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LSAT Reading Comprehension Explanation – Philosophical Anarchism

Below is a complete explanation for the fourth Reading Comprehension passage of LSAT PrepTest 52 (September 2007 LSAT) and associated questions. It’s an excerpt from Complete Reading Comprehension Explanations for LSAT PrepTests 52-61.

LSAT Reading Comprehension Passage Explanation – Ousmane Sembene

Explanations for PrepTest 52, Section 4, Questions 20-27:

Once again, the passage opens with a third party voice, “Most people.” The commonly held ideas about morality and governments are defined. The “but” in line 11 indicates that the author will describe a contrast with these commonly held beliefs. The contrast is the theory of philosophical anarchism, the views of which are defined. The “some commentators” in line 15 reject the theory and provide yet another third party opinion. The author definitively states his approval of philosophical anarchism in line 22 when he disagrees with our second third party voice.

The second paragraph disputes the claim that commentators hold about what philosophical anarchism entails, “that no existing government is morally better than any other.” The “even if” in line 27 allows for one of the claim’s premises. The author immediately denies that this premise is enough to justify that claim. The “In short” in line 34 finalizes the author’s denial of the commentators’ claim.

The function of the third paragraph is to deny the commentators’ second claim, that philosophical anarchists hold that “lacking any moral obligation to obey any laws, people may do as they please without scruple.” The author simply does this by stating an opposing claim embraced by philosophical anarchism. Once again, discussion of this follows. There is another “even if” in line 40, where once again the author accepts a premise of the commentators’, and then discusses how their claim does not follow from this premise. He ends with the example of driving on the right side of the road out of a moral obligation not to harm the innocent.

20. Main point.

A) “What they take to be its highly counterintuitive implications” indicates that this is the commentators’ view, not the author’s. (Line 16)

B) This is the opposite of the author’s opinion.

C) Correct. See line 22 and the discussion above.

D) A typical main point question wrong answer. This choice is found in the passage, but it is too specific.

E) Philosophical anarchism does actually argue that governments have no moral force: obeying the law is, most times, honoring a moral obligation to fellow man and therefore incidental.

21. Detail. The correct answer will be found in the passage. In this case, we are asked to find a “commonly held belief.” Revisit lines 1-11 where such beliefs are discussed.

A) Correct. Lines 5-11.

B) Not found in the passage.

C) Not found in the passage.

D) Not found in the passage.

E) Not found in the passage.

22. Author’s attitude. In the discussion above we noted that the author disagreed with the critics of philosophical anarchism, i.e. on some level he approves of the theory. Registering this would immediately narrow your choices down to A and B.

A) “Ardent” is too strong a word.

B) Correct. By process of elimination we are left with this choice. The author does not raise this theory above others, as A would have you believe, but he does defend it (“apparent acceptance”).

C) “Concerned pessimism” doesn’t match our analysis.

D) The author clearly isn’t rejecting the theory.

E) The author certainly doesn’t dislike the theory.

23. This question asks you how a word is defined in context. Counterintuitive means what it sounds like it means: counter to intuition or common sense. In the context of line 17, the counterintuitive beliefs directly contradict those beliefs that are “commonly supposed.”

A) Correct. See above.

B) “Empirical evidence” is never mentioned.

C) The question is asking about what the commentators believe; this choice is more in line with the author’s beliefs.

D) The implications are conflicting with commonly held beliefs, not each other.

E) Simply not close to the definition of “counterintuitive”.

24. For this question, we have to revisit lines 37-44, which discuss our duties toward each other.

A) Fearing legal penalties would not be a reason for doing anything under this philosophy.

B) Correct. In this choice the executive is abandoning a practice not for fear of legal repercussions, but because she does not want to contaminate the water supply, i.e., duty towards fellow man.

C) This has nothing to do with duty to fellow man.

D) This has nothing to do with duty to fellow man.

E) This has nothing to do with duty to fellow man.

25. Inference.

A) Not supported by the passage. We don’t even know how many obligations are generally thought to be the case.

B) Not supported by the passage. Morally superior governments are never discussed.

C) Correct. See lines 40-44.

D) Not supported by the passage. Such arguments are never mentioned.

E) Not supported by the passage. Philosophical anarchism entails no laws.

26. Method of argument/function. This question requires us to revisit lines 44-49. Notice that the paragraph has a clear topic sentence. The “moreover” (line 44) indicates that the author is making an additional point in his argument. The overall topic is in the first sentence of the paragraph: that we all have moral duties to one another.

A) Does not match our prediction.

B) Does not match our prediction.

C) The author would disagree with this statement.

D) Correct. This matches our prediction.

E) A very close second. The discussion that matches this choice is found at the end of the paragraph, not the beginning. Also, “most legal systems” is a bit extreme.

27. Author’s purpose. See the discussion above. The second and third paragraphs address, respectively, the first and second claims of the critics, and are introduced by the author’s rejection of the critics’ point of view in lines 22-23.

A) This does not encompass a response to the critics.

B) “Dictates of common sense” are not addressed in the passage.

C) A very close wrong answer. If we reread lines 22-23 again, we see that this is not quite a match.

D) Correct. See above.

E) The defects of philosophical anarchism are not under discussion.


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