PSAT Critical Reading : Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Critical Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Sequence In Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Swift" in Volume III of Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets by Samuel Johnson (1781)

In Swift's works, he has given very different specimens both of sentiment and expression. His Tale of a Tub has little resemblance to his other pieces. It exhibits a vehemence and rapidity of mind, a copiousness of images, and vivacity of diction, such as he afterwards never possessed, or never exerted. It is of a mode so distinct and peculiar, that it must be considered by itself; what is true of that, is not true of any thing else which he has written.

In his other works is found an equable tenor of easy language, which rather trickles than flows. His delight was in simplicity. That he has in his works no metaphor, as has been said, is not true; but his few metaphors seem to be received rather by necessity than choice. He studied purity; and though perhaps all his strictures are not exact, yet it is not often that solecisms can be found; and whoever depends on his authority may generally conclude himself safe. His sentences are never too much dilated or contracted; and it will not be easy to find any embarrassment in the complication of his clauses, any inconsequence in his connections, or abruptness in his transitions.

His style was well suited to his thoughts, which are never subtilized by nice disquisitions, decorated by sparkling conceits, elevated by ambitious sentences, or variegated by far-sought learning. He pays no court to the passions; he excites neither surprise nor admiration; he always understands himself, and his readers always understand him. The peruser of Swift wants little previous knowledge; it will be sufficient that he is acquainted with common words and common things; he is neither required to mount elevations nor to explore profundities; his passage is always on a level, along solid ground, without asperities, without obstruction.

Johnson praises Swift for all of the following in the second paragraph EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

the simplicity of Swift's style

the trustworthiness of Swift's authority

the vividness of Swift's images

the economy of Swift's metaphors

Correct answer:

the vividness of Swift's images

Explanation:

Johnson never mentions Swift's imagery in this paragraph, though he does mention the "copiousness of images" found in A Tale of a Tub in the first paragraph.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Sequence, Organization, And Structure In Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from J.R Hamilton's "When You Know What is Best, Ask For It By Name" San Francisco Call, April 16, 1912.

If a man has anything he is proud of, he gives it a name whether it be a baby or a pair of boots. And the more he is proud of it, the more he talks about it.

Nameless things are seldom good and never reliable. If you want to cut down your cost of living the very best way to do it is to learn to ask only for standard articles.

When you know the name of a good maker of shirts or shoes, of furniture or pianos, of hardware or underwear, fix that name definitely in your mind and remember it when you come to buy.

Do not allow strange things to come into your home any more than you would allow strange people.

The brand and the trademark and the copyright are the letters of introduction from the maker to you. In this way he vouches for their respectability and guarantees their good behavior in your home.

There is a name for every good product that is made. And most of these names are known by every man and woman in America. Manufacturers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to standardize these names in your mind. From the lining of a dress to laundry soap; from a cleanser to a baking powder; from a suit of clothes to a kit of tools; you could call every standard article on the market by name if you would only remember to do so when you come to buy.

It is through your carelessness that lies and adulterations creep in. The standard is set by good men, but the standard is only maintained by you.

It is time for you to forget the generic name of every article, and remember only the standard name of its quality.

In the advertising news of this paper today you will find many of these standard names and brands of quality. This article is written for the sole purpose of reminding you to use those names. It is only fair that you should do as much for these good manufacturers as they are doing for you. It is only right that you should help in this great standardization of good products that is going on throughout America.

Begin now to ask by name for everything you buy. And you will find your satisfaction growing greater day by day and your optimism extending even down to your pocket book.

What is the primary purpose of the first sentence?

Possible Answers:

To list things of which he is proud.

To encourage people to talk about their achievements.

To describe the effects of being boastful.

To introduce the concept that names, and the process of naming, as important.

Correct answer:

To introduce the concept that names, and the process of naming, as important.

Explanation:

Throughout the rest of the article, the author discusses the importance of purchasing name brand items instead of generic, or nameless, items. In the first paragraph he is laying the groundwork for this argument. He compares naming a baby, which most people would agree is very important, to naming a pair of boots. By introducing the general, and broadly accepted, practice of naming as a necessary, positive, and virtuous process the author sets the stage for his subsequent argument about the inherent value of name brand consumer products.

Example Question #2 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Humanities Passage Content

Adapted from "Benares Hindu University Speech" by Mohandas Gandhi (1916)

We have been told during the last two days how necessary it is, if we are to retain our hold upon the simplicity of Indian character, that our hands and feet should move in unison with our hearts. But this is only by way of preface. I wanted to say it is a matter of deep humiliation and shame for us that I am compelled this evening under the shadow of this great college, in this sacred city, to address my countrymen in a language that is foreign to me. I know that if I was appointed an examiner, to examine all those who have been attending during these two days this series of lectures, most of those who might be examined upon these lectures would fail. And why? Because they have not been touched.

I was present at the sessions of the great Congress in the month of December. There was a much vaster audience, and will you believe me when I tell you that the only speeches that touched the huge audience in Bombay were the speeches that were delivered in Hindustani? In Bombay, mind you, not in Benaras where everybody speaks Hindi. But between the vernaculars of the Bombay Presidency on the one hand and Hindi on the other, no such great dividing line exists as there does between English and the sister language of India; and the Congress audience was better able to follow the speakers in Hindi. I am hoping that this University will see to it that the youths who come to it will receive their instruction through the medium of their vernaculars. Our language is the reflection of ourselves, and if you tell me that our languages are too poor to express the best thought, then I say that the sooner we are wiped out of existence the better for us. Is there a man who dreams that English can ever become the national language of India? Why this handicap on the nation? Just consider for one moment what an equal race our lads have to run with every English lad.

I had the privilege of a close conversation with some Poona professors. They assured me that every Indian youth, because he reached his knowledge through the English language, lost at least six precious years of life. Multiply that by the numbers of students turned out by our schools and colleges, and find out for yourselves how many thousand years have been lost to the nation. The charge against us is that we have no initiative. How can we have any, if we are to devote the precious years of our life to the mastery of a foreign tongue? We fail in this attempt also. Was it possible for any speaker yesterday and today to impress his audience as was possible for Mr. Higginbotham? It was not the fault of the previous speakers that they could not engage the audience. They had more than substance enough for us in their addresses. But their addresses could not go home to us. I have heard it said that after all it is English educated India which is leading and which is leading and which is doing all the things for the nation. It would be monstrous if it were otherwise. The only education we receive is English education. Surely we must show something for it. But suppose that we had been receiving during the past fifty years education through our vernaculars, what should we have today? We should have today a free India, we should have our educated men, not as if they were foreigners in their own land but speaking to the heart of the nation; they would be working amongst the poorest of the poor, and whatever they would have gained during these fifty years would be a heritage for the nation. Today even our wives are not the sharers in our best thought. Look at Professor Bose and Professor Ray and their brilliant researches. Is it not a shame that their researches are not the common property of the masses?

Which of these assumptions could NOT be reasonably inferred from the whole of this passage?

Possible Answers:

The author is addressing an Indian University.

The author is of Indian nationality.

People in Bombay often speak a language other than English or Hindi.

The English language has only very recently been imposed upon the Indian people.

The author does not approve of the imposition of the English language in India.

Correct answer:

The English language has only very recently been imposed upon the Indian people.

Explanation:

To solve this question you will need to go by process of elimination. From the statement made by the author that “I wanted to say it is a matter of deep humiliation and shame for us that I am compelled this evening under the shadow of this great college, in this sacred city, to address my countrymen in a language that is foreign to me,” you can infer that the author does not approve of the imposition of the English language and that he is of Indian nationality. You could also reasonably infer that the author is addressing an Indian University; a conclusion confirmed with “I am hoping that this University will see to it . . .” Finally, from the first few sentences of the second paragraph you can infer that people in Bombay must speak a language other than English or Hindi; therefore the only remaining acceptable answer is that you cannot reasonably infer that the English language has only very recently been imposed upon the Indian people; this is because the author makes no reference to the length of time.

Example Question #171 : Content Of Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from “Utopia” by Thomas More (1516) in Ideal CommonwealthsComprising More's Utopia, Bacon's New Atlantis, Campanella's City of the Sun, and Harrington's Oceans (1901)

Thus have I described to you, as particularly as I could, the constitution of that commonwealth, which I do not only think the best in the world, but indeed the only commonwealth that truly deserves that name. In all other places it is visible that, while people talk of a commonwealth, every man only seeks his own wealth; but there, where no man has any property, all men zealously pursue the good of the public, and, indeed, it is no wonder to see men act so differently, for in other commonwealths every man knows that unless he provides for himself, how flourishing soever the commonwealth may be, he must die of hunger, so that he sees the necessity of preferring his own concerns to the public; but in Utopia, where every man has a right to everything, they all know that if care is taken to keep the public stores full no private man can want anything, for among them there is no unequal distribution, so that no man is poor, none in necessity, and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties, neither apprehending want himself, nor vexed with the endless complaints of his wife? He is not afraid of the misery of his children, nor is he contriving how to raise a portion for his daughters, but is secure in this, that both he and his wife, his children and grandchildren, to as many generations as he can fancy, will all live both plentifully and happily, since, among them, there is no less care taken of those who were once engaged in labor, but grow afterwards unable to follow it, than there is, elsewhere, of these that continue still employed. I would gladly hear any man compare the justice that is among them with that of all other nations; among whom may I perish if I see anything that looks either like justice or equity; for what justice is there in this: that a nobleman, a goldsmith, a banker, or any other man, who either does nothing at all, or, at best, is employed in things that are of no use to the public, should live in great luxury and splendor upon what is so ill acquired, and a mean man, a carter, a smith, or a plowman, who works harder even than the beasts themselves, and is employed in labors so necessary, that no commonwealth could hold out a year without them, can only earn so poor a livelihood and must lead so miserable a life, that the condition of the beasts is much better than theirs? For as the beasts do not work so constantly, so they feed almost as well, and with more pleasure, and have no anxiety about what is to come, whilst these men are depressed by a barren and fruitless employment, and tormented with the apprehensions of want in their old age; since that which they get by their daily labour does but maintain them at present, and is consumed as fast as it comes in, there is no overplus left to lay up for old age.

Based on the information presented in the passage, which of the following is most likely to be true concerning theft of personal property in Utopia?

Possible Answers:

Such theft is likely rare in Utopia because the inhabitants are much more concerned with the public good than with private possessions.

Such theft likely occurs as much in Utopia as in any other country.

Such theft is likely rare in Utopia because everyone owns an identical set of personal possessions.

This type of theft likely cannot occur in Utopia because no one owns any personal property.

Theft is likely much more prevalent in Utopia because its inhabitants spend so much time working outside of their homes.

Correct answer:

This type of theft likely cannot occur in Utopia because no one owns any personal property.

Explanation:

The narrator tells us near the beginning of the passage that Utopia is a place "where no man has any property, [and] all men zealously pursue the good of the public." He goes on to describe it as a place "where every man has a right to everything," and says "[its inhabitants] all know that if care is taken to keep the public stores full no private man can want anything, for among them there is no unequal distribution, so that no man is poor, none in necessity, and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich." Considering the question, the key phrases from these quotations are that "no man has any property" and "no man has anything, yet they are all rich." This tells us that no one owns any personal property in Utopia, supporting the answer choice "this type of theft likely cannot occur in Utopia because no one owns any personal property."

Example Question #172 : Content Of Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from “Utopia” by Thomas More (1516) in Ideal Commonwealths: Comprising More's Utopia, Bacon's New Atlantis, Campanella's City of the Sun, and Harrington's Oceans (1901)

Thus have I described to you, as particularly as I could, the constitution of that commonwealth, which I do not only think the best in the world, but indeed the only commonwealth that truly deserves that name. In all other places it is visible that, while people talk of a commonwealth, every man only seeks his own wealth; but there, where no man has any property, all men zealously pursue the good of the public, and, indeed, it is no wonder to see men act so differently, for in other commonwealths every man knows that unless he provides for himself, how flourishing soever the commonwealth may be, he must die of hunger, so that he sees the necessity of preferring his own concerns to the public; but in Utopia, where every man has a right to everything, they all know that if care is taken to keep the public stores full no private man can want anything, for among them there is no unequal distribution, so that no man is poor, none in necessity, and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties, neither apprehending want himself, nor vexed with the endless complaints of his wife? He is not afraid of the misery of his children, nor is he contriving how to raise a portion for his daughters, but is secure in this, that both he and his wife, his children and grandchildren, to as many generations as he can fancy, will all live both plentifully and happily, since, among them, there is no less care taken of those who were once engaged in labor, but grow afterwards unable to follow it, than there is, elsewhere, of these that continue still employed. I would gladly hear any man compare the justice that is among them with that of all other nations; among whom may I perish if I see anything that looks either like justice or equity; for what justice is there in this: that a nobleman, a goldsmith, a banker, or any other man, who either does nothing at all, or, at best, is employed in things that are of no use to the public, should live in great luxury and splendor upon what is so ill acquired, and a mean man, a carter, a smith, or a plowman, who works harder even than the beasts themselves, and is employed in labors so necessary, that no commonwealth could hold out a year without them, can only earn so poor a livelihood and must lead so miserable a life, that the condition of the beasts is much better than theirs? For as the beasts do not work so constantly, so they feed almost as well, and with more pleasure, and have no anxiety about what is to come, whilst these men are depressed by a barren and fruitless employment, and tormented with the apprehensions of want in their old age; since that which they get by their daily labour does but maintain them at present, and is consumed as fast as it comes in, there is no overplus left to lay up for old age.

Which of the following can be inferred from the passage?

Possible Answers:

Every inhabitant of Utopia performs physical labor every day, no matter his or her age.

Utopia is just while other countries are not.

The inhabitants of Utopia are extremely insular and don't know that other countries exist.

Academic work is prized above manual labor in Utopia.

The narrator believes that the Utopian constitution could be improved upon by incorporating features of other countries' founding documents.

Correct answer:

Utopia is just while other countries are not.

Explanation:

We can figure out the correct answer by systematically disproving the other choices. The idea that "academic work is prized above manual labor in Utopia" cannot be inferred from the passage because the passage never mentions academic work specifically. Similarly, the answer choice "the inhabitants of Utopia are extremely insular and don't know that other countries exist" isn't supported either because the passage tells us nothing about what Utopians know of other countries. The answer "Every inhabitant of Utopia performs physical labor every day, no matter his or her age" is incorrect because the passage contradicts it when the narrator states "there is no less care taken of those who were once engaged in labor, but grow afterwards unable to follow it, than there is, elsewhere, of these that continue still employed." If it's possible that there are people "once engaged in labor" but now "unable to follow it," this can be taken to mean that not everyone works every day, as some people cannot. The idea that "the narrator believes that the Utopian constitution could be improved upon by incorporating features of other countries' founding documents" is similarly contradicted by the passage's first sentence, in which the narrator states that he thinks the Utopian constitution is "the best in the world." It wouldn't make sense to incorporate aspects of what the narrator considers less perfect constitutions into a perfect one in order to try to improve it; it would most likely make it worse. The last answer choice remaining is the correct one: "Utopia is just while other countries are not." This statement is supported in the passage when the narrator says, "I would gladly hear any man compare the justice that is among [the Utopians] with that of all other nations; among whom may I perish if I see anything that looks either like justice or equity."

Example Question #1 : Extrapolating From The Text In Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Preface: The Maypole and the Column" in Extemporary Essays by Maurice Hewlett (1922)

In days of more single purpose than these, young men and maidens, in the first flush of summer, set up a maypole on the green; but before they joined hands and danced round about it they had done honor to what it stood for by draping it with swags of flowers and green-stuff, hanging it with streamers of diverse colors, and sticking it with as many gilt hearts as there were hearts among them of votive inclination. So they transfigured the thing signified, and turned a shaven tree-trunk from a very crude emblem into a thing of happy fantasy. That will serve me for a figure of how the poet deals with his little idea, or great one; and in his more sober mood it is open to the essayist so to deal with his, supposing he have one. He must hang his pole, or concept, not with rhyme but with wise or witty talk. He must turn it about and about, not to set the ornaments jingling, or little bells ringing; rather that you may see its shapeliness enhanced, its proportions emphasized, and in all the shifting lights and shadows of its ornamentation discern it still for the notion that it is. That, at least, is my own notion of what the essayist should do, though I am aware that very distinguished practitioners have not agreed with me and do not agree at this hour. The modern essayist, for reasons which I shall try to expound, has been driven from the maypole to the column.

Certainly, the parent of the Essay draped no maypoles with speech. Montaigne was a sedentary philosopher, of the order of the post-prandials; a wine-and-walnuts man. One thing would open out into another, and one seem better than the other, at the time of hearing. "Je n'enseigne point; je raconte," he tells you of himself; and it is true. To listen to him is a liberal education; yet you can hardly think of Montaigne footing it on the green. Bacon's line, again, was the aphoristic. He shreds off his maypole rather than clothes it: but he has one set up. He can give his argument as witty a turn as the Frenchman when he pleases—"There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong's sake, but thereby to purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honor, or the like. Therefore why should I be angry with a man for loving himself better than me?" That is the turn his thoughts take upon Revenge, and a fair sample of his way with an abstract idea—shredding off it all the time, getting down to the pith. But he can be very obscure: "A single life doth well with Churchmen; for charity will hardly water the ground where it must first fill a pool." That is proleptic reasoning. We are to caper about the pole before the ornaments are on.

In the passage's second paragraph, Hewlett implies that the creator of the modern essay is __________.

Possible Answers:

Bacon

Hewlett does not attribute the modern essay to one specific creator.

himself

Montaigne

Correct answer:

Montaigne

Explanation:

Hewlett refers to "the Parent of the essay" and proceeds to describe the work of the French philosopher Montaigne, implying that Montaigne is the creator of the modern essay.

Example Question #1 : Extrapolating From The Text In Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836)

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds will separate between him and what he touches. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible; but all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to their influence. Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. It is this which distinguishes the stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet. The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men's farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.

To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says,—he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent grief’s, he shall be glad with me. Not the sun or the summer alone, but every hour and season yields its tribute of delight; for every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of the mind, from breathless noon to grimmest midnight. Nature is a setting that fits equally well a comic or a mourning piece. In good health, the air is a cordial of incredible virtue. Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at whatever period of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances,—master or servant, is then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

It can reasonably be inferred from the passage that which of the following is false?

Possible Answers:

Appreciation of nature is gained through the retention of childlike innocence.

Humans do not fully appreciate nature.

In the woods man becomes wiser, and seems to age and become more mature.

Nature fits itself to man's emotions.

People do not lose interest in nature even if they study it exhaustively.

Correct answer:

In the woods man becomes wiser, and seems to age and become more mature.

Explanation:

The line “In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at whatever period of life, is always a child” contradicts the answer "In the woods man becomes wiser, and ages" because it suggests that the woods reinvigorate youth. The other answers are all supported by the text.

Example Question #41 : Contemporary Life Passages

"Poetry and Philosophy" by Justin Bailey

As the logical positivism rose to ascendancy, poetic language was increasingly seen as merely emotive. Wittgenstein’s influential Tractatus argued that only language corresponding to observable states of affairs in the world was meaningful, thus ruling out the value of imaginative language in saying anything about the world. Poetry’s contribution was rather that it showed what could not be said, a layer of reality which Wittgenstein called the “mystical.” Despite Wittgenstein’s interest in the mystical value of poetry, his successors abandoned the mystical as a meaningful category, exiling poetry in a sort of no man’s land where its only power to move came through the empathy of shared feeling.

Yet some thinkers, like Martin Heidegger, reacted strongly to the pretensions of an instrumental theory of knowledge to make sense of the world. Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur all gave central value to poetry in their philosophical method; signifying a growing sense among continental thinkers that poetic knowing was an important key to recovering some vital way of talking about and experiencing the world that had been lost.

It can be inferred from the passage that __________.

Possible Answers:

Heidegger's complaint was that philosophers were taking poetic language too seriously in their philosophical method

philosophers agree that instrumental theories of knowledge are sufficient in understanding the world

most positivists followed Wittgenstein in arguing for poetic knowledge as a meaningful category in philosophy

poetry's power to move through empathetic feeling signifies that its claims about the world are true

some of Wittgenstein's successors used his work to exclude something that was important to Wittgenstein

Correct answer:

some of Wittgenstein's successors used his work to exclude something that was important to Wittgenstein

Explanation:

This answer is taken from the final sentence of the first paragraph. Wittgenstein wanted to make room for poetry in his category of the mystical, but his successors simply abandoned it, citing his work.

Example Question #392 : Humanities Passages

Adapted from a letter of Thomas Jefferson popularly known as “A Dialogue Between the Head and Heart” (October 12th, 1786) in Volume II of Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1830)

(Note: This work is presented like a play having two characters, the “Head” and the “Heart.” In the following passage, we are privy to the words of the “Head.”)

Every thing in this world is matter of calculation. Advance, then, with caution, the balance in your hand. Put into one scale the pleasures which any object may offer, but put fairly into the other the pains which are to follow, and see which preponderates. The making an acquaintance is not a matter of indifference. When a new one is proposed to you, view it all round. Consider what advantages it presents, and to what inconveniences it may expose you. Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it. The art of life is the art of avoiding pain, and he is the best pilot, who steers clearest of the rocks and shoals with which it is beset. Pleasure is always before us, but misfortune is at our side; while running after that, this arrests us.

The most effectual means of being secure against pain is to retire within ourselves and to suffice for our own happiness. Those which depend on ourselves are the only pleasures a wise man will count on, for nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of. Hence the inestimable value of intellectual pleasures. Ever in our power, always leading us to something new, never cloying, we ride serene and sublime above the concerns of this mortal world, contemplating truth and nature, matter and motion, the laws which bind up their existence, the laws which bind up their existence, and that Eternal Being, who made and bound them up by those laws.

Let this be our employ. Leave the bustle and tumult of society to those who have not talents to occupy themselves without them. Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another? Is there so little gall poured into our cup, that we must heed help to drink that of our neighbor? A friend dies, or leaves us: we feel as if a limb was cut off. He is sick: we must watch over him, and participate of his pains. His fortune is shipwrecked: ours must be laid under contribution. He loses a child, a parent, or a partner: we must mourn the loss as if it were our own.

What would the “Head” say to someone who wanted to befriend someone whose company had been enjoyable?

Possible Answers:

This almost certainly should not be done.

This could be an okay idea.

Forget it and return to the marketplace, where you can weigh all things in scales.

In many circumstances, this is the best thing to do.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

This almost certainly should not be done.

Explanation:

The key sentence for this question is, "Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others." The implication is that making friends leaves us open to forms of sadness that could be avoided. Therefore, in this passage, the "Head" wants to say that we should avoid making friends if possible. However, it does not say that we should go to the marketplace. (Indeed, he would have us leave all society and its bustle.)

Example Question #11 : Making Inferences In Argumentative Humanities Passages

Adapted from a letter of Thomas Jefferson popularly known as “A Dialogue Between the Head and Heart” (October 12th, 1786) in Volume II of Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1830)

(Note: This work is presented like a play having two characters, the “Head” and the “Heart.” In the following passage, we are privy to the words of the “Head.”)

Every thing in this world is matter of calculation. Advance, then, with caution, the balance in your hand. Put into one scale the pleasures which any object may offer, but put fairly into the other the pains which are to follow, and see which preponderates. The making an acquaintance is not a matter of indifference. When a new one is proposed to you, view it all round. Consider what advantages it presents, and to what inconveniences it may expose you. Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it. The art of life is the art of avoiding pain, and he is the best pilot, who steers clearest of the rocks and shoals with which it is beset. Pleasure is always before us, but misfortune is at our side; while running after that, this arrests us.

The most effectual means of being secure against pain is to retire within ourselves and to suffice for our own happiness. Those which depend on ourselves are the only pleasures a wise man will count on, for nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of. Hence the inestimable value of intellectual pleasures. Ever in our power, always leading us to something new, never cloying, we ride serene and sublime above the concerns of this mortal world, contemplating truth and nature, matter and motion, the laws which bind up their existence, the laws which bind up their existence, and that Eternal Being, who made and bound them up by those laws.

Let this be our employ. Leave the bustle and tumult of society to those who have not talents to occupy themselves without them. Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another? Is there so little gall poured into our cup, that we must heed help to drink that of our neighbor? A friend dies, or leaves us: we feel as if a limb was cut off. He is sick: we must watch over him, and participate of his pains. His fortune is shipwrecked: ours must be laid under contribution. He loses a child, a parent, or a partner: we must mourn the loss as if it were our own.

What would the “Head” say about the attempts to gain knowledge of political matters and the running of the country?

Possible Answers:

This is better than friendship and therefore should be done.

None of the other answers

This is an important aspect of life.

This is one of the sad things that we must do in life.

This is not something that a wise man will do.

Correct answer:

This is not something that a wise man will do.

Explanation:

The key sentence here is, "Leave the bustle and tumult of society to those who have not talents to occupy themselves without them." The word "society" here means the company of other people in general. However, we can infer that the "Head" definitely would not like the bustle and tumult of political life very much at all. Therefore, it is safe to assume that it would tell us that a wise man does not undertake such matters.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors