Test: LSAT Reading

Adapted from The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1881)

If it were necessary to trench further upon the field of morals, it might be suggested that the dogma of equality applied even to individuals only within the limits of ordinary dealings in the common run of affairs. You cannot argue with your neighbor, except on the admission for the moment that he is as wise as you, although you may by no means believe it. In the same way, you cannot deal with him, where both are free to choose, except on the footing of equal treatment, and the same rules for both. The ever-growing value set upon peace and the social relations tends to give the law of social being the appearance of the law of all being. But it seems to me clear that the ultima ratio, not only regum, but of private persons, is force, and that at the bottom of all private relations, however tempered by sympathy and all the social feelings, is a justifiable self-preference. If a man is on a plank in the deep sea that will only float one, and a stranger lays hold of it, he will thrust him off if he can. When the state finds itself in a similar position, it does the same thing.

The considerations that answer the argument of equal rights also answer the objections to treating man as a thing, and the like. If a man lives in society, he is liable to find himself so treated. The degree of civilization which a people has reached, no doubt, is marked by their anxiety to do as they would be done by. It may be the destiny of humanity that the social instincts shall grow to control our actions absolutely, even in anti-social situations. But they have not yet done so, and as the rules of law are or should be based upon a morality that is generally accepted, no rule founded on a theory of absolute unselfishness can be laid down without a breach between law and working beliefs.

If it be true, as I shall presently try to show, that the general principles of criminal and civil liability are the same, it will follow from that alone that theory and fact agree in frequently punishing those who have been guilty of no moral wrong, and who could not be condemned by any standard that did not avowedly disregard the personal peculiarities of the individuals concerned. If punishment stood on the moral grounds that are proposed for it, the first thing to be considered would be those limitations in the capacity for choosing rightly that arise from abnormal instincts, want of education, lack of intelligence, and all the other defects which are most marked in the criminal classes. I do not say that they should not be, or at least I do not need to for my argument. I do not say that the criminal law does more good than harm. I only say that it is not enacted or administered on that theory.

1.

Which of the following, if added as a new piece of evidence, would weaken the author's argument?

Criminals do not fit in well to society after their punishment.

Criminals typically are viewed as enemies of the state.

Criminals frequently find productive roles in society after standard punishments.

Criminals are not willing to follow society's practices due to feeling like outcasts.

Criminals are rarely seen as normal members of society.

1/2 questions

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