SAT Critical Reading : Making Inferences About the Author or Humanities Passage Content

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Extrapolating From The Text In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Strength and Decency by Theodore Roosevelt (1903)

There is always a tendency among very young men and among boys who are not quite young men as yet to think that to be wicked is rather smart; to think it shows that they are men. Oh, how often you see some young fellow who boasts that he is going to "see life," meaning by that that he is going to see that part of life which it is a thousand fold better should remain unseen!

I ask that every man here constitute himself his brother's keeper by setting an example to that younger brother which will prevent him from getting such a false estimate of life. Example is the most potent of all things. If any one of you in the presence of younger boys, and especially the younger people of our own family, misbehave yourself, if you use coarse and blasphemous language before them, you can be sure that these younger people will follow your example and not your precept. Remember that the preaching does not count if it is not backed up by practice. There is no good in your preaching to your boys to be brave if you run away. There is no good in your preaching to them to tell the truth if you do not. There is no good in your preaching to them to be unselfish if they see you selfish with your wife, disregardful of others. You must feel that the most effective way in which you can preach is by your practice.

Which of these statements would the author of this passage most likely NOT agree with?

Possible Answers:

It is better to teach through setting a good example than through positive instruction.

Instruction is worth little if it is not backed up by example.

It is good to be unselfish and respectful of others.

Young people will ignore the vices of their elders.

Young people have a great urge to experience all aspects of life.

Correct answer:

Young people will ignore the vices of their elders.

Explanation:

In this passage the author states that young people express a desire to experience life, so you can rule out the answer choice “Young people have a great urge to experience all aspects of life” because the author would agree with this statement. The author would also agree that “it is better to teach through setting a good example than through positive instruction” and that “instruction is worth little if it is not backed up by example.” This is evidenced throughout, but most notably in the conclusion when the author states: “You must feel that the most effective way in which you can preach is by your practice.” Finally, the author advises against being selfish or disrespectful in front of young people, so you can assume that the author believes “it is good to be unselfish and respectful of others.” The remaining answer choice, that “young people will ignore the vices of their elders” is correct because the author spends much of the passage advising how to set a good example to young people so they do not mimic the vices of those older than themselves.

Example Question #12 : Extrapolating From The Text In 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:

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

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

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

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

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

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 #41 : Making Inferences And Predictions In Literature 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:

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

Academic work is prized above manual labor in Utopia.

Utopia is just while other countries are not.

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

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

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 #21 : Drawing Inferences From Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from "Of One Defect in Our Government" in Essays of Michael, Seigneur de Montaigne in The Complete Works of Michael de Montaigne (1580, trans. C. Cotton, ed. W. Hazlitt 1842)

My late father, a man that had no other advantages than experience and his own natural parts, was nevertheless of a very clear judgment, formerly told me that he once had thoughts of endeavoring to introduce this practice; that there might be in every city a certain place assigned to which such as stood in need of anything might repair, and have their business entered by an officer appointed for that purpose. As for example: I want a chapman to buy my pearls; I want one that has pearls to sell; such a one wants company to go to Paris; such a one seeks a servant of such a quality; such a one a master; such a one such an artificer; some inquiring for one thing, some for another, every one according to what he wants. And doubtless, these mutual advertisements would be of no contemptible advantage to the public correspondence and intelligence: for there are evermore conditions that hunt after one another, and for want of knowing one another's occasions leave men in very great necessity.

I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their wants. The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man that would heartily wish the estate his ancestors have left him might be employed, so long as it shall please fortune to give him leave to enjoy it, to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind, whom misfortune sometimes persecutes to the last degree, from the dangers of necessity; and at least place them in such a condition that they must be very hard to please, if they are not contented.

My father in his domestic economy had this rule (which I know how to commend, but by no means to imitate), namely, that besides the day-book or memorial of household affairs, where the small accounts, payments, and disbursements, which do not require a secretary's hand, were entered, and which a steward always had in custody, he ordered him whom he employed to write for him, to keep a journal, and in it to set down all the remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of his house: very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill news; the change of principal servants, and the like. An ancient custom, which I think it would not be amiss for every one to revive in his own house; and I find I did very foolishly in neglecting it.

The household journal described in the third paragraph could potentially solve all but one of the following problems. Which problem would it NOT help to solve?

Possible Answers:

Determining exactly how much rain fell on crops in the past month

Confirming the number of days a builder worked on a renovation project

Determining how many days the resident family spent on vacation in the past year

Remembering when one's cousin was married

Recalling the exact date on which a new butler was hired

Correct answer:

Determining exactly how much rain fell on crops in the past month

Explanation:

To correctly answer this question, we have to consider the third paragraph's description of the uses of the household journal: it contains "all the remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of [the] house" and is "very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill news; the change of principal servants, and the like." From here, we can see that all but one of the answer choices matches up with a quotation from this part of the passage: "Remembering when one's cousin was married" matches up with "marriages," "Confirming the number of days a builder worked on a renovation project" matches up with "when such a thing was begun, when ended," "Determining how many days the resident family spent on vacation in the past year" matches up with "travels" and "absences," and "Recalling the exact date on which a new butler was hired" matches up with "the change of principal servants." The only answer choice that does not match up with a part of the quotation is "Determining exactly how much rain fell on crops in the past month," and this is the correct answer, because nowhere is quantitative data about the amount of rainfall included in the description of the things the journal keeps track of.

Example Question #302 : Humanities

Adapted from "Mr. Coleridge" from The Spirit of the Age by William Hazlitt (1825)

The present is an age of talkers, and not of doers, and the reason is, that the world is growing old. We are so far advanced in the Arts and Sciences, that we live in retrospect, and dote on past achievements. The accumulation of knowledge has been so great that we are lost in wonder at the height it has reached, instead of attempting to climb or add to it, while the variety of objects distracts and dazzles the looker-on. What niche remains unoccupied? What path untried? What is the use of doing anything, unless we could do better than all those who have gone before us? What hope is there of this? We are like those who have been to see some noble monument of art, who are content to admire without thinking of rivaling it; or like guests after a feast, who praise the hospitality of the donor "and thank the bounteous Pan"—perhaps carrying away some trifling fragments; or like the spectators of a mighty battle, who still hear its sound afar off, and the clashing of armor and the neighing of the war-horse and the shout of victory is in their ears, like the rushing of innumerable waters!

Mr. Coleridge has "a mind reflecting ages past”; his voice is like the echo of the congregated roar of the "dark rearward and abyss" of thought. He who has seen a mouldering tower by the side of a crystal lake, hid by the mist, but glittering in the wave below, may conceive the dim, gleaming, uncertain intelligence of his eye; he who has marked the evening clouds up rolled (a world of vapors), has seen the picture of his mind: unearthly, unsubstantial, with gorgeous tints and ever-varying forms.

Our author's mind is (as he himself might express it) tangential. There is no subject on which he has not touched, none on which he has rested. With an understanding fertile, subtle, expansive, "quick, forgetive, apprehensive," beyond all living precedent, few traces of it will perhaps remain. He lends himself to all impressions alike; he gives up his mind and liberty of thought to none. He is a general lover of art and science, and wedded to no one in particular. He pursues knowledge as a mistress, with outstretched hands and winged speed; but as he is about to embrace her, his Daphne turns—alas! not to a laurel! Hardly a speculation has been left on record from the earliest time, but it is loosely folded up in Mr. Coleridge's memory, like a rich, but somewhat tattered piece of tapestry; we might add (with more seeming than real extravagance), that scarce a thought can pass through the mind of man, but its sound has at some time or other passed over his head with rustling pinions. On whatever question or author you speak, he is prepared to take up the theme with advantage—from Peter Abelard down to Thomas Moore, from the subtlest metaphysics to the politics of the Courier. There is no man of genius, in whose praise he descants, but the critic seems to stand above the author, and "what in him is weak, to strengthen, what is low, to raise and support”; nor is there any work of genius that does not come out of his hands like an Illuminated Missal, sparkling even in its defects. If Mr. Coleridge had not been the most impressive talker of his age, he would probably have been the finest writer; but he lays down his pen to make sure of an auditor, and mortgages the admiration of posterity for the stare of an idler. If he had not been a poet, he would have been a powerful logician; if he had not dipped his wing in the Unitarian controversy, he might have soared to the very summit of fancy. But in writing verse, he is trying to subject the Muse to transcendental theories: in his abstract reasoning, he misses his way by strewing it with flowers. All that he has done of moment, he had done twenty years ago: since then, he may be said to have lived on the sound of his own voice. Mr. Coleridge is too rich in intellectual wealth to need to task himself to any drudgery: he has only to draw the sliders of his imagination, and a thousand subjects expand before him, startling him with their brilliancy, or losing themselves in endless obscurity.

Based on the second paragraph, we can infer all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

Coleridge has a retrospective outlook

the author is attempting to be poetic

Coleridge is an adventurer

the author is trying to imitate aspects of Coleridge's work

Coleridge's writing deals with fantastical subjects

Correct answer:

Coleridge is an adventurer

Explanation:

There is nothing in the passage's second paragraph to suggest that Coleridge is an adventurer. From the general tone of the piece, we can tell that the author is attempting to mimic Coleridge's work to show the fantastical subjects he deals with. The first line also tells us that Coleridge, like the thinkers of the first paragraph, is retrospective.

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences In Argumentative Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Mr. Coleridge" from The Spirit of the Age by William Hazlitt (1825)

The present is an age of talkers, and not of doers, and the reason is, that the world is growing old. We are so far advanced in the Arts and Sciences, that we live in retrospect, and dote on past achievements. The accumulation of knowledge has been so great that we are lost in wonder at the height it has reached, instead of attempting to climb or add to it, while the variety of objects distracts and dazzles the looker-on. What niche remains unoccupied? What path untried? What is the use of doing anything, unless we could do better than all those who have gone before us? What hope is there of this? We are like those who have been to see some noble monument of art, who are content to admire without thinking of rivaling it; or like guests after a feast, who praise the hospitality of the donor "and thank the bounteous Pan"—perhaps carrying away some trifling fragments; or like the spectators of a mighty battle, who still hear its sound afar off, and the clashing of armor and the neighing of the war-horse and the shout of victory is in their ears, like the rushing of innumerable waters!

Mr. Coleridge has "a mind reflecting ages past”; his voice is like the echo of the congregated roar of the "dark rearward and abyss" of thought. He who has seen a mouldering tower by the side of a crystal lake, hid by the mist, but glittering in the wave below, may conceive the dim, gleaming, uncertain intelligence of his eye; he who has marked the evening clouds up rolled (a world of vapors), has seen the picture of his mind: unearthly, unsubstantial, with gorgeous tints and ever-varying forms.

Our author's mind is (as he himself might express it) tangential. There is no subject on which he has not touched, none on which he has rested. With an understanding fertile, subtle, expansive, "quick, forgetive, apprehensive," beyond all living precedent, few traces of it will perhaps remain. He lends himself to all impressions alike; he gives up his mind and liberty of thought to none. He is a general lover of art and science, and wedded to no one in particular. He pursues knowledge as a mistress, with outstretched hands and winged speed; but as he is about to embrace her, his Daphne turns—alas! not to a laurel! Hardly a speculation has been left on record from the earliest time, but it is loosely folded up in Mr. Coleridge's memory, like a rich, but somewhat tattered piece of tapestry; we might add (with more seeming than real extravagance), that scarce a thought can pass through the mind of man, but its sound has at some time or other passed over his head with rustling pinions. On whatever question or author you speak, he is prepared to take up the theme with advantage—from Peter Abelard down to Thomas Moore, from the subtlest metaphysics to the politics of the Courier. There is no man of genius, in whose praise he descants, but the critic seems to stand above the author, and "what in him is weak, to strengthen, what is low, to raise and support”; nor is there any work of genius that does not come out of his hands like an Illuminated Missal, sparkling even in its defects. If Mr. Coleridge had not been the most impressive talker of his age, he would probably have been the finest writer; but he lays down his pen to make sure of an auditor, and mortgages the admiration of posterity for the stare of an idler. If he had not been a poet, he would have been a powerful logician; if he had not dipped his wing in the Unitarian controversy, he might have soared to the very summit of fancy. But in writing verse, he is trying to subject the Muse to transcendental theories: in his abstract reasoning, he misses his way by strewing it with flowers. All that he has done of moment, he had done twenty years ago: since then, he may be said to have lived on the sound of his own voice. Mr. Coleridge is too rich in intellectual wealth to need to task himself to any drudgery: he has only to draw the sliders of his imagination, and a thousand subjects expand before him, startling him with their brilliancy, or losing themselves in endless obscurity.

It can reasonably be inferred from the passage that __________.

Possible Answers:

the author is talking about himself

the author is talking about a poet

the author is talking about two men

the author has prior grievances with his subject

the author is a poet

Correct answer:

the author is talking about a poet

Explanation:

The third paragraph makes it very clear that the author is talking about a writer of verse, or a poet. The line “If he had not been a poet, he would have been a powerful logician; if he had not dipped his wing in the Unitarian controversy, he might have soared to the very summit of fancy“ tells us this directly. We cannot infer any of the other answers in part or at all from the passage.

Example Question #971 : Sat Critical Reading

Adapted from “Aristotle at Afternoon Tea” by Oscar Wilde (1887)

In society, says Mr. Mahaffy, every civilized man and woman ought to feel it their duty to say something, even when there is hardly anything to be said, and, in order to encourage this delightful art of brilliant chatter, he has published a social guide without which no debutante or dandy should ever dream of going out to dine. Not that Mr. Mahaffy's book can be said to be, in any sense of the word, popular. In discussing this important subject of conversation, he has not merely followed the scientific method of Aristotle which is, perhaps, excusable, but he has adopted the literary style of Aristotle for which no excuse is possible. There is, also, hardly a single anecdote, hardly a single illustration, and the reader is left to put the professor's abstract rules into practice, without either the examples or the warnings of history to encourage or to dissuade him in his reckless career. Still, the book can be warmly recommended to all who propose to substitute the vice of verbosity for the stupidity of silence. It fascinates in spite of its form and pleases in spite of its pedantry, and is the nearest approach, that we know of, in modern literature to meeting Aristotle at an afternoon tea.

What can be inferred about the author’s opinion on Aristotle’s writing?

Possible Answers:

The author has never read Aristotle.

The author cannot understand most of what Aristotle says.

The author finds Aristotle’s work informative and entertaining.

The author thinks that the literary style of Aristotle is not desirable or fit for imitation.

The author laments that so much of Aristotle’s work has been copied and butchered.

Correct answer:

The author thinks that the literary style of Aristotle is not desirable or fit for imitation.

Explanation:

The author describes how Mr. Mahaffy employs the “literary style of Aristotle for which no excuse is possible.” From this description it can be inferred that the author finds the writing of Aristotle to be inaccessible, and, additionally, that the author does not think the literary style of Aristotle is fit for imitation. The phrase “no excuse is possible” should clue you in to the author’s meaning.

Example Question #18 : Extrapolating From The Text In 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:

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

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.

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 #61 : Making Inferences And Predictions In Literature 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:

None of the other answers

This is an important aspect of life.

This is better than friendship and therefore should be done.

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.

Example Question #201 : Literature 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.

If you know that the “Heart” almost always takes the opposite view to the “Head” in this essay, what do you think the “Heart” will reply?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

On the contrary, you yourself have many acquaintances, thus showing that we must indeed interact with other people!

On the contrary, friends will never betray you!

On the contrary, the joys of life outbalance the afflictions experienced!

On the contrary, the greatest joys of life are found in the company of others!

Correct answer:

On the contrary, the greatest joys of life are found in the company of others!

Explanation:

The main focus of this section is the "Head's" contention that social bonds (even friendships) are little more than a source of woe. If the "Heart" takes an opposite view of things, we can infer that it will reply that friends are not a source of woe but instead are among life's greatest joys.

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