LSAT Reading : Other Effects of New Information in Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Other Effects Of New Information In Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Beethoven (1905) by George Alexander Fischer.

During the period of his work on the Mass, and for some time before, Beethoven's thoughts were occupied more or less with that stupendous work, the Ninth Symphony, sketches for which began to appear already in 1813, shortly after his meeting with Goethe. That Beethoven looked up to Goethe ever after as to a spiritual mentor, studying his works, absorbing his thought, is plain. In projecting this symphony he may very well have designed it as a counterpart to Faust, as has been suggested. Actually begun in 1817, it had to be laid aside before much had been accomplished on it, in favor of the Mass in D. This gave him plenty of time to mature his conception of the work; and this ripening process, covering a period of ten years from its first inception, was one of the factors which helped him achieve his wondrous result. His work on the Mass was a good preparation for the psychological problems expounded in the Symphony.

Here is a work so interwoven into Beethoven's very life and spirit, that the mention of his name at once calls to mind the Ninth Symphony. It is the work of the seer approaching the end of his life-drama, giving with photographic clearness a résumé of it. Here are revelations of the inner nature of a man who had delved deeply into the mysteries surrounding life, learning this lesson in its fullest significance, that no great spiritual height is ever attained without renunciation. The world must be left behind. Asking and getting but little from it, giving it of his best, counting as nothing its material advantages, realizing always that contact with it had for him but little joy, the separation from it was nevertheless a hard task. This mystery constantly confronted Beethoven, that, even when obeying the finer behests of his nature, peace was not readily attained thereby; often there was instead, an accession of unhappiness for the time being. Paradoxically peace was made the occasion for a struggle; it had to be wrested from life. No victory is such unless well fought for and dearly bought.

This eternal struggle with fate, this conflict forever raging in the heart, runs through all the Symphonies, but nowhere is it so strongly depicted as in this, his last. We have here in new picturing, humanity at bay, as in the recently completed Kyrie of the grand mass. The apparently uneven battle of the individual with fate,—the plight of the human being who finds himself a denizen of a world with which he is entirely out of harmony, who, wrought up to despair, finds life impossible yet fears to die,—is here portrayed in dramatic language. To Wagner the first movement pictured to him "the idea of the world in its most terrible of lights," something to recoil from. "Beethoven in the Ninth Symphony," he says, "leads us through the torment of the world relentlessly until the ode to joy is reached."

Great souls have always taught that the only relief for this Weltschmerz is through the power of love; that universal love alone can transform and redeem the world. This is the central teaching of Jesus, of Buddha, of all who have the welfare of humanity at heart. It was Beethoven's solution of the problem of existence. Through this magic power, sorrows are transmuted into gifts of peace and happiness. Beethoven loved his kind. Love for humanity, pity for its misfortunes, hope for its final deliverance, largely occupied his mind. With scarcely an exception Beethoven's works end happily. Among the sketches of the last movement of the Mass in D, he makes the memorandum, "Stärke der Gesinnungen des innern Friedens. Über alles ... Sieg." (Strengthen the conviction of inward peace. Above all—Victory). The effect of the Choral Finale is that of an outburst of joy at deliverance, a celebration of victory. It is as if Beethoven, with prophetic eye, had been able to pierce the future and foresee a golden age for humanity, an age where altruism was to bring about cessation from strife, and where happiness was to be general. Such happiness as is here celebrated in the Ode to Joy, can indeed, only exist in the world through altruism. Pity, that sentiment which allies man to the divine, comes first. From this proceeds love, and through these and by these only is happiness possible. This was the gist of Beethoven's thought. He had occupied himself much with sociological questions all his life, always taking the part of the oppressed.

What effect would the presentation of a later composer who was unimpressed with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony have on the argument of the passage?

Possible Answers:

It would enhance the author's argument by showing the various ways Beethoven can be interpreted.

It would make little difference compared to the weight of evidence presented in the passage.

It would create confusion as to Beethoven's overall purpose in composing his symphonies.

It would demonstrate that Beethoven's goal of expressing the release of emotional torment is not a goal of all composers.

It would illustrate that Beethoven's music was not well appreciated after his death.

Correct answer:

It would demonstrate that Beethoven's goal of expressing the release of emotional torment is not a goal of all composers.


The author uses the appreciation of Richard Wagner to show that the emotional release he highlights in Beethoven's work was greatly appreciated by later composers. By introducing a composer who disagrees with Wagner, the argument that Beethoven's achievement in the Ninth Symphony is an ideal, and was considered so by later composers, is severely weakened, creating problems with the author's main point.

Example Question #1 : Other Effects Of New Information In Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Rembrandt (1893) by Josef Israels.

While the world pays respectful tribute to Rembrandt the artist, it has been compelled to wait until comparatively recent years for some small measure of reliable information concerning Rembrandt the man. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries seem to have been very little concerned with personalities. A man was judged by his work which appealed, if it were good enough, to an ever-increasing circle. There were no newspapers to record his doings and, if he chanced to be an artist, it was nobody's business to set down the details of his life. Sometimes a diarist chanced to pass by and to jot down a little gossip, quite unconscious of the fact that it would serve to stimulate generations yet unborn, but, for the most part, artists who did great work in a retiring fashion and were not honored by courts and princes as Rubens was, passed from the scene of their labors with all the details of their sojourn unrecorded.

Rembrandt was fated to suffer more than mere neglect, for he seems to have been a light-hearted, headstrong, extravagant man, with no capacity for business. He had not even the supreme quality, associated in doggerel with Dutchmen, of giving too little and asking too much. Consequently, when he died poor and enfeebled, in years when his collection of works of fine art had been sold at public auction for a fraction of its value, when his pictures had been seized for debt, and wife, mistress, children, and many friends had passed, little was said about him. It was only when the superlative quality of his art was recognized beyond a small circle of admirers that people began to gather up such fragments of biography as they could find.

Shakespeare has put into Mark Antony's mouth the statement that "the evil that men do lives after them," and this was very much the case with Rembrandt van Ryn. His first biographers seem to have no memory save for his undoubted recklessness, his extravagance, and his debts. They remembered that his pictures fetched very good prices, that his studio was besieged for some years by more sitters than it could accommodate, that he was honored with commissions from the ruling house, and that in short, he had every chance that would have led a good business man to prosperity and an old age removed from stress and strain. These facts seem to have aroused their ire. They have assailed his memory with invective that does not stop short at false statement. They have found in the greatest of all Dutch artists a ne'er-do-well who could not take advantage of his opportunities, who had the extravagance of a company promoter, an explosive temper and all the instincts that make for loose living.

The presence of a lengthy journal written by Rembrandt himself would have what effect on the argument of the passage?

Possible Answers:

The journal would directly contradict most of the points the author made about Rembrandt's life and work.

The information in the journal would either confirm or deny the biographical information that author presents as partially known.

The presence of Rembrandt's own thoughts and writing would make the author reconsider the value of Rembrandt's art.

The author's argument would be seriously weakened due to receiving actual biographical information about Rembrandt.

The opinion held by critics about Rembrandt's life would have to change because of the revelation of new material about the artist.

Correct answer:

The information in the journal would either confirm or deny the biographical information that author presents as partially known.


The mere presence of a journal by Rembrandt himself, even if it is quite lengthy, provides no evidence in and of itself. Instead, the presence of a journal would mean that the basic speculation the author is forced to present without much hard evidence would have to be reconsidered in light of the new information brought out by the diary.

Example Question #1 : Other Effects Of New Information In Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Shakespearean Playhouses (1917) by Joseph Quincy Adams.

Before the building of regular playhouses, the itinerant troupes of actors were accustomed, except when received into private homes, to give their performances in any place that chance provided, such as open street-squares, barns, town-halls, moot-courts, schoolhouses, churches, and—most frequently of all, perhaps—the yards of inns. These yards, especially those of carriers' inns, were admirably suited to dramatic representations, consisting as they did of a large open court surrounded by two or more galleries. Many examples of such inn-yards are still to be seen in various parts of England... In the yard a temporary platform—a few boards, it may be, set on barrel-heads—could be erected for a stage; in the adjacent stables a dressing-room could be provided for the actors; the rabble—always the larger and more enthusiastic part of the audience—could be accommodated with standing-room about the stage; while the more aristocratic members of the audience could be comfortably seated in the galleries overhead. Thus a ready-made and very serviceable theatre was always at the command of the players; and it seems to have been frequently made use of from the very beginning of professionalism in acting.

One of the earliest extant moralities, Mankind, acted by strollers in the latter half of the fifteenth century, gives us an interesting glimpse of an inn-yard performance. The opening speech makes distinct reference to the two classes of the audience described above as occupying the galleries and the yard:

"O ye sovereigns that sit, and ye brothers that stand right up."

The "brothers," indeed, seem to have stood up so closely about the stage that the actors had great difficulty in passing to and from their dressing-room. Thus, Nowadays leaves the stage with the request:

“Make space, sirs, let me go out!”

New Gyse enters with the threat:

“Out of my way, sirs, for dread of a beating!”

While Nought, with even less respect, shouts:

“Avaunt, knaves! Let me go by!”

Language such as this would hardly be appropriate if addressed to the "sovereigns" who sat in the galleries above; but, as addressed to the "brothers," it probably served to create a general feeling of good nature. And a feeling of good nature was desirable, for the actors were facing the difficult problem of inducing the audience to pay for its entertainment.

What would be the chief effect on the author's argument of evidence that demonstrated that fifteenth century playwrights wrote very specifically for different kinds of venues?

Possible Answers:

The interaction between actors and audience shown by the author would only have happened in plays written for the yards of inns.

The plays of Shakespeare are notable for being specifically written to be performed in dedicated theater spaces.

The interaction between actors and audiences would have been largely the same in all performances during the fifteenth century.

Interactions between actors and audiences would have been legislated against in order to protect the safety of the actors.

Only moralities would have shown the interactions between actors and audiences shown by the author.

Correct answer:

The interaction between actors and audience shown by the author would only have happened in plays written for the yards of inns.


Evidence that the playwrights of the fifteenth century were changing their plays based on the venues would have a significant effect on the actions described the author. This evidence would have to show that interactions between actors and audience described in the passage were specifically written to take place in the yards of inns, which had the closest proximity between the two groups.

Example Question #1 : Other Effects Of New Information In Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from James Seth's A Study of Ethical Principles (1898)

Is the true method of ethics the method of science or that of philosophy? Our answer to this question must determine our general view of the ethical problem, and cannot fail to affect the solution which we reach. The characteristic tendency of our time to reduce all thought to the scientific form, and to draw the line sharply between natural or positive science, on the one hand, and metaphysics or philosophical speculation, on the other, has made itself felt in ethics, which is now defined as 'moral science' rather than as 'moral philosophy,' its older designation.

Yet, while we must recognise, in the view that the true method of ethics is scientific rather than philosophic, a return to the older and sounder tradition of ethical thought, it is necessary, in order to determine more precisely the place of ethics among the sciences, to distinguish carefully between two types or groups of sciences, both alike distinguishable from metaphysics or philosophy. The common task of all science is the rationalisation of our judgments, through their organisation into a system of thought: when thus systematised, our judgments are scientifically 'explained.'

But these judgments are of two kinds: judgments of fact and judgments of worth, or judgments of what is and judgments of what ought to be. There are, accordingly, two types of science: first, the type which seeks to organise into a rational system the chaotic mass of our Is-judgments; secondly, the type which seeks to organise into a rational system the no less chaotic mass of our Ought-judgments. The former type of science we may call natural or descriptive; the latter, normative or appreciative. The purpose of the natural or descriptive sciences is the discovery, by reason, of the actual or phenomenal order—the order that characterises 'matters of fact;' the purpose of the normative or appreciative sciences is the discovery, by the same reason, of the ideal order which always transcends and rebukes the actual order.

To the former class—that of the natural or descriptive sciences—belong all the sciences of nature and of man as a natural being. Ethics, on the other hand, is, like logic and aesthetics, a normative or appreciative science–a science of value. These three sciences deal with our critical judgments, as distinguished from our factual judgments; they endeavour to systematise these judgments by deducing them from a common standard of value, a final criterion of appreciation. Our several judgments, so far as they are consistent with one another, about the value of thoughts, of feelings, and of actions, are reducible to a common denominator of truth, of beauty, and of goodness. The discovery of this common denominator of intellectual, of aesthetic, and of moral judgment, and the construction of the system of principles which these judgments, when made coherent and self - consistent, constitute, is the task of the three normative sciences, — logic, aesthetics, and ethics.

So long as the distinction between a natural and a normative science is clearly realised, there is no reason why we should not recognise both a natural science and a normative science of ethics. What we may call the natural history of morality, the genetic study of the moral life (and the moral consciousness), is the presupposition of an intelligent interpretation of its significance, the indispensable preliminary to its reduction to ethical system. The business of such a preliminary investigation is simply to discover the causation of morality, the uniformities of sequence which characterise moral antecedents and consequents as they characterise all other phenomena. But such an investigation of the moral facts, though it is well entitled to the name of science, is only the handmaid of ethics as a normative science, as the effort to determine the meaning or content of the facts. 

Passage adapted from David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature (1739)

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not

Which of the following best expresses the relationship between the Hume passage and the main passage?

Possible Answers:

The Hume passage describes a principle of natural ethical science

The Hume passage explains a sort of philosophical theory that the author of the main passage critiques in the course of making his argument.

The Hume passage describes the split between philosophical and scientific ethics

The Hume passage uses the same logical distinction as the main passage does in distinguishing natural and normative science.

The Hume passage describes a way in which scientific judgments can be grouped or distinguished from one another, as is done in the main passage.

Correct answer:

The Hume passage uses the same logical distinction as the main passage does in distinguishing natural and normative science.


The main idea of the Hume passage is the distinction between claims of fact—"is" statements—and claims of value—"ought" statements. This parallels the main passage's distinction between natural science, which investigates what is and has been, and normative science, which investigates what ought to be. Hume implicitly claims that the two kinds of statements (is and ought) are distinct; this logical distinction is one used in the main passage to distinguish between natural and normative science.

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