LSAT Reading : Recognizing Details of Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #119 : Content Of Humanities Passages

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.

Which one of the following is mentioned in the passage as a possible consequence of seeking pleasure?

Possible Answers:

Enjoyment of pain

Idolatry

The neglect of friendships

Ignorance

Ill health

Correct answer:

Ill health

Explanation:

When talking about a person whose life's pursuit was pleasure, the author states, “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."Enjoyment of pain" is not implied here. What is implied is that poor health was the result of the man's single-minded seeking of pleasure. Ignorance, too, could be suggested, but is not directly stated to be a direct result of the search for pleasure.

Example Question #120 : Content Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from a text by Charles William Eliot in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

The third characteristic contribution that the United States has made to civilization has been the safe development of suffrage. The experience of the United States has brought out several principles with regard to the suffrage that have not been clearly apprehended by some eminent political philosophers.

In the first place, American experience has demonstrated the advantages of a gradual approach to universal suffrage over a sudden leap. Universal suffrage is not the first and only means of attaining democratic government; rather, it is the ultimate goal of successful democracy. It is not a cure-all for political ills; on the contrary, it may itself easily be the source of great political evils. When constituencies are large, it aggravates the well-known difficulties of party government; so that many of the ills which threaten democratic communities at this moment, whether in Europe or America, proceed from the breakdown of party government rather than from failures of expanded suffrage. The methods of party government were elaborated where suffrage was limited and constituencies were small. Manhood suffrage has not worked perfectly well in the United States, or in any other nation where it has been adopted, and it is not likely very soon to work perfectly anywhere. It is like freedom of the will for the individual—the only atmosphere in which virtue can grow, but an atmosphere in which vice can also grow. Like freedom of the will, it needs to be surrounded with checks and safeguards, but is the supreme good, the goal of perfected democracy. 

Secondly, like freedom of the will, expanded suffrage has an educational effect that has been mentioned by many writers, but seldom been clearly apprehended or adequately described. This educational effect is produced in two ways. In the first place, the combination of individual freedom with the social mobility a wide suffrage tends to produce permits the capable to rise through all grades of society, even within a single generation; and this freedom to rise is intensely stimulating to personal ambition. Thus capable Americans, from youth to age, are bent on bettering themselves and their conditions. Nothing can be more striking than the contrast between an average American laborer conscious that he can rise to the top of the social scale and a European worker who knows that he cannot rise out of his class and is content with his hereditary classification. 

In the second place, it is a direct effect of a broad suffrage that the voters become periodically interested in the discussion of grave public problems. In no field of human endeavor have the fruits of the introduction of steam and electrical power been more striking than in the methods of reaching multitudes of people with instructive narratives, expositions, and arguments. The multiplication of newspapers, magazines, and books is only one of the immense developments in the means of reaching the people. The interest in the minds of the people that prompts to the reading of these multiplied communications comes from the frequently recurring elections. The more difficult the intellectual problem presented in any given election, the more educative the effect of the discussion.

In these discussions, the people who supply the appeals to the receptive masses benefit alongside them. There is no better mental exercise for the most highly trained person than the effort to expound a difficult subject in so clear a way that an untrained person can understand it. The position of the educated and well-to-do is a thoroughly wholesome one in this respect: they cannot depend for the preservation of their advantages on land-owning, hereditary privilege, or any legislation not equally applicable to the poorest and humblest citizen. They must compete. They cannot live in a too-safe corner.

Which of the following is mentioned in the passage as a possible problem related to the adoption of suffrage?

Possible Answers:

Non-universal suffrage has yet to work impeccably.

The ability to grant suffrage is easily manipulated by men who want to gain more power.

The people in power deciding who should be granted suffrage have demonstrated signs of weakness.

Not many philosophers take an interest in suffrage.

There are differences in opinion concerning which groups of people should be granted suffrage.

Correct answer:

Non-universal suffrage has yet to work impeccably.

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the author states, “Manhood suffrage has not worked perfectly well in the United States, or in any other nation where it has been adopted, and it is not likely very soon to work perfectly anywhere.” So, it has yet to work perfectly or impeccably, and this could be seen as a possible problem with the adoption of suffrage. We could argue that some of the other answers are correct, but any that come close are too general, unlike the actual answer, which is directly supported by the text.

Example Question #281 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

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.

Which one of the following statements describes the main significance of railways in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Railways helped move massive amounts of coal in Britain during World War I.

Railways helped ensure the speedy deployment of six divisions of expeditionary forces.

Railways contributed to the disaster that occurred on August 4th, 1914.

Railways were one of two causes that prevented August 4th, 1914 from being a catastrophe.

By stopping the movement of all passenger trains, railways helped prevent disaster during World War I.

Correct answer:

Railways were one of two causes that prevented August 4th, 1914 from being a catastrophe.

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, the author states, “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. . . . A secondary, but by no means inconsiderable, cause contributory to the successful working of the miracle lay in . . . the attendant successful working of the railways." From this, we can tell that the main significance of railways in the first paragraph is that they were one of two causes of the aversion of disaster on August 4th, 1914.

Example Question #282 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

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.

Which of the following is mentioned in the passage as a direct consequence of the Act of 1871?

Possible Answers:

The British government partially helming the railways

The Railway Executive Committee relinquishing their power of the railways.

The coordination of the government in answering to the Railway Executive Committee

The building of new tracks for wartime purposes

The government assigning the responsibility for wartime railroad maintenance to specific military commanders

Correct answer:

The British government partially helming the railways

Explanation:

The passage only openly states that the Act of 1871 lead to partial control of the railways by the government. It does so in this line: “from the time that the government assumed, under provisions of the Act of 1871, nominal control of the railways.”

Example Question #283 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

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.

Which of these is NOT a “fuel” for patriotism and war fever mentioned by the author?

Possible Answers:

The pressure exerted by the example of one’s peers

The wish to achieve fame and notoriety

The desire to participate in history

Ardent love for the land one lives on

Excitement and passion for adventure

Correct answer:

Ardent love for the land one lives on

Explanation:

When mentioning the fuel that stokes the fires of patriotism in the fourth paragraph, the author says the following: “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.” It is now a simple matter of identifying which of these types of "fuel" matches up with which answer choice. “Love of adventure” is simple; “contagion of example” is “the pressure exerted by the example of one’s peers”; “fear of losing the chance of participating in the great events of the time” is “the desire to participate in history”; and “desire of personal distinction” is “the wish to achieve fame and notoriety.” The only answer choice lacking an associated phrase in the text is an “ardent love for the land one lives on,” so this is the correct answer.

Example Question #284 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

Adapted from “Vita Nuova” in Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde (1914) 

Far off, like a perfect pearl, one can see the city of God. It is so wonderful that it seems as if a child could reach it in a summer’s day. And so a child could. But with me and such as me it is different. One can realize a thing in a single moment, but one loses it in the long hours that follow with leaden feet. It is so difficult to keep ‘heights that the soul is competent to gain.’ We think in eternity, but we move slowly through time; and how slowly time goes with us who lie in prison I need not tell again, nor of the weariness and despair that creep back into one’s cell, and into the cell of one’s heart, with such strange insistence that one has, as it were, to garnish and sweep one’s house for their coming, as for an unwelcome guest, or a bitter master, or a slave whose slave it is one’s chance or choice to be.

And, though at present my friends may find it a hard thing to believe, it is true none the less, that for them living in freedom and idleness and comfort it is more easy to learn the lessons of humility than it is for me, who begin the day by going down on my knees and washing the floor of my cell. For prison life with its endless privations and restrictions makes one rebellious. The most terrible thing about it is not that it breaks one’s heart—hearts are made to be broken—but that it turns one’s heart to stone. One sometimes feels that it is only with a front of brass and a lip of scorn that one can get through the day at all. And he who is in a state of rebellion cannot receive grace, to use the phrase of which the church is so fond—so rightly fond, I dare say—for in life as in art the mood of rebellion closes up the channels of the soul, and shuts out the airs of heaven. Yet I must learn these lessons here, if I am to learn them anywhere, and must be filled with joy if my feet are on the right road and my face set towards "the gate which is called beautiful," though I may fall many times in the mire and often in the mist go astray.

This New Life, as through my love of Dante I like sometimes to call it, is of course no new life at all, but simply the continuance, by means of development, and evolution, of my former life. I remember when I was at Oxford saying to one of my friends as we were strolling round Magdalen’s narrow bird-haunted walks one morning in the year before I took my degree, that I wanted to eat of the fruit of all the trees in the garden of the world, and that I was going out into the world with that passion in my soul. And so, indeed, I went out, and so I lived. My only mistake was that I confined myself so exclusively to the trees of what seemed to me the sun-lit side of the garden, and shunned the other side for its shadow and its gloom. Failure, disgrace, poverty, sorrow, despair, suffering, tears even, the broken words that come from lips in pain, remorse that makes one walk on thorns, conscience that condemns, self-abasement that punishes, the misery that puts ashes on its head, the anguish that chooses sack-cloth for its raiment and into its own drink puts gall:—all these were things of which I was afraid. And as I had determined to know nothing of them, I was forced to taste each of them in turn, to feed on them, to have for a season, indeed, no other food at all.

I don’t regret for a single moment having lived for pleasure. I did it to the full, as one should do everything that one does. There was no pleasure I did not experience. I threw the pearl of my soul into a cup of wine. I went down the primrose path to the sound of flutes. I lived on honeycomb. But to have continued the same life would have been wrong because it would have been limiting. I had to pass on. The other half of the garden had its secrets for me also.—De Profundis.

In the second paragraph, the narrator argues all of the following points EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

art exalts when undertaken with a mood of rebellion

he must overcome the difficulties of prison life if he is ever to learn humility

it is more challenging for people living in prison to learn grace and humility than it is for people who are living free

prisoners often feel they cannot survive if they live with an open heart

prison life renders men obstinate and recalcitrant

Correct answer:

art exalts when undertaken with a mood of rebellion

Explanation:

Answering this question requires careful reading of the second paragraph to ascertain which of these arguments is not put forward by the narrator. When the narrator says “it is true none the less, that for them living in freedom and idleness and comfort it is more easy to learn the lessons of humility than it is for me,” he is saying that “It is more challenging for people living in prison to learn grace and humility than it is for people who are living free.” It is also clear that the narrator believes prisoners feel they cannot survive with an open heart when the narrator states: “The most terrible thing about it is not that it breaks one’s heart—hearts are made to be broken—but that it turns one’s heart to stone. One sometimes feels that it is only with a front of brass and a lip of scorn that one can get through the day at all.” Additionally, it is apparent that the narrator believes prison life makes one obstinate and recalcitrant because he declares, “For prison life with its endless privations and restrictions makes one rebellious.” Finally, the narrator's declaration “Yet I must learn these lessons here, if I am to learn them anywhere, and must be filled with joy if my feet are on the right road and my face set towards ‘the gate which is called beautiful,’” tells us that he believes “He must overcome the difficulties of prison life if he is ever to learn humility.” The only thing the narrator does not argue is that “Art exalts when undertaken with a mood of rebellion.” Based on the following excerpt, it is clear that the narrator actually argues that art suffers when undertaken with a mood of rebellion: “for in life as in art the mood of rebellion closes up the channels of the soul.”

Example Question #291 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Answers:

the era of the Israelites

ancient Greece

the Renaissance

the Middle Ages

contemporary times

Correct answer:

ancient Greece

Explanation:

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

Example Question #292 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Answers:

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

Happiness can be best achieved through living virtuously.

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

The main goal of life is to live consistently.

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

Correct answer:

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

Explanation:

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

Example Question #293 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Answers:

Pythagoras - the importance of numbers and numerical patterns

Cleanthes - the significance of living unwaveringly with nature

Democritus and Leucippus - the makeup of matter

Democritus - the role of mental calmness in achieving happiness

Aristippus - the beneficial consequences of living abstemiously

Correct answer:

Aristippus - the beneficial consequences of living abstemiously

Explanation:

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

Example Question #294 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Answers:

Religion and politics

Politics and academia

Religion, politics, and academia

Religion

Politics

Correct answer:

Religion and politics

Explanation:

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

Tired of practice problems?

Try live online LSAT prep today.

1-on-1 Tutoring
Live Online Class
1-on-1 + Class
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors