LSAT Reading : Analyzing Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #181 : Humanities

Adapted from Volume 1 of History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage (1887)

The prolonged slavery of woman is the darkest page in human history. A survey of the condition of humanity through those barbarous periods when physical force governed the world and when the motto "might makes right" was the law enables one to account for the origin of woman's subjection to man without referring the fact to the general inferiority of the sex or Nature's law. Writers on this question differ as to the cause of the universal degradation of woman in all periods and nations.

One of the greatest minds of the century has thrown a ray of light on this gloomy picture by tracing the origin of woman's slavery to the same principle of selfishness and love of power in man that has thus far dominated all weaker nations and classes. This brings hope of final emancipation, for as all nations and classes are gradually, one after another, asserting and maintaining their independence, the path is clear for woman to follow. The slavish instinct of an oppressed class has led her to toil patiently through the ages, giving all and asking little, cheerfully sharing with man all perils and privations by land and sea, that husband and sons might attain honor and success. Justice and freedom for herself is her latest and highest demand.

Another writer asserts that the tyranny of man over woman has its roots, after all, in his nobler feelings; his love, his chivalry, and his desire to protect woman in the barbarous periods of pillage, lust, and war. But wherever the roots may be traced, the results at this hour are equally disastrous to woman. Her best interests and happiness do not seem to have been consulted in the arrangements made for her protection. She has been bought and sold, caressed and crucified at the will and pleasure of her master. But if a chivalrous desire to protect woman has always been the mainspring of man's dominion over her, it should have prompted him to place in her hands the same weapons of defense he has found to be most effective against wrong and oppression.

It is often asserted that as woman has always been man's slave—subject—inferior—dependent, that under all forms of government and religion, slavery must be her normal condition. This might have some weight had not the vast majority of men also been enslaved for centuries to kings, popes, and orders of nobility, who, in the progress of civilization, have reached complete equality.

In an age when the wrongs of society are adjusted in the courts and at the ballot-box, material force yields to reason and majorities. Woman's steady march onward, and her growing desire for a broader outlook, prove that she has not reached her normal condition, and that society has not yet conceded all that is necessary for its attainment.

The underlined phrase “One of the greatest minds of the century” is used in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

illustrate how the argument can only be understood by the greatest in society

demonstrate how even the greatest are subject to the folly of undermining female capabilities

give greater credibility to the argument that follows

refute claims made by other authors

lend support to the preceding argument

Correct answer:

give greater credibility to the argument that follows

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the author introduces an argument given by another source with the phrase “One of the greatest minds of the century.” It is clear that she agrees with the argument the other writer has offered. In the following paragraph, she introduces the argument given by an outside source by saying “Another writer asserts.” It is clear that she disagrees with this argument. From the manner in which she introduces the two authors, it is reasonable to conclude that she introduces the first one in the manner that she does to give greater credibility to the argument that follows.

Example Question #182 : Humanities

Adapted from Rough Riders (1899) By Theodore Roosevelt

Up to the last moment we were spending every ounce of energy we had in getting the regiment into shape. Fortunately, there were a good many vacancies among the officers, as the original number of 780 men was increased to 1,000; so that two companies were organized entirely anew. This gave the chance to promote some first-rate men.

One of the most useful members of the regiment was Dr. Robb Church, formerly a Princeton football player. He was appointed as Assistant Surgeon, but acted throughout almost all the Cuban campaign as the Regimental Surgeon. It was Dr. Church who first gave me an idea of Bucky O'Neill's versatility, for I happened to overhear them discussing Aryan word roots together, and then sliding off into a review of the novels of Balzac, and a discussion as to how far Balzac could be said to be the founder of the modern realistic school of fiction. Church had led almost as varied a life as Bucky himself, his career including incidents as far apart as exploring and elk hunting in the Olympic Mountains, cooking in a lumber camp, and serving as doctor on an emigrant ship.

Woodbury Kane was given a commission, and also Horace Devereux, of Princeton. Kane was older than the other college men who entered in the ranks; and as he had the same good qualities to start with, this resulted in his ultimately becoming perhaps the most useful soldier in the regiment. He escaped wounds and serious sickness, and was able to serve through every day of the regiment's existence.

Two of the men who made Second Lieutenants by promotion from the ranks while in San Antonio were John Greenway, a noted Yale football player and catcher on her baseball nine, and David Goodrich, for two years captain of the Harvard crew. They were young men, Goodrich having only just graduated; while Greenway, whose father had served with honor in the Confederate Army, had been out of Yale three or four years. They were natural soldiers, and it would be well nigh impossible to overestimate the amount of good they did the regiment. They were strapping fellows, entirely fearless, modest, and quiet. Their only thought was how to perfect themselves in their own duties, and how to take care of the men under them, so as to bring them to the highest point of soldierly perfection. I grew steadily to rely upon them, as men who could be counted upon with absolute certainty, not only in every emergency, but in all routine work. They were never so tired as not to respond with eagerness to the slightest suggestion of doing something new, whether it was dangerous or merely difficult and laborious. They not merely did their duty, but were always on the watch to find out some new duty which they could construe to be theirs. Whether it was policing camp, or keeping guard, or preventing straggling on the march, or procuring food for the men, or seeing that they took care of themselves in camp, or performing some feat of unusual hazard in the fight—no call was ever made upon them to which they did not respond with eager thankfulness for being given the chance to answer it. Later on I worked them as hard as I knew how, and the regiment will always be their debtor.

Greenway was from Arkansas. We could have filled up the whole regiment many times over from the South Atlantic and Gulf States alone, but were only able to accept a very few applicants. One of them was John McIlhenny, of Louisiana; a planter and manufacturer, a big-game hunter and book-lover, who could have had a commission in the Louisiana troops, but who preferred to go as a trooper in the Rough Riders because he believed we would surely see fighting. He could have commanded any influence, social or political, he wished; but he never asked a favor of any kind. He went into one of the New Mexican troops, and by his high qualities and zealous attention to duty speedily rose to a sergeantcy, and finally won his lieutenancy for gallantry in action.

The tone of the officers' mess was very high. Everyone seemed to realize that he had undertaken most serious work. They all earnestly wished for a chance to distinguish themselves, and fully appreciated that they ran the risk not merely of death, but of what was infinitely worse—namely, failure at the crisis to perform duty well; and they strove earnestly so to train themselves, and the men under them, as to minimize the possibility of such disgrace. Every officer and every man was taught continually to look forward to the day of battle eagerly, but with an entire sense of the drain that would then be made upon his endurance and resolution. They were also taught that, before the battle came, the rigorous performance of the countless irksome duties of the camp and the march was demanded from all alike, and that no excuse would be tolerated for failure to perform duty. Very few of the men had gone into the regiment lightly, and the fact that they did their duty so well may be largely attributed to the seriousness with which these eager, adventurous young fellows approached their work. This seriousness, and a certain simple manliness which accompanied it, had one very pleasant side. During our entire time of service, I never heard in the officers' mess a foul story or a foul word; and though there was occasional hard swearing in moments of emergency, even this was the exception.

The primary function of the third paragraph is to:

Possible Answers:

Distinguish between Kane and Devereux.

Talk about the Princeton officers.

Compare the Princeton men to the Yale officers.

Praise the health of Woodbury Kane.

Mainly describe Kane. 

Correct answer:

Mainly describe Kane. 

Explanation:

Although the paragraph mentions another man it acts as a description of Kane and the aspects of his character which made him a fine officer. We can come to this by eliminating the other answers on a basis of information given. The paragraph does praise Kane's health but that is not its primary function. Likewise it in a way compares the Princeton men to the Yale men but not to a great extent. It hardly distinguishes between the two men it mentions, except by name and although it talks about the Princeton officers it concerns Kane over Devereux.

Example Question #183 : Humanities

Adapted from Mysticism, Logic, and Other Essays by Bertrand Russell (1917)

When we try to ascertain the motives which have led men to the investigation of philosophical questions, we find that, broadly speaking, they can be divided into two groups, often antagonistic, and leading to very divergent systems. These two groups of motives are, on the one hand, those derived from religion and ethics, and, on the other hand, those derived from science. Plato, Spinoza, and Hegel may be taken as typical of the philosophers whose interests are mainly religious and ethical, while Leibniz, Locke, and Hume may be taken as representatives of the scientific wing. In Aristotle, Descartes, Berkeley, and Kant we find both groups of motives strongly present.

Herbert Spencer, in whose honor we are assembled today, would naturally be classed among scientific philosophers; it was mainly from science that he drew his data, his formulation of problems, and his conception of method. But his strong religious sense is obvious in much of his writing, and his ethical preoccupations are what make him value the conception of evolution—that conception in which, as a whole generation has believed, science and morals are to be united in fruitful and indissoluble marriage.

It is my belief that the ethical and religious motives, in spite of the splendidly imaginative systems to which they have given rise, have been, on the whole, a hindrance to the progress of philosophy, and ought now to be consciously thrust aside by those who wish to discover philosophical truth. Science, originally, was entangled in similar motives, and was thereby hindered in its advances. It is, I maintain, from science, rather than from ethics and religion, that philosophy should draw its inspiration.

But there are two different ways in which a philosophy may seek to base itself upon science. It may emphasize the most general results of science, and seek to give even greater generality and unity to these results. Or it may study the methods of science, and seek to apply these methods, with the necessary adaptations, to its own peculiar province. Much philosophy inspired by science has gone astray through preoccupation with the results momentarily supposed to have been achieved. It is not results, but methods that can be transferred with profit from the sphere of the special sciences to the sphere of philosophy. What I wish to bring to your notice is the possibility and importance of applying to philosophical problems certain broad principles of method which have been found successful in the study of scientific questions.

The opposition between a philosophy guided by scientific method and a philosophy dominated by religious and ethical ideas may be illustrated by two notions which are very prevalent in the works of philosophers, namely the notion of the universe, and the notion of good and evil. A philosopher is expected to tell us something about the nature of the universe as a whole, and to give grounds for either optimism or pessimism. Both these expectations seem to me mistaken. I believe the conception of "the universe" to be, as its etymology indicates, a mere relic of pre-Copernican astronomy, and I believe the question of optimism and pessimism to be one which the philosopher will regard as outside his scope, except, possibly, to the extent of maintaining that it is insoluble.

What is the primary function of the fourth paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To question the value of Herbert Spencer’s life's work

To introduce the concept and value of applying scientific method to philosophical inquiry

To urge that priority be given to the use of scientific results over scientific method in philosophical inquiry

To propose that the audience consider the negative ramifications of adopting the scientific method as the sole means of philosophical inquiry

To undermine the influence of religion on philosophical inquiry

Correct answer:

To introduce the concept and value of applying scientific method to philosophical inquiry

Explanation:

Before the fourth paragraph, the author focuses on urging his audience to turn away from religious and ethical philosophy and to embrace philosophy grounded in scientific investigation. In the fourth paragraph he continues by differentiating two types of scientific philosophy—one that is grounded in scientific results, and one that is grounded in the scientific method. The emphasis is on introducing the concept and value of applying scientific method to philosophical inquiry, as can be seen in “It is not results, but methods that can be transferred with profit from the sphere of the special sciences to the sphere of philosophy. What I wish to bring to your notice is the possibility and importance of applying to philosophical problems certain broad principles of method which have been found successful in the study of scientific questions.” The answer choice “To propose that the audience consider the ramifications of adopting the scientific method as the sole means of philosophical inquiry” is incorrect because the "ramifications" are specifically "negative," which suggests that the author is warning against adopting the scientific method, rather than encouraging the embracing of it.

Example Question #184 : Humanities

Adapted from Mysticism, Logic, and Other Essays by Bertrand Russell (1917)

When we try to ascertain the motives which have led men to the investigation of philosophical questions, we find that, broadly speaking, they can be divided into two groups, often antagonistic, and leading to very divergent systems. These two groups of motives are, on the one hand, those derived from religion and ethics, and, on the other hand, those derived from science. Plato, Spinoza, and Hegel may be taken as typical of the philosophers whose interests are mainly religious and ethical, while Leibniz, Locke, and Hume may be taken as representatives of the scientific wing. In Aristotle, Descartes, Berkeley, and Kant we find both groups of motives strongly present.

Herbert Spencer, in whose honor we are assembled today, would naturally be classed among scientific philosophers; it was mainly from science that he drew his data, his formulation of problems, and his conception of method. But his strong religious sense is obvious in much of his writing, and his ethical preoccupations are what make him value the conception of evolution—that conception in which, as a whole generation has believed, science and morals are to be united in fruitful and indissoluble marriage.

It is my belief that the ethical and religious motives, in spite of the splendidly imaginative systems to which they have given rise, have been, on the whole, a hindrance to the progress of philosophy, and ought now to be consciously thrust aside by those who wish to discover philosophical truth. Science, originally, was entangled in similar motives, and was thereby hindered in its advances. It is, I maintain, from science, rather than from ethics and religion, that philosophy should draw its inspiration.

But there are two different ways in which a philosophy may seek to base itself upon science. It may emphasize the most general results of science, and seek to give even greater generality and unity to these results. Or it may study the methods of science, and seek to apply these methods, with the necessary adaptations, to its own peculiar province. Much philosophy inspired by science has gone astray through preoccupation with the results momentarily supposed to have been achieved. It is not results, but methods that can be transferred with profit from the sphere of the special sciences to the sphere of philosophy. What I wish to bring to your notice is the possibility and importance of applying to philosophical problems certain broad principles of method which have been found successful in the study of scientific questions.

The opposition between a philosophy guided by scientific method and a philosophy dominated by religious and ethical ideas may be illustrated by two notions which are very prevalent in the works of philosophers, namely the notion of the universe, and the notion of good and evil. A philosopher is expected to tell us something about the nature of the universe as a whole, and to give grounds for either optimism or pessimism. Both these expectations seem to me mistaken. I believe the conception of "the universe" to be, as its etymology indicates, a mere relic of pre-Copernican astronomy, and I believe the question of optimism and pessimism to be one which the philosopher will regard as outside his scope, except, possibly, to the extent of maintaining that it is insoluble.

What is the primary function of the third paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To refute the notion that religion is no longer relevant in philosophy

To urge the abandonment of philosophy grounded in religion

To question the audience for assuming that religion has a place in philosophical inquiry

To portray religion as a positive force in the history of philosophy

To decry the impact of religion on the history of science and philosophical inquiry

Correct answer:

To urge the abandonment of philosophy grounded in religion

Explanation:

The author spends the third paragraph discussing his belief that philosophy should abandon religious and ethical motives for inquiry. The function of the third paragraph is best summarized in its concluding sentence, when the author says, “It is, I maintain, from science, rather than from ethics and religion, that philosophy should draw its inspiration.” The fourth paragraph begins as if religion has been wholly dismissed by discussing the two different ways in which science can be applied to philosophical inquiry. We may reasonably assume that the function of the third paragraph is to "To urge the abandonment of philosophy grounded in religion." The only other answer choice that could possibly be selected on the evidence of the text is “To decry the impact of religion on the history of science and philosophical inquiry"; however, this sentence better describes how the author fulfills the function of the third paragraph, rather than actually describing what the function is.

Example Question #185 : Humanities

Adapted from “Federalist No. 11” by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

The importance of the Union, in a commercial light, is one of those points about which there is least room to entertain a difference of opinion, and which has commanded the most general assent of men who have any acquaintance with the subject. This applies as well to our intercourse with foreign countries as with each other.

There are appearances to authorize a supposition that the adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of America, has already excited uneasy sensations in several of the maritime powers of Europe. They seem to be apprehensive of our too great interference in that carrying trade, which is the support of their navigation and the foundation of their naval strength. Those of them which have colonies foresee the dangers that may threaten their American dominions from the neighborhood of States, which have all the dispositions, and would possess all the means, requisite to the creation of a powerful marine. Impressions of this kind will naturally indicate the policy of fostering divisions among us and of depriving us of an active commerce in our own bottoms. This would answer the threefold purpose of preventing our interference in their navigation, of monopolizing the profits of our trade, and of clipping the wings by which we might soar to a dangerous greatness.

If we continue united, we may counteract a policy so unfriendly to our prosperity in a variety of ways. By prohibitory regulations extending throughout the States, we may oblige foreign countries to bid against each other for the privileges of our markets. This assertion will not appear chimerical to those who are able to appreciate the importance of the markets of three millions of people to any manufacturing nation, and the immense difference there would be to the trade and navigation of such a nation between a direct communication in its own ships and an indirect conveyance of its products and returns to and from America in the ships of another country. Suppose, for instance, we had a government in America capable of excluding Great Britain from all our ports; what would be the probable operation of this step upon her politics? Would it not enable us to negotiate, with the fairest prospect of success, for commercial privileges of the most valuable and extensive kind in the dominions of that kingdom? When these questions have been asked, upon other occasions, they have received a plausible, but not a solid or satisfactory answer. It has been said that prohibitions on our part would produce no change in the system of Britain, because she could prosecute her trade with us through the medium of the Dutch, who would be her immediate customers and paymasters for those articles which were wanted for the supply of our markets. But would not her navigation be materially injured by the loss of the important advantage of being her own carrier in that trade? Would not the principal part of its profits be intercepted by the Dutch, as a compensation for their agency and risk?

A mature consideration of the objects suggested by these questions will justify a belief that in such a state of things, our trade would derive the most substantial benefits. Such a point gained from the British government, and which could not be expected without an equivalent in exemptions and immunities in our markets, would be likely to have a correspondent effect on the conduct of other nations, who would not be inclined to see themselves altogether supplanted in our trade.

A further resource for influencing the conduct of European nations toward us, in this respect, would arise from the establishment of a federal navy. There can be no doubt that the continuance of the Union under an efficient government would soon put it in our power to create a navy which, if it could not vie with those of the great maritime powers, would at least be of respectable weight if thrown into the scale of either of two contending parties. This would be more peculiarly the case in relation to operations in the West Indies. Our position is, in this respect, a most commanding one. And if to this consideration we add that of the usefulness of supplies from this country in the prosecution of military operations in the West Indies, it will readily be perceived that a situation so favorable would enable us to bargain with great advantage for commercial privileges. A price would be set not only upon our friendship, but upon our neutrality. By a steady adherence to the Union we may hope, erelong, to become the arbiter of Europe in America, and to be able to incline the balance of European competitions in this part of the world as our interest may dictate.

The primary function of the third paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to discuss a solution to a previously discussed threat

to address a problem with a widely accepted situation

to provide evidence to support an earlier conclusion

to offer a counterargument to an established point

to express the limitations of a preceding thought

Correct answer:

to discuss a solution to a previously discussed threat

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the author discusses his belief in the idea that the European powers will not wish for an independent and unified United States to remain free and together. He seems to suggest that the United States is in some way under threat from European interference. At the beginning of the third paragraph, he states “If we continue united, we may counteract a policy so unfriendly to our prosperity in a variety of ways.” This excerpt, along with a close reading of the entire paragraph, suggests that the primary function of the third paragraph is to discuss a solution to the previously established threat of European interference.

Example Question #186 : Humanities

Adapted from “Times of Erasmus and Luther” in Short Studies on Great Subjects by James Anthony Froude (1867)

Every single department of intellectual or practical life was penetrated with the beliefs, or was interwoven with the interests, of the clergy; and thus it was that, when differences of religious opinion arose, they split society to its foundations. The lines of cleavage penetrated everywhere, and there were no subjects whatever in which those who disagreed in theology possessed any common concern. When men quarreled, they quarreled altogether. The disturbers of settled beliefs were regarded as public enemies who had placed themselves beyond the pale of humanity, and were considered fit only to be destroyed like wild beasts, or trampled out like the seed of a contagion.

Three centuries have passed over our heads since the time of which I am speaking, and the world is so changed that we can hardly recognize it as the same. The secrets of nature have been opened out to us on a thousand lines, and men of science of all creeds can pursue side by side their common investigations. Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Calvinists contend with each other in honorable rivalry in arts, and literature, and commerce, and industry. They read the same books. They study at the same academies. They have seats in the same senates. They preside together on the judicial bench, and carry on, without jar or difference, the ordinary business of the country. Those who share the same pursuits are drawn in spite of themselves into sympathy and good-will. When they are in harmony in so large a part of their occupations, the points of remaining difference lose their venom. Those who thought they hated each other unconsciously find themselves friends, and as far as it affects the world at large, the acrimony of controversy has almost disappeared.

Imagine, if you can, a person being now put to death for a speculative theological opinion. You feel at once, that in the most bigoted country in the world such a thing has become impossible, and the impossibility is the measure of the alteration which we have all undergone. The formulas remain as they were on either side—the very same formulas which were once supposed to require these detestable murders. But we have learned to know each other better. The cords which bind together the brotherhood of mankind are woven of a thousand strands. We do not any more fly apart or become enemies, because, here and there, in one strand out of so many, there are still unsound places. If I were asked for a distinct proof that Europe was improving and not retrograding, I should find it in this phenomenon. It has not been brought about by controversy. Men are fighting still over the same questions which they began to fight about at the Reformation. Protestant divines have not driven Catholics out of the field, nor Catholics, Protestants. Each polemic writes for his own partisans, and makes no impression on his adversary.

Controversy has kept alive a certain quantity of bitterness, and that, I suspect, is all that it would accomplish if it continued till the day of judgment. I sometimes, in impatient moments, wish the laity in Europe would treat their controversial divines as two gentlemen once treated their seconds, when they found themselves forced into a duel without knowing what they were quarreling about. As the principals were being led up to their places, one of them whispered to the other, “If you will shoot your second, I will shoot mine."

What is the primary function of the opening paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To accentuate the role that religion and the clergy have played in promoting peace and stability in Europe

To lament the impact of religion on the peace of Renaissance Europe

To remonstrate with those who suggest that religion is the primary force for peace and prosperity in Christian Europe

To highlight the degree of discord that once raged among disparate religions in European society

To undermine the role of Christianity in ensuring the progress of European society

Correct answer:

To highlight the degree of discord that once raged among disparate religions in European society

Explanation:

The primary function of the opening paragraph is to serve as an example of what the author is seemingly cautioning against and celebrating the relative absence of throughout the rest of the essay. The clearest indication of the function can be seen by considering the manner in which the following paragraph begins: “Three centuries have passed over our heads since the time of which I am speaking, and the world is so changed that we can hardly recognize it as the same.” The author wishes to “highlight the degree of discord that once raged among disparate religions in European society” so that he can go on to talk about how that situation has changed in the last three hundred years.

Example Question #187 : Humanities

Adapted from An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals by David Hume (1777)

We may observe that, in displaying the praises of any humane, beneficent man, there is one circumstance that never fails to be amply insisted on, namely, the happiness and satisfaction derived to society from his intercourse and good offices. To his parents, we are apt to say, he endears himself by his pious attachment and duteous care still more than by the connections of nature. His children never feel his authority but when employed for their advantage. With him, the ties of love are consolidated by beneficence and friendship. The ties of friendship approach, in a fond observance of each obliging office, to those of love and inclination. His domestics and dependents have in him a sure resource and no longer dread the power of fortune but so far as she exercises it over him. From him the hungry receive food, the naked clothing, the ignorant and slothful skill and industry. Like the sun, an inferior minister of providence he cheers, invigorates, and sustains the surrounding world.

If confined to private life, the sphere of his activity is narrower, but his influence is all benign and gentle. If exalted into a higher station, mankind and posterity reap the fruit of his labors.

As these topics of praise never fail to be employed, and with success, where we would inspire esteem for any one, may it not thence be concluded that the utility resulting from the social virtues forms at least a PART of their merit, and is one source of that approbation and regard so universally paid to them?

When we recommend even an animal or a plant as USEFUL and BENEFICIAL, we give it an applause and recommendation suited to its nature. As, on the other hand, reflection on the baneful influence of any of these inferior beings always inspires us with the sentiment of aversion. The eye is pleased with the prospect of corn fields and loaded vineyards, horses grazing, and flocks pasturing, but flies the view of briars and brambles, affording shelter to wolves and serpents.

A machine, a piece of furniture, a vestment, a house well contrived for use and convenience, is so far beautiful, and is contemplated with pleasure and approbation. An experienced eye is here sensible to many excellencies, which escape persons ignorant and uninstructed.

Can anything stronger be said in praise of a profession, such as merchandize or manufacture, than to observe the advantages which it procures to society? And is not a monk and inquisitor enraged when we treat his order as useless or pernicious to mankind?

The historian exults in displaying the benefit arising from his labors. The writer of romance alleviates or denies the bad consequences ascribed to his manner of composition.

In general, what praise is implied in the simple epithet USEFUL! What reproach in the contrary!

Your Gods, says Cicero [De Nat. Deor. lib. i.], in opposition to the Epicureans, cannot justly claim any worship or adoration, with whatever imaginary perfections you may suppose them endowed. They are totally useless and inactive. Even the Egyptians, whom you so much ridicule, never consecrated any animal but on account of its utility.

The skeptics assert [Sext. Emp. adrersus Math. lib. viii.], though absurdly, that the origin of all religious worship was derived from the utility of inanimate objects, as the sun and moon, to the support the well-being of mankind. This is also the common reason assigned by historians, for the deification of eminent heroes and legislators [Diod. Sic. passim.].

To plant a tree, to cultivate a field, to beget children—meritorious acts, according to the religion of Zoroaster.

In all determinations of morality, this circumstance of public utility is ever principally in view; and wherever disputes arise, either in philosophy or common life, concerning the bounds of duty, the question cannot, by any means, be decided with greater certainty than by ascertaining, on any side, the true interests of mankind. If any false opinion, embraced from appearances, has been found to prevail, as soon as farther experience and sounder reasoning have given us more just notions of human affairs, we retract our first sentiment, and adjust anew the boundaries of moral good and evil.

Giving alms to common beggars is naturally praised because it seems to carry relief to the distressed and indigent, but when we observe the encouragement thence arising to idleness and debauchery, we regard that species of charity rather as a weakness than a virtue.

The primary function of the fifth paragraph is to __________.

Possible Answers:

continue the argument of the fourth paragraph but along the lines of a different subject

build to the argument of the sixth paragraph of machines and professions using them

draw attention to a new idea concerning moral utility

act as a refrain to the main topic between the tangents of the fourth and sixth paragraphs

divine where a sense of utility might derive from in the future

Correct answer:

continue the argument of the fourth paragraph but along the lines of a different subject

Explanation:

The author is continuing the argument of utility from the fourth paragraph. He changes the subject matter to machines instead of natural things like animals, but he continues along the same line of argument as in the fourth paragraph. The sixth paragraph, likewise, is a continuation of this argument which doesn't really change until the line beginning “In general."

Example Question #1 : Business Passages

While hotels have traditionally held a firm grip on the market of vacation-goers, the emergence of companies fostering short-term rentals are dramatically changing the landscape of the travel industry. Before the advent of the modern online forum, short-term rentals were an arrangement limited by sheer logistics. Information about the availability of (and desire for) a short-term rental was difficult to transmit and share. However, with the current explosion of social media and cyber enterprise, the business model of short-term rentals has blossomed.

In 2011, 40% of travelers reported that they would be staying in a short-term rental during the year, as opposed to a traditional hotel. By 2013, this figure had jumped up to a staggering 49%. The short-term rental business is a $24 billion market, holding 8% of the total market of U.S. travel. Rapidly expanding and growing with the innovations of creative renters, the question that hangs in the air is what this means for communities. Short-term rentals have had a polarizing effect in many ways, becoming a source of joy for venturists and cause of dismay for many homeowners.

In recent news, there have been incredible scandals in which short-term renters have abused the property loaned to them, causing thousands of dollars' worth of property damage. Other accusations include disturbing the peace and the commission of criminal acts. Homeowners' Associations (HOAs) have been up in arms, and the legal backlash has been significant. New York enacted firm restrictions on short-term renters, and many HOAs now embed limits on the purposes that a space may be used for, barring short-term rentals.

However, this reaction is an over-reaction, and a detrimental one at that. Cities and towns that set hard limits against short-term rentals are halting the economic growth that would otherwise accompany them. Vacationers are likely to be deterred from venturing out to towns that have banned more affordable short-term rentals. While some vacationers might opt to stay at a hotel in desirable locations, as the short-term rental industry continues to grow, it will become more and more likely that vacation-goers will simply choose alternative destinations that actually allow for short-term rentals.

This is not to say, however, that short-term rentals should be completely unregulated. The key is imposing useful regulations that are mutually beneficial to both communities and to the proprietors of short-term rentals. One potential solution would be to impose reasonable taxes on visitors that use short-term rentals; having requirements for minimum stays could also ensure more consistency for the communities. This also has the added benefit of generating income for towns and cities. There is no reason why communities should see the short-term rental industry as an adversary, when it can just as easily be made into an ally.

The primary purpose of the second paragraph is to __________.

Possible Answers:

Emphasize the impact that short-term rentals have had on the travel industry, thereby transitioning betwen the first and third paragraphs.  

Provide a quantitative valuation of a significant trend that would otherwise be difficult to tangibilize when drawing on subjective terms. 

Argue that short-term rentals have reached their peak, and that they will never command more eminence than that which they currently have. 

Provide a roadmap for the rest of the passage, given that the first paragraph served as an introductory paragraph to acquaint the reader with the topic. 

Convince the reader that short-term rentals are the most significant development in the realm in which the housing industry and the travel industry intersect. 

Correct answer:

Emphasize the impact that short-term rentals have had on the travel industry, thereby transitioning betwen the first and third paragraphs.  

Explanation:

While the first paragraph provides background on the short-term rental phenomenon, explaining how the internet aided its spread, the third paragraph addresses the controversies that it has sparked. As a means of transitioning between these two topics, the second paragraph explains the significance of short-term rentals in order to allow the full impact of the controversial issues to be comprehended by the reader. Therefore, the correct answer is "Emphasize the impact that short-term rentals have had on the travel industry, thereby transitioning betwen the first and third paragraphs."

A tempting wrong answer is "Convince the reader that short-term rentals are the most significant development in the realm in which the housing industry and the travel industry intersect." While this sounds like it could be accurate, there is no evidence in the passage to indicate that short-term rentals are "the most significant development in the realm in which the housing industry and the travel industry intersect." The author does not provide sufficient information to justify use of the superlative "most."

Example Question #188 : Humanities

Adapted from Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle (1843)

How true, for example, is that other old Fable of the Sphinx, who sat by the wayside, propounding her riddle to the passengers, which if they could not answer she destroyed them! Such a Sphinx is this Life of ours, to all men and societies of men. Nature, like the Sphinx, is of womanly celestial loveliness and tenderness; the face and bosom of a goddess, but ending in claws and the body of a lioness. There is in her a celestial beauty,— which means celestial order, pliancy to wisdom; but there is also a darkness, a ferocity, fatality, which are infernal. And does she not propound her riddles to us? Of each man she asks daily, in mild voice, yet with a terrible significance, “Do you know the meaning of this Day? What can you do Today, or wisely attempt to do?” Nature, Universe, Destiny, Existence, howsoever we name this grand unnameable Fact in the midst of which we live and struggle, is as a heavenly bride to the wise and brave, to them who can discern her behests and do them; a destroying fiend to them who cannot.

With Nations it is as with individuals: Can they rede the riddle of Destiny? This English Nation, will it get to know the meaning of its strange new Today? Is there sense enough extant, discoverable anywhere or anyhow, in our united twenty-seven million heads to discern the same; valor enough in our twenty-seven million hearts to dare and do the bidding thereof? It will be seen!

The secret of gold Midas, which he with his long ears never could discover, was that he had offended the Supreme Powers—that he had parted company with the eternal inner Facts of this Universe, and followed the transient outer Appearances thereof. Properly it is the secret of all unhappy men and unhappy nations. Had they known Nature's right truth, Nature's right truth would have made them free; but they have forgotten the right Inner True, and taken up with the Outer Sham-true. They answer the Sphinx's question wrong.

Foolish men imagine that because judgment for an evil thing is delayed, there is no justice, but an accidental one, here below. Judgment for an evil thing is many times delayed some day or two, some century or two, but it is sure as life, it is sure as death! In the center of the world-whirlwind, verily now as in the oldest days, dwells and speaks a god. The great soul of the world is just. O brother, can it be needful now at this late epoch of experience to remind thee of such a fact; which all manner of old Pagan Romans, Scythians, and heathen Greeks, and indeed more or less all men, have managed at one time to see into; nay which thou thyself, till redtape philosophy strangled the inner life of thee, hadst once some inkling of: that there is justice here below, and even, at bottom, that there is nothing else but justice! Forget that, thou hast forgotten all. Success will never more attend thee: how can it now? Thou hast the whole Universe against thee.

The primary function of the second paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to deconstruct the argument made in the first paragraph

to add new questions to the argument

to provide quantitative measurements of the size of the population of England at the time the author was writing

to deride the population of England for its collective decisions

to bring the sense of nations into discussion in the passage, particularly that of England

Correct answer:

to bring the sense of nations into discussion in the passage, particularly that of England

Explanation:

The correct answer is "Bring the sense of nations into discussion in the passage, particularly that of England.” The reason this is correct is because the author brings a discussion of nations into the passage in the paragraph's first line, "With Nations it is as with individuals," and he highlights England by referring to "This English Nation" specifically.

Example Question #189 : Humanities

Adapted from How to Tell a Story and Other Essays by Mark Twain (1897)

There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind—the humorous. The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic story and the witty story upon the matter.

The humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point. The humorous story bubbles gently along, the others burst. The humorous story is strictly a work of art—high and delicate art—and only an artist can tell it; but no art is necessary in telling the comic and the witty story; anybody can do it. The art of telling a humorous story—understand, I mean by word of mouth, not print—was created in America, and has remained at home. The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it; but the teller of the comic story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever heard. And sometimes he is so glad and happy that he will repeat the "nub" of it and glance around from face to face, collecting applause, and then repeat it again. It is a pathetic thing to see.

Let me set down an instance of the comic method, using an anecdote that has been popular all over the world for twelve or fifteen hundred years:

In the course of a certain battle, a soldier whose leg had been shot off appealed to another soldier who was hurrying by to carry him to the rear, informing him at the same time of his injury; whereupon the generous son of Mars, shouldering the unfortunate, proceeded to carry out the other’s desire. Bullets and cannon-balls were flying in all directions, and presently one of the latter took the wounded man's head off—without, however, his deliverer being aware of it. Soon he was hailed by an officer, who said:

"Where are you going with that carcass?"

"To the rear, sir—he's lost his leg!"

"His leg, forsooth?" responded the astonished officer; "you mean his head, you booby."

Whereupon the soldier dispossessed himself of his burden, and stood looking down upon it in great perplexity. At length he said:

"It is true, sir, just as you have said." Then after a pause he added, "But he TOLD me IT WAS HIS LEG—"

Here the narrator bursts into explosion after explosion of thunderous horse-laughter, repeating that nub from time to time. It takes only a minute and a half to tell that in its comic-story form; and isn't worth the telling, after all. Put into the humorous-story form it takes ten minutes, and is about the funniest thing I have ever listened to—as James Whitcomb Riley tells it.

He tells it in the character of a dull-witted old farmer who has just heard it for the first time, thinks it is unspeakably funny, and is trying to repeat it to a neighbor. But he can't remember it; so he gets all mixed up and wanders helplessly round and round, putting in tedious details that don't belong in the tale and only retard it; taking them out conscientiously and putting in others that are just as useless; stopping his narrative a good while in order to try to recall the name of the soldier that was hurt, and finally remembering that the soldier's name was not mentioned, and remarking placidly that the name is of no real importance, anyway—better, of course, if one knew it, but not essential, after all—and so on, and so on, and so on.

The teller is innocent and happy and pleased with himself, and has to stop occasionally to keep from laughing outright, but his body quakes in a jelly-like way with interior chuckles; and at the end of the ten minutes the audience have laughed until they are exhausted, and the tears are running down their faces. The simplicity and innocence and sincerity and unconsciousness of the old farmer are perfectly simulated, and the result is a performance which is thoroughly charming and delicious. This is art and fine and beautiful, and only a master can compass it; but a machine could tell the other story.

The primary function of the underlined paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to compare humorous storytelling to witty and comic storytelling

to give a personal example of the author’s experience with comic storytelling

to lament the loss of a dear friend who was an accomplished storyteller

to suggest that humorous storytelling is not without its problems

to provide an example of the artistry of humorous storytelling

Correct answer:

to provide an example of the artistry of humorous storytelling

Explanation:

The underlined paragraph is preceded by a telling of the story in the form of a comic storyteller, an individual the author derides as “pathetic.” Immediately before the paragraph in question, the author says “Put into the humorous-story form it takes ten minutes, and is about the funniest thing I have ever listened to—as James Whitcomb Riley tells it.” What follows in the underlined paragraph is a description of the manner in which James Whitcomb Riley tells the story; the comparisons between humorous storytelling and comic and witty storytelling are left to the preceding and succeeding paragraphs. The indicated paragraph focuses solely on conveying the artistry present in Riley’s storytelling method.

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