide to Stoicism by George Stock (1915)

Among the Greeks and Romans of the classical age, philosophy occupied the place taken by religion in some later societies. Their appeal was to reason, not to revelation. To what, asks Cicero in his Offices, are we to look for training in virtue, if not to philosophy? Many people today are born into certain religions or religious denominations, but it was of his own free choice that the serious-minded young Greek or Roman embraced the tenets of one of the great sects which divided the world of philosophy. Conversions from one sect to another were of quite rare occurrence. A certain Dionysius of Heraclea, who went over from the Stoics to the Cyrenaics, was ever afterward known as "the deserter." It was as difficult to be independent in philosophy as it is with us to be independent in politics. When a young man joined a school, he committed himself to all its opinions, not only as to the end of life, which was the main point of division, but as to all questions on all subjects. The Stoic did not differ merely in his ethics from the Epicurean; he differed also in his theology and his physics and his metaphysics.

The life span of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was from B.C.E. 347 to 275. He did not begin teaching till 315, at the mature age of forty. Aristotle had passed away in 322, and with him closed the great constructive era of Greek thought. The Ionian philosophers had speculated on the physical constitution of the universe, the Pythagoreans on the mystical properties of numbers; Heraclitus had propounded his philosophy of fire, Democritus and Leucippus had struck out a rude form of the atomic theory, Socrates had raised questions relating to man, Plato had discussed them with all the freedom of the dialogue, while Aristotle had systematically worked them out. The later schools did not add much to the body of philosophy. What they did was to emphasize different sides of the doctrine of their predecessors and to drive views to their logical consequences. The great lesson of Greek philosophy is that it is worthwhile to do right irrespective of reward and punishment and regardless of the shortness of life. This lesson the Stoics so enforced by the earnestness of their lives and the influence of their moral teaching that it has become associated more particularly with them. 

The Greeks were all agreed that there was an end or aim of life, and that it was to be called "happiness," but at that point their agreement ended. As to the nature of happiness there was the utmost variety of opinion. Democritus had made it consist in mental serenity, Anaxagoras in speculation, Socrates in wisdom, Aristotle in the practice of virtue with some amount of favor from fortune, Aristippus simply in pleasure. Zeno's contribution to thought on the subject does not at first sight appear illuminating. He said that the end was "to live consistently," the implication doubtless being that no life but the passionless life of reason could ultimately be consistent with itself. Cleanthes, his immediate successor in the school, is credited with having added the words "with nature," thus completing the well-known Stoic formula that the end is "to live consistently with nature."

It was assumed by the Greeks that the ways of nature were "the ways of pleasantness," and that "all her paths" were "peace." This may seem to us a startling assumption, but that is because we do not mean by "nature" the same thing as they did. We connect the term with the origin of a thing, they connected it rather with the end; we mean by a thing's nature what it is or has been, they meant what it ought to become under the most favorable conditions. Hence we find Aristotle maintaining that the State is a natural product, because it is evolved out of social relations which exist by nature. Nature indeed was a highly ambiguous term to the Greeks no less than to ourselves, but in the sense with which we are now concerned, the nature of anything was defined by the Peripatetics as "the end of its becoming." Another definition of theirs puts the matter still more clearly. "What each thing is when its growth has been completed, that we declare to be the nature of each thing."

Following out this conception the Stoics identified a life in accordance with nature with a life in accordance with the highest perfection to which man could attain. Now, as man was essentially a rational animal, his work as man lay in living the rational life. And the perfection of reason was virtue. Hence the ways of nature were no other than the ways of virtue. And so it came about that the Stoic formula might be expressed in a number of different ways which yet all amounted to the same thing. The end was to live the virtuous life, or to live consistently, or to live in accordance with nature, or to live rationally.

Which of these is NOT a restatement of the Stoic formula?

Possible Answers:

Happiness can be best achieved through living virtuously.

Someone who wishes to live peacefully must exist in harmony with God. 

The main goal of life is to live consistently.

If one wishes to live correctly one must not live passionately. 

Man ought to place primary emphasis on living in harmony with nature. 

Correct answer:

Someone who wishes to live peacefully must exist in harmony with God. 

Explanation:

At the end of this passage, the author discusses the various ways in which the Stoic interpretation of the goal of life can be phrased. The author states, “And so it came about that the Stoic formula might be expressed in a number of different ways which yet all amounted to the same thing. The end was to live the virtuous life, or to live consistently, or to live in accordance with nature, or to live rationally.” Here are clearly stated three of the answer choices. However, you must also interpret that the answer choice “If one wishes to live correctly one must not live passionately” is acceptable because “passion,” when used in this context, is the opposite of “rationality” or “reason.” That leaves the only unacceptable phrasing as “Someone who wishes to live peacefully must exist in harmony with God.” 

Example Question #443 : Humanities

Adapted from A Guide to Stoicism by George Stock (1915)

Among the Greeks and Romans of the classical age, philosophy occupied the place taken by religion in some later societies. Their appeal was to reason, not to revelation. To what, asks Cicero in his Offices, are we to look for training in virtue, if not to philosophy? Many people today are born into certain religions or religious denominations, but it was of his own free choice that the serious-minded young Greek or Roman embraced the tenets of one of the great sects which divided the world of philosophy. Conversions from one sect to another were of quite rare occurrence. A certain Dionysius of Heraclea, who went over from the Stoics to the Cyrenaics, was ever afterward known as "the deserter." It was as difficult to be independent in philosophy as it is with us to be independent in politics. When a young man joined a school, he committed himself to all its opinions, not only as to the end of life, which was the main point of division, but as to all questions on all subjects. The Stoic did not differ merely in his ethics from the Epicurean; he differed also in his theology and his physics and his metaphysics.

The life span of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was from B.C.E. 347 to 275. He did not begin teaching till 315, at the mature age of forty. Aristotle had passed away in 322, and with him closed the great constructive era of Greek thought. The Ionian philosophers had speculated on the physical constitution of the universe, the Pythagoreans on the mystical properties of numbers; Heraclitus had propounded his philosophy of fire, Democritus and Leucippus had struck out a rude form of the atomic theory, Socrates had raised questions relating to man, Plato had discussed them with all the freedom of the dialogue, while Aristotle had systematically worked them out. The later schools did not add much to the body of philosophy. What they did was to emphasize different sides of the doctrine of their predecessors and to drive views to their logical consequences. The great lesson of Greek philosophy is that it is worthwhile to do right irrespective of reward and punishment and regardless of the shortness of life. This lesson the Stoics so enforced by the earnestness of their lives and the influence of their moral teaching that it has become associated more particularly with them. 

The Greeks were all agreed that there was an end or aim of life, and that it was to be called "happiness," but at that point their agreement ended. As to the nature of happiness there was the utmost variety of opinion. Democritus had made it consist in mental serenity, Anaxagoras in speculation, Socrates in wisdom, Aristotle in the practice of virtue with some amount of favor from fortune, Aristippus simply in pleasure. Zeno's contribution to thought on the subject does not at first sight appear illuminating. He said that the end was "to live consistently," the implication doubtless being that no life but the passionless life of reason could ultimately be consistent with itself. Cleanthes, his immediate successor in the school, is credited with having added the words "with nature," thus completing the well-known Stoic formula that the end is "to live consistently with nature."

It was assumed by the Greeks that the ways of nature were "the ways of pleasantness," and that "all her paths" were "peace." This may seem to us a startling assumption, but that is because we do not mean by "nature" the same thing as they did. We connect the term with the origin of a thing, they connected it rather with the end; we mean by a thing's nature what it is or has been, they meant what it ought to become under the most favorable conditions. Hence we find Aristotle maintaining that the State is a natural product, because it is evolved out of social relations which exist by nature. Nature indeed was a highly ambiguous term to the Greeks no less than to ourselves, but in the sense with which we are now concerned, the nature of anything was defined by the Peripatetics as "the end of its becoming." Another definition of theirs puts the matter still more clearly. "What each thing is when its growth has been completed, that we declare to be the nature of each thing."

Following out this conception the Stoics identified a life in accordance with nature with a life in accordance with the highest perfection to which man could attain. Now, as man was essentially a rational animal, his work as man lay in living the rational life. And the perfection of reason was virtue. Hence the ways of nature were no other than the ways of virtue. And so it came about that the Stoic formula might be expressed in a number of different ways which yet all amounted to the same thing. The end was to live the virtuous life, or to live consistently, or to live in accordance with nature, or to live rationally.

Which of these philosophers is incorrectly paired with his contribution to the school of philosophy according to the passage? 

Possible Answers:

Pythagoras - the importance of numbers and numerical patterns

Cleanthes - the significance of living unwaveringly with nature

Democritus - the role of mental calmness in achieving happiness

Aristippus - the beneficial consequences of living abstemiously

Democritus and Leucippus - the makeup of matter

Correct answer:

Aristippus - the beneficial consequences of living abstemiously

Explanation:

This question requires careful reading of two of the denser paragraphs in this passage as well as interpretation of the meaning of words and authorial tone. Firstly, the author says, “Democritus and Leucippus had struck out a rude form of the atomic theory.” This is closely related to “the makeup of matter,” so we can eliminate this answer choice. Secondly, the author says “Pythagoreans on the mystical properties of numbers” so we can eliminate this answer choice as well. Of Cleanthes, the author states, “Cleanthes, his immediate successor in the school, is credited with having added the words 'with nature,' thus completing the well-known Stoic formula that the end is 'to live consistently with nature.'” And of Democritus, the author declares, “As to the nature of happiness there was the utmost variety of opinion. Democritus had made it consist in mental serenity.” This leaves us with only Aristippus, about whom the author states, “Aristippus simply in pleasure,” which can be understood as the opposite of “the beneficial consequences of living abstemiously.”

Example Question #444 : Humanities

Adapted from A Guide to Stoicism by George Stock (1915)

Among the Greeks and Romans of the classical age, philosophy occupied the place taken by religion in some later societies. Their appeal was to reason, not to revelation. To what, asks Cicero in his Offices, are we to look for training in virtue, if not to philosophy? Many people today are born into certain religions or religious denominations, but it was of his own free choice that the serious-minded young Greek or Roman embraced the tenets of one of the great sects which divided the world of philosophy. Conversions from one sect to another were of quite rare occurrence. A certain Dionysius of Heraclea, who went over from the Stoics to the Cyrenaics, was ever afterward known as "the deserter." It was as difficult to be independent in philosophy as it is with us to be independent in politics. When a young man joined a school, he committed himself to all its opinions, not only as to the end of life, which was the main point of division, but as to all questions on all subjects. The Stoic did not differ merely in his ethics from the Epicurean; he differed also in his theology and his physics and his metaphysics.

The life span of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was from B.C.E. 347 to 275. He did not begin teaching till 315, at the mature age of forty. Aristotle had passed away in 322, and with him closed the great constructive era of Greek thought. The Ionian philosophers had speculated on the physical constitution of the universe, the Pythagoreans on the mystical properties of numbers; Heraclitus had propounded his philosophy of fire, Democritus and Leucippus had struck out a rude form of the atomic theory, Socrates had raised questions relating to man, Plato had discussed them with all the freedom of the dialogue, while Aristotle had systematically worked them out. The later schools did not add much to the body of philosophy. What they did was to emphasize different sides of the doctrine of their predecessors and to drive views to their logical consequences. The great lesson of Greek philosophy is that it is worthwhile to do right irrespective of reward and punishment and regardless of the shortness of life. This lesson the Stoics so enforced by the earnestness of their lives and the influence of their moral teaching that it has become associated more particularly with them. 

The Greeks were all agreed that there was an end or aim of life, and that it was to be called "happiness," but at that point their agreement ended. As to the nature of happiness there was the utmost variety of opinion. Democritus had made it consist in mental serenity, Anaxagoras in speculation, Socrates in wisdom, Aristotle in the practice of virtue with some amount of favor from fortune, Aristippus simply in pleasure. Zeno's contribution to thought on the subject does not at first sight appear illuminating. He said that the end was "to live consistently," the implication doubtless being that no life but the passionless life of reason could ultimately be consistent with itself. Cleanthes, his immediate successor in the school, is credited with having added the words "with nature," thus completing the well-known Stoic formula that the end is "to live consistently with nature."

It was assumed by the Greeks that the ways of nature were "the ways of pleasantness," and that "all her paths" were "peace." This may seem to us a startling assumption, but that is because we do not mean by "nature" the same thing as they did. We connect the term with the origin of a thing, they connected it rather with the end; we mean by a thing's nature what it is or has been, they meant what it ought to become under the most favorable conditions. Hence we find Aristotle maintaining that the State is a natural product, because it is evolved out of social relations which exist by nature. Nature indeed was a highly ambiguous term to the Greeks no less than to ourselves, but in the sense with which we are now concerned, the nature of anything was defined by the Peripatetics as "the end of its becoming." Another definition of theirs puts the matter still more clearly. "What each thing is when its growth has been completed, that we declare to be the nature of each thing."

Following out this conception the Stoics identified a life in accordance with nature with a life in accordance with the highest perfection to which man could attain. Now, as man was essentially a rational animal, his work as man lay in living the rational life. And the perfection of reason was virtue. Hence the ways of nature were no other than the ways of virtue. And so it came about that the Stoic formula might be expressed in a number of different ways which yet all amounted to the same thing. The end was to live the virtuous life, or to live consistently, or to live in accordance with nature, or to live rationally.

Which of the following does the author compare to the Ancient Greeks' approach to philosophy?

Possible Answers:

Religion, politics, and academia

Religion and politics

Religion

Politics and academia

Politics

Correct answer:

Religion and politics

Explanation:

Answering this question requires careful reading of the whole passage. The correct answer is that all of these answers are compared to the Ancient Greek approach to philosophy. The author compares to religion when he says “Many people today are born into certain religions or religious denominations, but it was of his own free choice that the serious-minded young Greek or Roman embraced the tenets of one of the great sects that divided the world of philosophy.” The author compares the Ancient Greek approach to philosophy to politics when he says, “It was as difficult to be independent in philosophy as it is with us to be independent in politics.” The author does not compare the Ancient Greek approach to philosophy to academia, so the correct answer is "Religion and politics."

Example Question #445 : Humanities

Adapted from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One

Matthew Arnold’s prose writings, mainly, were the work of his middle and later years. They deal with, practically, the entire fabric of English civilization and culture in his day; and they are all directed by one clear and consistent critical purpose. That purpose was to “cure the great vice of our intellect, manifesting itself in our incredible vagaries in literature, in art, in religion, in morals; namely, that it is fantastic, and wants sanity.”

The main body of his purely literary criticism, with the exception of a few scattered essays, is to be found in the lectures On Translating Homer (1861), and The Study of Celtic Literature (1867), and in the two volumes entitled Essays on Criticism (1865, 1889). The most notable of these books, as illustrating Arnold’s literary ideals and preferences—his critical method may be equally well studied in the others —is, undoubtedly, the first series of Essays on Criticism. Its appearance, in 1865, was something of a literary sensation, by reason of its style, the novelty and confidence of its opinions and the wide and curious range of its subjects. No volumes of critical essays had before appeared, in England at least, on a collection of subjects and authors so diverse as the literary influence of academies, pagan and medieval religious sentiment, a Persian passion-play, the Du Guerins, Joubert, Heine, Spinoza, Marcus Aurelius. And the first two essays, in particular, struck a note of challenge to all the popular critics of the day. They proclaimed the appearance of a paladin bent, above everything, upon piercing the armor of self-sufficiency and “provinciality,” in which the average English “authority in matters of taste” had been accustomed to strut with much confidence. Here, for the first time, we come across verbal weapons to be repeatedly used with devastating effect in a lifelong campaign against the hosts of Philistia. The famous nickname “Philistine,” borrowed from Heine, makes its first appearance in this book. We now first hear, also, of “the provincial spirit,” “the best that is known and thought in the world,” “the free play of the mind,” “flexibility of intelligence”—afterwards to be identified with Plato’s “prose of the center,” “the modern spirit,” “criticism of life,” and other phrases destined, by iterated use, to become familiar. Although the author’s weapons were mainly of his own making, his way of using them, his adroit and dexterous methods of attack, had been learnt from France. French prose, for Matthew Arnold, was the “prose of the center,” the nearest modern equivalent to “Attic prose,” and the two contemporary critics he admired most were Sainte-Beuve and Renan. In purely literary criticism, Sainte-Beuve is his chief model; but his methods in other critical fields were largely the results of his reading of Renan. As early as 1859, he speaks of Renan as one “between whose line of endeavour and my own I imagine there is considerable resemblance.” The two resembled each other not least in the adoption of a style, lenis, minimeque pertinax—“sinuous, easy, unpolemical”—very unlike the “highly-charged, heavy-shotted articles” of English newspaper critics.

Arnold’s knowledge and appreciation of French prose were wide and peculiarly sensitive, and stand in curious contrast to his lack of enthusiasm for, if not indifference to, French poetry. France, “famed in all great arts, in none supreme,” appeared to him to have achieved her most signal triumphs in prose, but his partiality to French prose led him to some strange vagaries of judgment in his estimates of individual writers. Sainte-Beuve and Renan, no doubt, deserved the flattery he paid both by imitating them, but he has given an exaggerated importance to such writers as the Du Gueacuterins, Joubert and Amiel.

When we turn from these eccentric preferences to the main principles of his literary criticism, we find, in his definitions of them, at any rate, much that is incontrovertible and a little that is open to question. “Disinterestedness,” he tells us, is the first requisite in a literary critic—“a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world.” With this goes “knowledge”; and no English critic is adequately equipped who does not “possess one great literature, at least, besides his own.” Criticism in England was altogether too provincial. Nothing quite like this had been stated in English before, and no critic, in his practice, made so sedulous an effort as Arnold to convince his countrymen of their insularity, and to persuade them to acquire an European outlook in literature and art. When he becomes a little more particular in his definitions and says that “the end and aim of all literature” is “a criticism of life,” and, again, that “poetry is, at bottom, a criticism of life,” he provokes a debate which, at one time, was pursued with considerable spirit and some acerbity—especially, as Sir Leslie Stephen has put it, by critics who were “unable to distinguish between an epigram and a philosophical dogma.”

In the last sentence, what does the author imply about the “critics”?

Possible Answers:

They have enthusiasm for but not understanding of Arnold’s ideas.

They are poor writers themselves.

They are overly philosophical.

They are in possession of a trenchant and valuable wit.

They would unanimously claim that poetry provides a commentary on daily life.

Correct answer:

They have enthusiasm for but not understanding of Arnold’s ideas.

Explanation:

As noted in the final paragraph of the passage, the critics pursue Arnold’s arguments with “considerable spirit and some acerbity,” but they don’t have the intelligence to distinguish between two fundamentally different genres of writing. In other words, the critics are enthusiastic but not very bright.

Example Question #446 : Humanities

Adapted from The Essays of Michel de Montaigne (trans. Charles Cotton, 1877)

So we see in the gift of eloquence, wherein some have such a facility and promptness, and that which we call a present wit so easy, that they are ever ready upon all occasions, and never to be surprised; and others more heavy and slow, never venture to utter anything but what they have long premeditated, and taken great care and pains to fit and prepare.

These two advantages of eloquence are those to which the lawyers and preachers of our age seem principally to pretend. If I were worthy to advise, the slow speaker, methinks, should be more proper for the pulpit, and the other for the bar: and that because the employment of the first does naturally allow him all the leisure he can desire to prepare himself, and besides, his career is performed in an even and unintermitted line, without stop or interruption; whereas the pleader's business and interest compels him to enter the lists upon all occasions, and the unexpected objections and replies of his adverse party jostle him out of his course, and put him, upon the instant, to pump for new and extempore answers and defenses. Yet, at the interview betwixt Pope Clement and King Francis at Marseilles, it happened, quite contrary, that Monsieur Poyet, a man bred up all his life at the bar, and in the highest repute for eloquence, having the charge of making the harangue to the Pope committed to him, and having so long meditated on it beforehand, as, so they said, to have brought it ready made along with him from Paris; the very day it was to have been pronounced, the Pope, fearing something might be said that might give offense to the other princes' ambassadors who were there attending on him, sent to acquaint the King with the argument which he conceived most suiting to the time and place, but, by chance, quite another thing to that Monsieur de Poyet had taken so much pains about: so that the fine speech he had prepared was of no use, and he was upon the instant to contrive another; which finding himself unable to do, Cardinal du Bellay was constrained to perform that office. The pleader's part is, doubtless, much harder than that of the preacher; and yet, in my opinion, we see more passable lawyers than preachers, at all events in France.

I know, experimentally, the disposition of nature so impatient of tedious and elaborate premeditation, that if it do not go frankly and gaily to work, it can perform nothing to purpose. We say of some compositions that they stink of oil and of the lamp, by reason of a certain rough harshness that laborious handling imprints upon those where it has been employed. But besides this, the solicitude of doing well, and a certain striving and contending of a mind too far strained and overbent upon its undertaking, breaks and hinders itself like water, that by force of its own pressing violence and abundance, cannot find a ready issue through the neck of a bottle or a narrow sluice. In this condition of nature, of which I am now speaking, there is this also, that it would not be disordered and stimulated with such passions as the fury of Cassius (for such a motion would be too violent and rude); it would not be jostled, but solicited; it would be roused and heated by unexpected, sudden, and accidental occasions. If it be left to itself, it flags and languishes; agitation only gives it grace and vigor. I am always worst in my own possession, and when wholly at my own disposition: accident has more title to anything that comes from me than I; occasion, company, and even the very rising and falling of my own voice, extract more from my fancy than I can find, when I sound and employ it by myself. By which means, the things I say are better than those I write, if either were to be preferred, where neither is worth anything. This, also, befalls me, that I do not find myself where I seek myself, and I light upon things more by chance than by any inquisition of my own judgment. I perhaps sometimes hit upon something when I write, that seems quaint and sprightly to me, though it will appear dull and heavy to another.—But let us leave these fine compliments; every one talks thus of himself according to his talent. But when I come to speak, I am already so lost that I know not what I was about to say, and in such cases a stranger often finds it out before me. If I should make erasure so often as this inconvenience befalls me, I should make clean work; occasion will, at some other time, lay it as visible to me as the light, and make me wonder what I should stick at.

When the author notes in the last paragraph that “some compositions . . . stink of oil and of the lamp,” what is he attempting to depict?

Possible Answers:

An impenetrable mysticism

An overwrought quality

Deep dedication

A luminous quality

Astringency

Correct answer:

An overwrought quality

Explanation:

The author is noting that some compositions have been slaved over at night by the light of an oil lamp. These compositions bear the marks of difficult labor; in other words, they have a torturous, overworked quality. “Overwrought” is the best fit for this description.  

Example Question #447 : Humanities

Adapted from Anarchism and Other Essays by Emma Goldman (1910)

Some twenty-one years ago I heard the first great anarchist speaker—the inimitable John Most. It seemed to me then, and for many years after, that the spoken word hurled forth among the masses with such wonderful eloquence, such enthusiasm and fire, could never be erased from the human mind and soul. How could any one of all the multitudes who flocked to Most's meetings escape his prophetic voice! Surely they had but to hear him to throw off their old beliefs, and see the truth and beauty of anarchism!

My one great longing then was to be able to speak with the tongue of John Most,—that I, too, might thus reach the masses. Oh, for the naivety of youth's enthusiasm! It is the time when the hardest thing seems but child's play. It is the only period in life worthwhile. Alas! This period is but of short duration. Like spring, the Sturm und Drang period of the propagandist brings forth growth, frail and delicate, to be matured or killed according to its powers of resistance against a thousand vicissitudes.

My great faith in the wonder-worker, the spoken word, is no more. I have realized its inadequacy to awaken thought, or even emotion. Gradually, and with no small struggle against this realization, I came to see that oral propaganda is at best but a means of shaking people from their lethargy: it leaves no lasting impression. The very fact that most people attend meetings only if aroused by newspaper sensations, or because they expect to be amused, is proof that they really have no inner urge to learn.

It is altogether different with the written mode of human expression. No one, unless intensely interested in progressive ideas, will bother with serious books. That leads me to another discovery made after many years of public activity. It is this: all claims of education notwithstanding, the pupil will accept only that which his mind craves. Already this truth is recognized by most modern educators in relation to the immature mind. I think it is equally true regarding the adult. Anarchists or revolutionists can no more be made than musicians. All that can be done is to plant the seeds of thought. Whether something vital will develop depends largely on the fertility of the human soil, though the quality of the intellectual seed must not be overlooked.

In meetings the audience is distracted by a thousand non-essentials. The speaker, though ever so eloquent, cannot escape the restlessness of the crowd, with the inevitable result that he will fail to strike root. In all probability he will not even do justice to himself.

The relation between the writer and the reader is more intimate. True, books are only what we want them to be; rather, what we read into them. That we can do so demonstrates the importance of written as against oral expression. It is this certainty that has induced me to gather in one volume my ideas on various topics of individual and social importance. They represent the mental and soul struggles of twenty-one years—the conclusions derived after many changes and inner revisions.

What does the author believe is the best case scenario that can result from oral propaganda?

Possible Answers:

The listener will be awoken from his or her apathy.

The audience will be collectively inspired to take action.

The individual will be forced to reconsider his or her opinions and may even join the movement.

The individual will seek to further advance his or her knowledge on the subject.

None of these answers; the author believes that almost nothing good can come from oral propaganda to the extent that it is essentially pointless.

Correct answer:

The listener will be awoken from his or her apathy.

Explanation:

This question simply requires reading in detail and understanding that the word “lethargy” means something very similar to “apathy.” The author states, “I came to see that oral propaganda is at best but a means of shaking people from their lethargy: it leaves no lasting impression.”

Example Question #448 : Humanities

Adapted from Anarchism and Other Essays by Emma Goldman (1910)

Some twenty-one years ago I heard the first great anarchist speaker—the inimitable John Most. It seemed to me then, and for many years after, that the spoken word hurled forth among the masses with such wonderful eloquence, such enthusiasm and fire, could never be erased from the human mind and soul. How could any one of all the multitudes who flocked to Most's meetings escape his prophetic voice! Surely they had but to hear him to throw off their old beliefs, and see the truth and beauty of anarchism!

My one great longing then was to be able to speak with the tongue of John Most,—that I, too, might thus reach the masses. Oh, for the naivety of youth's enthusiasm! It is the time when the hardest thing seems but child's play. It is the only period in life worthwhile. Alas! This period is but of short duration. Like spring, the Sturm und Drang period of the propagandist brings forth growth, frail and delicate, to be matured or killed according to its powers of resistance against a thousand vicissitudes.

My great faith in the wonder-worker, the spoken word, is no more. I have realized its inadequacy to awaken thought, or even emotion. Gradually, and with no small struggle against this realization, I came to see that oral propaganda is at best but a means of shaking people from their lethargy: it leaves no lasting impression. The very fact that most people attend meetings only if aroused by newspaper sensations, or because they expect to be amused, is proof that they really have no inner urge to learn.

It is altogether different with the written mode of human expression. No one, unless intensely interested in progressive ideas, will bother with serious books. That leads me to another discovery made after many years of public activity. It is this: all claims of education notwithstanding, the pupil will accept only that which his mind craves. Already this truth is recognized by most modern educators in relation to the immature mind. I think it is equally true regarding the adult. Anarchists or revolutionists can no more be made than musicians. All that can be done is to plant the seeds of thought. Whether something vital will develop depends largely on the fertility of the human soil, though the quality of the intellectual seed must not be overlooked.

In meetings the audience is distracted by a thousand non-essentials. The speaker, though ever so eloquent, cannot escape the restlessness of the crowd, with the inevitable result that he will fail to strike root. In all probability he will not even do justice to himself.

The relation between the writer and the reader is more intimate. True, books are only what we want them to be; rather, what we read into them. That we can do so demonstrates the importance of written as against oral expression. It is this certainty that has induced me to gather in one volume my ideas on various topics of individual and social importance. They represent the mental and soul struggles of twenty-one years—the conclusions derived after many changes and inner revisions.

Which of these characteristics does the author most wish the reader to attribute to her ideas and conclusions?

Possible Answers:

That they are the result of meticulous and continuous consideration and alteration

That they are the result of her maturity and extensive research

That they can function independent of individual perspective and consideration

That they are supported by many of the great minds of her era

That they are founded on irrefutable evidence

Correct answer:

That they are the result of meticulous and continuous consideration and alteration

Explanation:

This question requires you to think critically about the reasons the author inserts certain bits of information into her argument. It might be easiest to try to answer by eliminating the incorrect answers. So, to begin, although the author does discuss John Most, and indeed calls him “great,” we cannot really infer that she wishes you to believe her ideas are supported by many of the great minds of the era. Likewise, the author never suggests she has irrefutable evidence to back up her argument, so we cannot infer she intends to convince the reader of this. She does not discuss the relationship between individual perspective and consideration with her conclusions, so this answer choice can be eliminated too. That leaves only “That they are the result of her maturity and extensive research” and “That they are the result of meticulous and continuous consideration and alteration” as possible answer choices. There is evidence to suggest that the author wishes the audience to be convinced of her maturity, as she discusses a change from her naïve and youthful outlook; however, there is no mention of extensive research—rather, there is a discussion, in the conclusion, of the author’s soul-searching and continuous consideration. The author states, “They represent the mental and soul struggles of twenty-one years—the conclusions derived after many changes and inner revisions.” This sentence, more than any other, reveals the author’s wishes.

Example Question #821 : Lsat Reading Comprehension

Adapted from ‘Gifts.’ in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914) by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

If, at any time, it comes into my head that a present is due from me to somebody, I am puzzled what to give until the opportunity is gone. Flowers and fruits are always fit presents; flowers, because they are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. These gay natures contrast with the somewhat stern countenance of ordinary nature; they are like music heard out of a workhouse. Nature does not cocker us: we are children, not pets: she is not fond: everything is dealt to us without fear or favor, after severe universal laws. Yet these delicate flowers look like the frolic and interference of love and beauty. Men used to tell us that we love flattery, even though we are not deceived by it, because it shows that we are of importance enough to be courted. Something like that pleasure the flowers give us: what am I to whom these sweet hints are addressed? Fruits are acceptable gifts because they are the flower of commodities, and admit of fantastic values being attached to them. If a man should send to me to come a hundred miles to visit him, and should set before me a basket of fine summer fruit, I should think there was some proportion between the labor and the reward.

For common gifts, necessity makes pertinences and beauty every day, and one is glad when an imperative leaves him no option, since if the man at the door have no shoes, you have not to consider whether you could procure him a paint-box. And as it is always pleasing to see a man eat bread, or drink water, in the house or out of doors, so it is always a great satisfaction to supply these first wants. Necessity does everything well. In our condition of universal dependence, it seems heroic to let the petitioner be the judge of his necessity, and to give all that is asked, though at great inconvenience. If it be a fantastic desire, it is better to leave to others the office of punishing him. I can think of many parts I should prefer playing to that of the Furies. Next to things of necessity, the rule for a gift which one of my friends prescribed is, that we might convey to some person that which properly belonged to his character, and was easily associated with him in thought. But our tokens of compliment and love are for the most part barbarous. Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to the primary basis, when a man’s biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man’s wealth is an index of his merit. But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s. This is fit for kings, and rich men who represent kings, and a false state of property, to make presents of gold and silver stuffs, as a kind of symbolical sin-offering, or payment of blackmail.

He is a good man who can receive a gift well. We are either glad or sorry at a gift, and both emotions are unbecoming. Some violence, I think, is done, some degradation borne, when I rejoice or grieve at a gift. I am sorry when my independence is invaded, or when a gift comes from such as do not know my spirit, and so the act is not supported; and if the gift pleases me overmuch, then I should be ashamed that the donor should read my heart, and see that I love his commodity, and not him. The gift, to be true, must be the flowing of the giver unto me, correspondent to my flowing unto him. When the waters are at level, then my goods pass to him, and his to me. All his are mine, all mine his. I say to him, How can you give me this pot of oil, or this flagon of wine, when all your oil and wine is mine, which belief of mine this gift seems to deny? Hence the fitness of beautiful, not useful things for gifts. This giving is flat usurpation, and therefore when the beneficiary is ungrateful, as all beneficiaries hate all Timons, not at all considering the value of the gift, but looking back to the greater store it was taken from, I rather sympathize with the beneficiary than with the anger of my lord Timon. For, the expectation of gratitude is mean, and is continually punished by the total insensibility of the obliged person. It is a very onerous business, this of being served, and the debtor naturally wishes to give you a slap. A golden text for these gentlemen is that which I so admire in the Buddhist, who never thanks, and who says, "Do not flatter your benefactors."

According to the author, why do we love to receive flowers?

Possible Answers:

Because they are aesthetically pleasing and offer sensory pleasures.

Because they allow us to attach a tangible value to ourselves.

Because they represent the inherent beauty of nature.

Because they demonstrate that we are important to the gift-giver.

Because they reflect the stern impartiality of nature.

Correct answer:

Because they demonstrate that we are important to the gift-giver.

Explanation:

In discussing why people love to receive flowers, the author states that “men used to tell us that we love flattery, even though we are not deceived by it, because it shows that we are of importance enough to be courted. Something like that pleasure the flowers give us: what am I to whom these sweet hints are addressed?” The giving of a flower is compared to obvious attempts at flattery; although the recipient knows he is being flattered, he still enjoys the experience because it demonstrates that he must be important enough to the gift giver that he should warrant flattery in the first place.

Example Question #450 : Humanities

Passage adapted from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty (1859).

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else.  The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

It is, perhaps hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood. Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as well as against external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of overcoming them; and a ruler full of the spirit of improvement is warranted in the use of any expedients that will attain an end, perhaps otherwise unattainable.  Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end. Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion. Until then, there is nothing for them but implicit obedience… But as soon as mankind have attained the capacity of being guided to their own improvement by conviction or persuasion (a period long since reached in all nations with whom we need here concern ourselves), compulsion, either in the direct form or in that of pains and penalties for non-compliance, is no longer admissible as a means to their own good, and justifiable only for the security of others.

The author notes that limitations to individual sovereignty are justified for all of the following groups except __________.

Possible Answers:

Individuals who have not made an effort to keep pace with the development of modern society 

The elderly 

Those who still need cared for by others 

Those who have not yet reached adulthood

Correct answer:

The elderly 

Explanation:

The author notes that those who still need to be cared for, those who have not yet reached manhood/womanhood, and those in backward states of society are not considered "mature of their faculties" and thus do not benefit from individual sovereignty. Mill notes this at the beginning of the second paragraph: "...this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood. Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as well as against external injury. For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society."

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