LSAT Reading : Analyzing Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #191 : Humanities

Adapted from an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

It is natural to believe in great men. If the companions of our childhood should turn out to be heroes, and their condition regal, it would not surprise us. All mythology opens with demigods, and the circumstance is high and poetic; that is, their genius is paramount. In the legends of the Gautama, the first men ate the earth, and found it deliciously sweet.

Nature seems to exist for the excellent. The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad and nutritious. Life is sweet and tolerable only in our belief in such society, and actually or ideally we manage to live with superiors. We call our children and our lands by their names. Their names are wrought into the verbs of language, their works and effigies are in our houses, and every circumstance of the day recalls an anecdote of them.

The search after the great is the dream of youth and the most serious occupation of manhood. We travel into foreign parts to find his works—if possible, to get a glimpse of him. But we are put off with fortune instead. You say the English are practical; the Germans are hospitable; in Valencia the climate is delicious; and in the hills of the Sacramento there is gold for the gathering. Yes, but I do not travel to find comfortable, rich, and hospitable people, or clear sky, or ingots that cost too much. But if there were any magnet that would point to the countries and houses where are the persons who are intrinsically rich and powerful, I would sell all, and buy it, and put myself on the road today.

The people go with us on their credit. The knowledge that in the city is a man who invented the railroad raises the credit of all the citizens. But enormous populations, if they be beggars, are disgusting, like moving cheese, like hills of ants or of fleas—the more, the worse.

Our religion is the love and cherishing of these patrons. The gods of fable are the shining moments of great men. We run all our vessels into one mould. Our colossal theologies of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, are the necessary and structural action of the human mind. The student of history is like a man going into a warehouse to buy clothes or carpets. He fancies he has a new article. If he goes to the factory, he shall find that his new stuff still repeats the scrolls and rosettes which are found on the interior walls of the pyramids of Thebes. Our theism is the purification of the human mind. Man can paint, or make, or think nothing but man. He believes that the great material elements had their origin from his thought. And our philosophy finds one essence collected or distributed.

Other men are lenses through which we read our own minds. I count him a great man who inhabits a higher sphere of thought, into which other men rise with labor and difficulty; he has but to open his eyes to see things in a true light, and in large relations, whilst they must make painful corrections and keep a vigilant eye on many sources of error. His service to us is of like sort. It costs a beautiful person no exertion to paint his or her image on our eyes; yet how splendid is that benefit! It costs no more for a wise soul to convey his quality to other men. And everyone can do his best thing easiest. He is great who is what he is from nature, and who never reminds us of others.

The primary function of the second paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to talk about the natural emergence of greatness

to talk about the destructive effects of jealousy

to emphasize the sorrows of living without greatness in society

to talk about how we naturally live at ease with great men

to discuss the coexistence of nature and excellence

Correct answer:

to talk about how we naturally live at ease with great men

Explanation:

The second paragraph continues to discuss the ideas of nature and excellence being coexistent, but its main point is that we naturally and easily live alongside great men without jealousy. They are part of our society, and indeed make our society better, as the author says: “The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad and nutritious. Life is sweet and tolerable only in our belief in such society; and actually or ideally we manage to live with superiors.”

Example Question #192 : Humanities

Adapted from The Monk by Matthew Lewis (1796)

The monks having attended their abbot to the door of his cell, he dismissed them with an air of conscious superiority in which humility's semblance combated with the reality of pride. He was no sooner alone, than he gave free loose to the indulgence of his vanity. When he remembered the enthusiasm that his discourse had excited, pride told him loudly that he was superior to the rest of his fellow-creatures.

“Who,” thought he; “Who but myself has passed the ordeal of youth, yet sees no single stain upon his conscience? Who else has subdued the violence of strong passions and an impetuous temperament, and submitted even from the dawn of life to voluntary retirement? I seek for such a man in vain. I see no one but myself possessed of such resolution. Religion cannot boast Ambrosio's equal! How powerful an effect did my discourse produce upon its auditors! How they loaded me with benedictions, and pronounced me the sole uncorrupted stalwart of the church! What then now is left for me to do? Nothing, but to watch as carefully over the conduct of my brothers as I have hitherto watched over my own. Yet hold! May I not be tempted from those paths which till now I have pursued without one moment's wandering? I must now abandon the solitude of my retreat; the fairest and noblest dames of Madrid continually present themselves at the abbey, and will use no other confessor. Should I meet some lovely female in that world that I am constrained to enter, lovely . . . as you, Madonna . . . !”

As he said this, he fixed his eyes upon a picture of the Virgin, which was suspended opposite to him. This for two years had been the object of his increasing wonder and adoration. He paused, and gazed upon it with delight.

“What beauty in that countenance!” He continued after a silence of some minutes. “Oh! If such a creature existed, and existed but for me! Gracious God, should I then resist the temptation? Should I not barter for a single embrace the reward of my sufferings for thirty years? Should I not abandon . . . Fool that I am! Whither do I suffer my admiration of this picture to hurry me? Away, impure ideas! Let me remember that woman is forever lost to me. Never was mortal formed so perfect as this picture. But even did such exist, the trial might be too mighty for a common virtue, but Ambrosio's is proof against temptation. Temptation, did I say? To me it would be none. It is not the woman's beauty that fills me with such enthusiasm; it is the painter's skill that I admire, it is the divinity that I adore! Are not the passions dead in my bosom? Have I not freed myself from the frailty of mankind? Fear not, Ambrosio! Take confidence in the strength of your virtue.”

Here his reverie was interrupted by three soft knocks at the door of his cell. With difficulty did the abbot awake from his delirium. The knocking was repeated.

“Who is there?” said Ambrosio at length.

“It is only Rosario,” replied a gentle voice.

“Enter! Enter, my son!”

The door was immediately opened, and Rosario appeared with a small basket in his hand.

Rosario was a young novice belonging to the monastery, who in three months intended to make his profession. A sort of mystery enveloped this youth, which rendered him at once an object of interest and curiosity.

The primary function of the second paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to make a mockery of Ambrosio by detailing his pride and vanity

to outline Ambrosio’s superiority, which he entertains in public

to show that Ambrosio is thankful for his position

to begin a discourse about Ambrosio's pride and vanity that continues until the fourth paragraph

to expand on and evoke an idea of Ambrosio's pride and vanity as evoked in the first paragraph

Correct answer:

to expand on and evoke an idea of Ambrosio's pride and vanity as evoked in the first paragraph

Explanation:

The second paragraph follows on from the mention of pride in the first paragraph and goes into more detail on the subject of Ambrosio's pride and vanity. This discussion does carry on into the following paragraphs, but it does not begin in the second paragraph. We could say that Ambrosio is thankful for his position, but this is not the primary function of the paragraph. Likewise, the paragraph does show Ambrosio's sense of superiority, but we know from the first paragraph that he is wont to show this subtly in public.

Example Question #193 : Humanities

Adapted from Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals by William James (1900)

In the general uprising of ideal interests discernible all about us in American life, there is perhaps no more promising feature than the fermentation that has been going on among the teachers. In whatever sphere of education their functions may lie, there is to be seen among them a really inspiring amount of searching of the heart about the highest concerns of their profession. The renovation of nations begins always at the top, among the reflective members of the state, and spreads slowly outward and downward. The teachers of this country, one may say, have its future in their hands. The outward organization of education which we have in our United States is perhaps, on the whole, the best organization that exists in any country. The state school systems give a diversity and flexibility, an opportunity for experiment and keenness of competition, nowhere else to be found on such an important scale. The independence of so many of the colleges and universities; their emulation, and their happy organic relations to the lower schools; the traditions of instruction in them, evolved from the older American recitation-method (and so avoiding on the one hand the pure lecture-system prevalent in Germany and Scotland, which considers too little the individual student, and yet not involving the sacrifice of the instructor to the individual student, which the English tutorial system would seem too often to entail),—all these things are most happy features of our scholastic life, and from them the most sanguine auguries may be drawn.

No one has profited more by the fermentation of which I speak, in pedagogical circles, than we psychologists. The desire of the schoolteachers for a more thorough professional training has led them more and more to turn to us for light on fundamental principles.

Psychology ought certainly to give the teacher radical help. And yet I confess that, acquainted as I am with the height of some of your expectations, I feel a little anxious lest, at the end of these simple talks of mine, not a few of you may experience some disappointment at the net results. In other words, I am not sure that you may not be indulging fancies that are just a shade exaggerated. That would not be altogether astonishing, for we have been having something like a 'boom' in psychology in this country. 'The new psychology' has thus become a term to conjure up portentous ideas withal; and you teachers, docile and receptive and aspiring as many of you are, have been plunged in an atmosphere of vague talk about our science, which to a great extent has been more mystifying than enlightening. 

As regards this subject of psychology, now, I wish at the very threshold to do what I can to dispel the mystification. So I say at once that in my humble opinion there is no 'new psychology' worthy of the name. There is nothing but the old psychology which began in Locke's time, plus a little physiology of the brain and senses and theory of evolution, and a few refinements of introspective detail, for the most part without adaptation to the teacher's use. It is only the fundamental conceptions of psychology which are of real value to the teacher; and they, apart from the aforesaid theory of evolution, are very far from being new.

I say moreover that you make a great, a very great mistake, if you think that psychology, being the science of the mind's laws, is something from which you can deduce definite programs and schemes and methods of instruction for immediate schoolroom use. Psychology is a science, and teaching is an art; and sciences never generate arts directly out of themselves. An intermediary inventive mind must make the application, by using its originality.

The science of logic never made a man reason rightly, and the science of ethics (if there be such a thing) never made a man behave rightly. A science only lays down lines within which the rules of the art must fall, laws which the follower of the art must not transgress; but what particular thing he shall positively do within those lines is left exclusively to his own genius.

The primary function of the second paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to transition from a congratulatory opening paragraph into a slightly condescending and admonishing third paragraph

to correct misconceptions held by certain members of the audience about the extent to which psychology can help teachers in their work

to transition from a discussion of the reflective efforts of teachers to an admission of the limitations of psychological understanding

to demand greater attention from those in attendance to certain psychological theories and conclusions

to praise teachers for their efforts to understand psychology and personally reflect on the material wealth that this has brought the author

Correct answer:

to transition from a discussion of the reflective efforts of teachers to an admission of the limitations of psychological understanding

Explanation:

The second paragraph functions very clearly within the context of this essay as a transitional paragraph. The first (decidedly unacademic) clue that is is transitional is its relatively short length. The second clue is the manner in which the author concludes the second paragraph by discussing his ideas of the audience’s expectations and then goes on to try to temper those expectations: “Psychology ought certainly to give the teacher radical help. And yet I confess that, acquainted as I am with the height of some of your expectations, I feel a little anxious lest, at the end of these simple talks of mine, not a few of you may experience some disappointment at the net results. In other words, I am not sure that you may not be indulging fancies that are just a shade exaggerated.”

Example Question #194 : Humanities

Adapted from Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals by William James (1900)

In the general uprising of ideal interests discernible all about us in American life, there is perhaps no more promising feature than the fermentation that has been going on among the teachers. In whatever sphere of education their functions may lie, there is to be seen among them a really inspiring amount of searching of the heart about the highest concerns of their profession. The renovation of nations begins always at the top, among the reflective members of the state, and spreads slowly outward and downward. The teachers of this country, one may say, have its future in their hands. The outward organization of education which we have in our United States is perhaps, on the whole, the best organization that exists in any country. The state school systems give a diversity and flexibility, an opportunity for experiment and keenness of competition, nowhere else to be found on such an important scale. The independence of so many of the colleges and universities; their emulation, and their happy organic relations to the lower schools; the traditions of instruction in them, evolved from the older American recitation-method (and so avoiding on the one hand the pure lecture-system prevalent in Germany and Scotland, which considers too little the individual student, and yet not involving the sacrifice of the instructor to the individual student, which the English tutorial system would seem too often to entail),—all these things are most happy features of our scholastic life, and from them the most sanguine auguries may be drawn.

No one has profited more by the fermentation of which I speak, in pedagogical circles, than we psychologists. The desire of the schoolteachers for a more thorough professional training has led them more and more to turn to us for light on fundamental principles.

Psychology ought certainly to give the teacher radical help. And yet I confess that, acquainted as I am with the height of some of your expectations, I feel a little anxious lest, at the end of these simple talks of mine, not a few of you may experience some disappointment at the net results. In other words, I am not sure that you may not be indulging fancies that are just a shade exaggerated. That would not be altogether astonishing, for we have been having something like a 'boom' in psychology in this country. 'The new psychology' has thus become a term to conjure up portentous ideas withal; and you teachers, docile and receptive and aspiring as many of you are, have been plunged in an atmosphere of vague talk about our science, which to a great extent has been more mystifying than enlightening. 

As regards this subject of psychology, now, I wish at the very threshold to do what I can to dispel the mystification. So I say at once that in my humble opinion there is no 'new psychology' worthy of the name. There is nothing but the old psychology which began in Locke's time, plus a little physiology of the brain and senses and theory of evolution, and a few refinements of introspective detail, for the most part without adaptation to the teacher's use. It is only the fundamental conceptions of psychology which are of real value to the teacher; and they, apart from the aforesaid theory of evolution, are very far from being new.

I say moreover that you make a great, a very great mistake, if you think that psychology, being the science of the mind's laws, is something from which you can deduce definite programs and schemes and methods of instruction for immediate schoolroom use. Psychology is a science, and teaching is an art; and sciences never generate arts directly out of themselves. An intermediary inventive mind must make the application, by using its originality.

The science of logic never made a man reason rightly, and the science of ethics (if there be such a thing) never made a man behave rightly. A science only lays down lines within which the rules of the art must fall, laws which the follower of the art must not transgress; but what particular thing he shall positively do within those lines is left exclusively to his own genius.

Which of these is the primary function of the concluding paragraph?

Possible Answers:

to explain the difference between the science of logic and the science of ethics

to advise teachers against placing their faith in psychology

to lay down the author’s opinions on the boundaries between science and its application in art

to provide a counterargument to an earlier point about the benefits science can have in artistic exploration

to refute a claim made by someone else that science can make a person reason correctly

Correct answer:

to lay down the author’s opinions on the boundaries between science and its application in art

Explanation:

The primary function of the final paragraph is to provide a conclusion on the boundaries between science and how it can be applied in art. This argument is the primary focus of the author during the second part of the essay, so it should be no surprise he would wish to lay out his argument succinctly in the conclusion. This is most evidenced in the final few sentences, which read, “A science only lays down lines within which the rules of the art must fall, laws which the follower of the art must not transgress; but what particular thing he shall positively do within those lines is left exclusively to his own genius.” The only other answer that might be supported by the text is “To advise teachers against placing their faith in psychology”; however, this is closer to the thesis of the whole text than it is the meaning of the final paragraph.

Example Question #195 : Humanities

Adapted from English Literature: Its History and Its Significance for the Life of the English Speaking World by William J. Long (1909)

Coleridge left Cambridge in 1794 without taking his degree, and presently we find him with the youthful Southey—a kindred spirit who had been fired to wild enthusiasm by the French Revolution—founding his famous Pantisocracy for the regeneration of human society. "The Fall of Robespierre," a poem composed by the two enthusiasts, is full of the new revolutionary spirit. The Pantisocracy was to be an ideal community that combined farming and literature; work was to be limited to two hours each day. Moreover, each member of the community was to marry a good woman and take her with him. The two poets obeyed the latter injunction first, marrying two sisters, and then found that they had no money to pay even their traveling expenses to the new utopia.

During all the rest of his career a tragic weakness of will takes possession of Coleridge, making it impossible for him, with all his genius and learning, to hold himself steadily to any one work or purpose. He studied in Germany; worked as a private secretary, till the drudgery wore upon his free spirit; then he went to Rome and remained for two years, lost in study. Later he started The Friend, a paper devoted to truth and liberty; lectured on poetry and the fine arts to enraptured audiences in London, until his frequent failures to meet his engagements scattered his hearers; was offered an excellent position and a half interest (amounting to some £2000) in the Morning Post and The Courier, but declined it, saying "that I would not give up the country and the lazy reading of old folios for two thousand times two thousand pounds—in short, that beyond £350 a year I considered money a real evil.” His family, meanwhile, was almost entirely neglected; he lived apart, following his own way. Needing money, he was on the point of becoming a Unitarian minister, when a small pension from two friends enabled him to live for a few years without regular employment.

A terrible shadow in Coleridge's life was the apparent cause of most of his dejection. In early life he suffered from neuralgia, and to ease the pain began to use opiates. The result on such a temperament was almost inevitable. He became a slave to the drug habit; his naturally weak will lost all its directing and sustaining force, until, after fifteen years of pain and struggle and despair, he gave up and put himself in charge of a physician, one Mr. Gillman of Highgate. Carlyle, who visited him at this time, calls him "a king of men," but records that "he gave you the idea of a life that had been full of sufferings, a life heavy-laden, half-vanquished."

The shadow is dark indeed; but there are gleams of sunshine that occasionally break through the clouds. One of these is his association with Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, out of which came the famous Lyrical Ballads of 1798. Another was his loyal devotion to poetry for its own sake. With the exception of his tragedy Remorse, for which he was paid £400, he received almost nothing for his poetry. Indeed, he seems not to have desired it; for he says: "Poetry has been to me its own exceeding great reward; it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude, and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me." One can better understand his exquisite verse after such a declaration. A third ray of sunlight came from the admiration of his contemporaries; for though he wrote comparatively little, he was by his talents and learning a leader among literary men. Wordsworth says of him that, though other men of the age had done some wonderful things, Coleridge was the only wonderful man he had ever known. Of his conversation it is recorded: "Throughout a long-drawn summer's day would this man talk to you in low, equable but clear and musical tones, concerning things human and divine; marshaling all history, harmonizing all experiment, probing the depths of your consciousness, and revealing visions of glory and terror to the imagination."

The primary function of the third paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to show that Coleridge was afflicted by addiction but resolved to be cured of it

to show that Coleridge trusted in modern medicine

to explore the contemporary issue of addiction and art

to show the respect of writers like Carlyle for Coleridge

to condemn Coleridge for his addiction

Correct answer:

to show that Coleridge was afflicted by addiction but resolved to be cured of it

Explanation:

The most important thing to do when answering this question is to simply state the facts. The fact is that the third paragraph shows Coleridge was afflicted with an addiction which probably affected his life seriously and was at one point resolved to cure it. The other statements are all either lacking in simplicity or are too simplistic.

Example Question #196 : Humanities

Adapted from "Belize" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

As an independent country, Belize has existed for little over thirty years, having achieved full autonomy from Britain in 1981. Thirty years is not a lot of time to develop a distinct cultural identity anywhere in the world, and in Belize, the situation is complicated by several factors. There is no dominant ethnic group; religion and language are far from homogenous; it is the only former English colony in Latin America, and it is seemingly closer to a Caribbean state than a Central American one, a situation that is not helped by the tension that exists between Belize and Guatemala. Without a homogenous culture, Belizean national identity is hard to define, particularly for an outsider.

The recent history of Belize gives significant insight into why this should be. The area was originally part of the great Mayan empire in Central America, but the Maya were in decline long before the arrival of Europeans. First, the Spanish came and settled much of the area around Belize, but due to a distinct absence of gold and silver, they largely ignored the territory of Belize itself. The first Europeans to occupy Belize in any significant number were English pirates—violent men who grew wealthy pillaging Spanish ships. But pirates by their very nature create transient communities; it would be English Puritans who were the first Europeans to settle Belize on a permanent basis. They sustained themselves on Belize’s fecund agricultural land and, following the introduction of sugar and the extensive logging of timber, eventually grew wealthy—wealthy enough to purchase slaves to do the bulk of the work for them. For one-hundred and fifty years, the economic system of slavery was dominant in Belize, but following the territory’s formal inclusion as a colony of Britain (called the British Honduras colony) in the 1840s, the institution of slavery was outlawed. 

By this time, however, two significant and long-lasting precedents had been set. The first was the cultural and ethnic diversity of Belize. The marriage of European colonials to freed slaves created a large mestizo population, and the country received influxes of immigrants from the Caribbean, Spanish-speaking refugees from Honduras and El Salvador during times of Civil War, and settlers from Taiwan and Hong Kong. The arrival of people of so many different ethnic backgrounds has only increased the significance of the second precedent, established in colonial times—namely the concentration of property ownership in the hands of foreigners.

At the height of the British Honduras colony, the wealth in Belize was entirely held by English and Scottish settlers, and native Belizeans were either engaged in open conflict with the crown or else forced into servitude and subjugation. The legacy has continued long past independence. In contemporary Belize, almost eighty percent of property and businesses are owned by outsiders. The English and Spanish have largely been replaced with Americans and Taiwanese, but the matter remains the same. What little wealth is produced in the nation is exported elsewhere, and those that live in Belize are often forced to rely exclusively on tourism. If Belizeans are unable to own their own property and to manage their own businesses, then national identity and cultural homogeny may have little opportunity to flourish.

And, yet, the experience of talking with the people in Belize belies these expectations. There are many people, of course, who have recently arrived in Belize and carry with them their culture, language, and customs. These people initially tend to stick to their small and distinct social groups. But, there is a growing tendency to integrate into the larger population. The majority of people are first- or second-generation independent Belizeans. Like people across the world who gained nationhood in the twentieth century, there is a distinct sense of sincere pride that would be hard to recognize in the overly ironic West. Belizeans—be they Maya, Garifuna, Honduran, Amish, Mestizo, or Taiwanese—believe in the future of their country. There is little doubt that the road ahead will be challenging, but there are causes for resilient optimism. Not least of these is Belize’s rich biodiversity and unmolested natural wonders that make it such a haven for naturalists and scientists from around the world. The future of Belize is likely to be one of continuous diversity, but like other former colonial nations like Brazil and the United States, Belizeans believe they can make a strength of it.

The primary function of the third paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to reflect on the limits of Belizean cultural identity

to reinforce the arguments made in the second paragraph about Belizean ethnic diversity

to reflect on the recent arrival of even more ethnic groups to Belize

to transition from a discussion of ethnic diversity to one of property ownership

to transition from a discussion of religious heterodoxy to ethnic diversity

Correct answer:

to transition from a discussion of ethnic diversity to one of property ownership

Explanation:

The primary function of the third paragraph is best understood in the last few sentences, where the author says, “The arrival of people of so many different ethnic backgrounds has only increased the significance of the second precedent, established in colonial times—namely the concentration of property ownership in the hands of foreigners.” It is true that a good deal of the third paragraph details the more recent arrivals of different ethnic groups into Belize, but this is primarily a continuation of the history discussed in the second paragraph and is used to reinforce the author’s transition from a discussion of ethnic diversity to one of property ownership. 

Example Question #197 : Humanities

Adapted from The Prince by Nicholas Machiavelli (1513; trans. Mariott 1908)

Having discoursed particularly on the characteristics of such principalities as in the beginning I proposed to discuss, and having considered in some degree the causes of their being good or bad, and having shown the methods by which many have sought to acquire them and to hold them, it now remains for me to discuss generally the means of offense and defense which belong to each of them.

We have seen above how necessary it is for a prince to have his foundations well laid, otherwise it follows of necessity he will go to ruin. The chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or composite, are good laws and good arms; and as there cannot be good laws where the state is not well armed, it follows that where they are well armed they have good laws. I shall leave the laws out of the discussion and shall speak of the arms.

I say, therefore, that the arms with which a prince defends his state are either his own, or they are mercenaries, auxiliaries, or mixed. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious, and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were. Thus it was that Charles, King of France, was allowed to seize Italy with chalk in hand; and he who told us that our sins were the cause of it told the truth, but they were not the sins he imagined, but those which I have related. And as they were the sins of princes, it is the princes who have also suffered the penalty.

I wish to demonstrate further the infelicity of these arms. The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skillful, you are ruined in the usual way.

And if it be urged that whoever is armed will act in the same way, whether mercenary or not, I reply that when arms have to be resorted to, either by a prince or a republic, then the prince ought to go in person and perform the duty of a captain; the republic has to send its citizens, and when one is sent who does not turn out satisfactorily, it ought to recall him, and when one is worthy, to hold him by the laws so that he does not leave the command. And experience has shown princes and republics, single-handed, making the greatest progress, and mercenaries doing nothing except damage; and it is more difficult to bring a republic, armed with its own arms, under the sway of one of its citizens than it is to bring one armed with foreign arms. Rome and Sparta stood for many ages armed and free. The Swiss are completely armed and quite free. And so I say it is far more dangerous to be defended by mercenaries, than it is to be defended by soldiers of your own state.

What purpose does the fourth paragraph serve in the formation of the author’s argument?

Possible Answers:

It highlights the lack of loyalty found within mercenary command by examining the ways in which a skilled mercenary leader is likely to betray his employer.

It reinforces arguments made in the previous paragraph about the experience of Italy when it was conquered by King Charles of France.

It reprimands the reader for failing to consider the fact that neither a competent nor an incompetent mercenary commander can be trusted.

It further highlights the extent to which it would be foolish to trust mercenary armies by showcasing how even when they are well-commanded, they are never going to be loyal.

It provides an alternative argument about the nature of arms that places the central argument in a balanced context.

Correct answer:

It further highlights the extent to which it would be foolish to trust mercenary armies by showcasing how even when they are well-commanded, they are never going to be loyal.

Explanation:

The fourth paragraph serves the purpose of reinforcing the primary argument made throughout the text, namely that princes should never trust mercenary arms to protect their territories. In this instance, the argument focuses on highlighting the extent to which it would be foolish to trust mercenary armies by showcasing how even when they are well-commanded, they are not going to be loyal. The author states, “The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness.”

Example Question #198 : Humanities

Adapted from a text by Benjamin Franklin in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

I received my dear friend’s two letters, one for Wednesday and one for Saturday. This is again Wednesday. I do not deserve one for today, because I have not answered the former. But, indolent as I am, and averse to writing, the fear of having no more of your pleasing epistles, if I do not contribute to the correspondence, obliges me to take up my pen.

I am charmed with your description of Paradise, and with your plan of living there; and I approve much of your conclusion, that, in the meantime, we should draw all the good we can from this world. In my opinion we might all draw more good from it than we do, and suffer less evil, if we would take care not to give too much for whistles. For to me it seems that most of the unhappy people we meet with are become so by neglect of that caution.

You ask what I mean? You love stories, and will excuse my telling one of myself.

When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children, and being charmed with the sound of a whistle that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth, put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money, and laughed at me so much for my folly that I cried with vexation, and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.

This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind, so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Don’t give too much for the whistle, and I saved my money.

As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.

When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, This man gives too much for his whistle.

If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, Poor man, said I, you pay too much for your whistle.

When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, Mistaken man, said I, you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle.

When I see a beautiful sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, What a pity, say I, that she should pay so much for a whistle!

In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.

Yet I ought to have charity for these unhappy people, when I consider that, with all this wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain things in the world so tempting, for example, the apples of King John, which happily are not to be bought; for if they were put to sale by auction, I might very easily be led to ruin myself in the purchase, and find that I had once more given too much for the whistle.

The primary function of the second paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to respond in part to a previous correspondence

to provide a rational argument about equal trade

to describe the author’s emotions about the recipient of the letter

to criticize something the recipient has said

to change the subject to something the author has more interest in

Correct answer:

to respond in part to a previous correspondence

Explanation:

The author's tone is far from critical, and the paragraph itself does not give us a full picture of the author's emotions towards his addressee, although it is safe to assume he has warm feelings towards him or her. The second paragraph does act as an introduction to the rest of the letter, but it introduces the rest of the letter by responding, partially, to previous correspondence. We can see this in the lines, “I am charmed with your description of Paradise, and with your plan of living there; and I approve much of your conclusion.” This response acts as an introduction to the rest of the letter, but is not so much a change of subject because of it.

Example Question #199 : Humanities

Adapted from Deeds of a Great Railway by G. R. S. Darroch (1920)

August 4th, 1914, was not fated after all, as we know, to be a day of disaster. That it was not so is perhaps attributable in the main to two causes. "Miraculous" is the manner in which escape from disaster has been described; but the miracle was performed primarily and essentially by the loss of those "many thousands of brave men whose sacrifice we deplore, while we regard their splendid gallantry and self-devotion with unstinted admiration and gratitude." A secondary, but by no means inconsiderable, cause contributory to the successful working of the miracle lay in the fact that we did possess the "order," the "certainty," in regard to moving that part of the army detailed for home defense, and of the six divisions of which the original Expeditionary Force was composed, and which were flung across the Channel to assist in stemming the initial German onrush. And it is with regard to this "order," this "certainty," and the attendant successful working of the railways that the ensuing pages are concerned.

We have already traced in some degree of detail the antecedents of the Railway Executive Committee, that body of distinguished civilian railway experts, who, from the time that the government assumed, under provisions of the Act of 1871, nominal control of the railways, became, and throughout the war remained, responsible to the government for the maintenance and the efficient working of the entire railway systems of the British Isles; and in order to acquire some insight into the amazing and complex detail involved in this efficient working, we cannot very well do better than probe a few of the more salient facts concerning the London and North-Western Railway, which, on the outbreak of hostilities, and appropriately enough, was deputed to act as the "Secretary" Company to the Western and Eastern Commands and afterwards to the Central Force.

In a report dated October 1st, 1914, Mr. L. W. Horne, secretary to the "Secretary" Company to the Commands previously mentioned, describes the measures that were adopted both prior to and during mobilization, in conformity with the War Office program.

Owing to the "very drastic alterations in the mobilization time tables" made by the War Office, a staff was specially appointed to deal with the matter, and as a result of herculean efforts, "on mobilization being ordered, not only was our scheme complete, but time tables and sheets numbering many thousands were ready for immediate issue."

Special troop trains were "signaled by a special code of 4-4-4 beats," this code signifying "precedence over all other trains," ordinary passenger service being curtailed as occasion demanded. Seven hundred and fifty-one special trains were required for the "large quantities of stores, equipment, etc.," and "in order to ensure that such consignments should be worked forward without delay," it was agreed that "they should be given 'Perishable transit.'"

As will doubtless be within the memory of most of us, on August 3rd, 1914, Sir Edward Grey was in a position to inform the House that "the mobilization of the Fleet has taken place.” The credit for the promptitude of this precautionary measure was in due course claimed by Mr. Winston Churchill, and resulted shortly afterwards in the resignation from his post as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty of Prince Louis of Battenberg, eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse, Germany. The message spontaneously addressed by His Majesty the King to Admiral Sir John Jellicoe ran, "I send you, and through you to the officers and men of the Fleets . . . the assurance of my confidence that under your direction they will revive and renew the old glories of the Royal Navy, and prove once again the sure shield of Britain." To enable officers and men to "revive and renew the old glories of the Royal Navy," coal, not canvas, was needed, this entailing the provision forthwith of six hundred and fifty-one special trains for the conveyance of approximately 150,000 tons of Admiralty coal from the South Wales collieries to certain points on the East Coast.

The primary function of the second paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to lead into a discussion of the finer workings of the railway during the war

to chart the rise of the London and North-Western Railway during the war

to challenge the assumption that the devastating loss of life was attributable to the advanced rail system

to discuss the events leading up to the creation of the Railway Executive Committee

to discuss the events in the first paragraph in finer detail

Correct answer:

to lead into a discussion of the finer workings of the railway during the war

Explanation:

The second paragraph leads on from a previous argument, that of the “degree of detail the antecedents of the Railway Executive Committee”, into a discussion about “the amazing and complex detail involved in this efficient working” of the “railway systems of the British Isles”. We cannot say it discusses in much detail the events which lead to the creation of the Railway Executive Committee or that it expands on what is said in the first paragraph. The first line, “we have already”, distinguishes it as a transitional paragraph.

Example Question #200 : Humanities

Adapted from “Bread and the Newspaper” by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1861) in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914, ed. Brander Matthews)

This is the new version of the “panem et circenses” of the Roman populace. It is our ultimatum, as that was theirs. They must have something to eat, and the circus-shows to look at. We must have something to eat, and the papers to read. How this war is simplifying our mode of being! We live on our emotions, as the sick man is said in the common speech to be nourished by his fever. Our ordinary mental food has become distasteful, and what would have been intellectual luxuries at other times, are now absolutely repulsive.

All this change in our manner of existence implies that we have experienced some very profound impression, which will sooner or later betray itself in permanent effects on the minds and bodies of many among us. We cannot forget Corvisart’s observation of the frequency with which diseases of the heart were noticed as the consequence of the terrible emotions produced by the scenes of the great French Revolution. Laennec tells the story of a convent, of which he was the medical director, where all the nuns were subjected to the severest penances and schooled in the most painful doctrines. They all became consumptive soon after their entrance, so that, in the course of his ten years’ attendance, all the inmates died out two or three times, and were replaced by new ones. He does not hesitate to attribute the disease from which they suffered to those depressing moral influences to which they were subjected.

So far we have noticed little more than disturbances of the nervous system as a consequence of the war excitement in non-combatants. Take the first trifling example which comes to our recollection. A sad disaster to the Federal army was told the other day in the presence of two gentlemen and a lady. Both the gentlemen complained of a sudden feeling at the epigastrium, or, less learnedly, the pit of the stomach, changed color, and confessed to a slight tremor about the knees. The lady had a "grande révolution," as French patients say, went home, and kept her bed for the rest of the day. Perhaps the reader may smile at the mention of such trivial indispositions, but in more sensitive natures death itself follows in some cases from no more serious cause. An old gentleman fell senseless in fatal apoplexy, on hearing of Napoleon’s return from Elba. One of our early friends, who recently died of the same complaint, was thought to have had his attack mainly in consequence of the excitements of the time.

We all know what the war fever is in our young men, what a devouring passion it becomes in those whom it assails. Patriotism is the fire of it, no doubt, but this is fed with fuel of all sorts. The love of adventure, the contagion of example, the fear of losing the chance of participating in the great events of the time, the desire of personal distinction, all help to produce those singular transformations which we often witness, turning the most peaceful of our youth into the most ardent of our soldiers. But something of the same fever in a different form reaches a good many non-combatants, who have no thought of losing a drop of precious blood belonging to themselves or their families. Some of the symptoms we shall mention are almost universal; they are as plain in the people we meet everywhere as the marks of an influenza, when that is prevailing.

The first is a nervous restlessness of a very peculiar character. Men cannot think, or write, or attend to their ordinary business. They stroll up and down the streets, or saunter out upon the public places. We confessed to an illustrious author that we laid down the volume of his work which we were reading when the war broke out. It was as interesting as a romance, but the romance of the past grew pale before the red light of the terrible present. Meeting the same author not long afterwards, he confessed that he had laid down his pen at the same time that we had closed his book. He could not write about the sixteenth century any more than we could read about it, while the nineteenth was in the very agony and bloody sweat of its great sacrifice.

The primary function of the second paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to undermine the arguments made by Corvisart during the French Revolution

to introduce the author’s argument that emotional distress can cause physical illness

to outline the means by which emotions can cause a positive or negative effect on the physical well being of an individual

to illustrate the manner in which the ongoing war is changing the perceptions of individuals and society

to provide an example of the horrors of the French Revolution

Correct answer:

to introduce the author’s argument that emotional distress can cause physical illness

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the author begins by suggesting that the recent changes in society will soon manifest themselves in physical and mental impairment in individuals. He goes on to introduce his argument that emotional distress can cause physical illness by highlighting an experience of one man working in a convent who witnessed the plight of the nuns there when subjected to severe emotional torment. This can be seen when the author says, “all the nuns were subjected to the severest penances and schooled in the most painful doctrines. They all became consumptive soon after their entrance, so that, in the course of his ten years’ attendance, all the inmates died out two or three times, and were replaced by new ones.” “Consumptive” is a type of disease characterized by wasting away. The answer choice “to illustrate the manner in which the ongoing war is changing the perceptions of individuals and society” is incorrect because it is more closely related to the overall thesis of the essay than the purpose of the second paragraph. The answer choice "to outline the means by which emotions can cause a positive or negative effect on the physical well being of an individual” is incorrect because the author is only focusing on the negative effects in the second paragraph.

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