Let’s Do Blind Review (PT 57.2.25)

Welcome to hell. Must-be-true questions are usually fairly simple. This one is not.

The Question

25. The law of the city of Weston regarding contributions to mayoral campaigns is as follows: all contributions to these campaigns in excess of $100 made by nonresidents of Weston who are not former residents of Weston must be registered with the city council. Brimley’s mayoral campaign clearly complied with this law since it accepted contributions only from residents and former residents of Weston.

Question stem: If all the statements above are true, which one of the following statements must be true?

(A) No nonresident of Weston contributed in excess of $100 to Brimley’s campaign.

(B) Some contributions to Brimley’s campaign in excess of $100 were registered with the city council.

(C) No contribution to Brimley’s campaign needed to be registered with the city council.

(D) All contributions to Brimley’s campaign that were registered with the city council were in excess of $100.

(E) Brimley’s campaign did not register any contributions with the city council.

The Argument

So this is not the first time I’ve done section 57.2–it’s not the first time I’d come across the specific question. Still, when I got to the stimulus, I had no idea what was going on. Let’s try and break it down:

  1. Principle: (universal) If contribution >$100, and nonresident, and not former resident, then must register with CC.

  2. Conclusion: We followed this principle–only residents and former residents made contributions.

What’s Going on Here?

Some double negatives and obfuscation, that’s what. On the real, this shit is just hard to make sense of, partly because of the complex and dense conditional principle, but mostly because the answer is asking us what must be true of the situation. In other words, that means we have to make an inference about what follows logically from the facts in the stimulus. But what even were that facts in the stimulus?

  1. Only two groups made contributions to the campaign: residents and former residents.
  2. If (E$ + ~resident + ~former resident )–> RCC

That’s it. That’s all we’ve got to go off of. Tell me, now–what must be true?

Let’s see.

One thing that jumps out to me is that if all contributions were made by residents and former residents, then no nonresident who is not a former resident made a contribution (or, more accurately, no such contribution if made was accepted by the campaign).

We can think of it like this: any person who makes a contribution is either a resident or they are a nonresident. If they are residents, then, hey–great, whatever–the sufficient condition in the general principle fails, and nothing happens; in this case, the rest of the conditional doesn’t tell us anything meaningful about this group. The sufficient condition fails because one of the conjuncts isn’t satisfied: that of being a nonresident. Residents aren’t nonresidents.

If a person is a nonresident, then the conditional will be applicable if the other two conjuncts are satisfied. But in the case of Brimley’s mayoral campaign, no nonresident who made a contribution is not not a former resident! Remember, we’re told in the stimulus that all accepted campaign contributions were made by either residents or former residents. So if an accepted campaign contribution was made by a nonresident, it was made by a former resident! Necessarily! Again: if a contribution was accepted, that contribution was made by either a nonresident or a former resident. Which is just a really fucking convoluted way of saying that no contribution from a nonresident who is not a former resident was accepted.

Another way of stating it: shit was grassroots. No contributions from out-of-towners who didn’t used to live here. No big superPACs. No money from distant cousins you’ve never seen that you didn’t grow up with. No money from mysterious Russian billionaires or demented and babyish American despots. Just townies or people who at least at one point were townies.

Thus, we’ve gotten to the root of it (or at least the root of something): The conclusion, that the mayoral campaign followed the principle, is true because the sufficient condition failed. In order for it not to have failed, an accepted contribution would’ve had to have been made by a nonresident nonformer resident. Donations from such individuals, if they were made, were not accepted by the campaign.

The law of the city of Weston was simply irrelevant to the mayoral campaign. Thus, the campaign complied (complied here meaning simply ‘did not violate’) with the law.

But we haven’t even begun addressing the question: given this, what must be true?

 

The Answer Choices

At this point, I still don’t have a good pre-phrase. I’m not sure what has to be true. I think it’s best to just jump into the AC’s and see what jives with the explication above.

(A) No nonresident of Weston’s campaign contributed in excess of $100 to Brimley’s campaign.

This is the answer I chose originally. Now, I’m not feeling good about it. In my defense, puppies were barking and my fucking roommate–godblesshissoul–would not stop squeaking his motherfucking squeaky toy. All I could think was can you please stop squeaking your squeaker for the love of god. (It needs to be said that he’s probably the best roommate one could ever ask for and that there are pretty much never disputes between us–if two minutes of rabidly squeaking a squeaky toy is my biggest complaint, I’m okay with that) (also I should probably have been wearing headphones).

Anyway, can’t this be false? Can’t it be the case that a former resident of Weston contributed in excess of $100? This has to be the wrong answer.

(B) Some contributions to Brimley’s campaign in excess of $100 were registered with the city council.

Again, can’t this be false? The principle tells us about contributions made in a very specific context: by nonresident, nonformer resident, in excess of $100. It tells us that these contributions need to be RCC. Importantly, it tells us about only these contributions. It could be the case that all contributions made to the campaign were under $100. Couldn’t it?

(C) No contributions to Brimley’s campaign needed to be registered with the city council.

Initially I had mixed feelings about this AC. It doesn’t stand out to me as being obviously true. I asked myself: couldn’t it be the case that there’s another law requiring any contribution made by a resident or former resident to be registered with the city council? And, in this case, wouldn’t all contributions need to be registered?

I asked myself this, then looked at the other AC’s, then went back to the passage. And that’s when it hit me. “The law of the city of Weston regarding contributions to mayoral campaigns is as follows.” Boom. There it is. This is the law regarding all contributions, and this is the only law.

No, if this is the only law, then the only time contributions would need to be registered would be when the three conjuncts of the antecedent of this law are met. If the sufficient condition fails, there’s never a time when contributions need to be registered with the city council

(D) All contributions to Brimley’s campaign were registered with the city council were in excess of $100.

There’s simply no reason this needs to be true. We have no way of gauging the $ amount of any donations, much less all of them.

 

(E) Brimley’s campaign did not register any contributions with the city council.

So the difference between (E) and (C) is subtle, but crucial. Basically it’s too strong: what’s to say that Brimley’s campaign couldn’t have registered any number of its contributions? All we know for sure is that the contributions didn’t need to be registered.

Fuck I Hope We Got It Right Or Else We Really Screwed the Pooch

I haven’t looked at the answers yet, so (C) could very well be wrong. I really hope it isn’t because that’ll mean pretty much everything I’ve said up til this point is utter bull spit. Which–aside from being embarrassing–would not bode well for my logically reasoning ability in general. Or else would mean that I’ve just grossly misunderstood this question.

Checking answers…

 

 

Aye. So (C) is right. Still got the question wrong on when it counted (remember my original AC was (A)) but I’m glad I got to understand this question better and really NERD IT UP for a solid hour.

Until next time, guys.

 

 

Let’s Do Blind Review (PT 64.1.23)

The Question

23. Ethicist: Marital vows often contain the promise to love “until death do us part.” If love here refers to a feeling, then this promise makes no sense, for feelings are not within one’s control, and a promise to do something not within one’s control makes no sense. Thus no one–including those making marital vows–should take “love” in this context to be referring to feelings.

Question stem: The ethicist’s conclusion follows logically if which one of the following is assumed?

(A) None of our feelings are within our control.

(B) People should not make promises to do something that is not within their control.

(C) “Love” can legitimately be taken to refer to something other than feelings.

(D) Promises should not be interpreted in such a way that they make no sense.

(E) Promises that cannot be kept do not make any sense.

The Argument

Ok. So. Let’s take a minute to break down the ethicist’s argument:

  1. Marital vows contain the promise to love “until death do us part.”
  2. Feelings are not within one’s control.
  3. A promise to do something not within one’s control makes no sense.

  4. (therefore) If “love” in marital vows refers to a feeling, then the promise to love “until death do us part” makes no sense.


  5. (therefore) No one–including those making wedding vows– should take “love in this context to be referring to feelings.

What’s Going on Here?

The question stem asks which of the answer choices, if assumed, completes the argument. This means that there’s a gap in the argument–the argument needs another premise to be valid. Moreover, if that premise is assumed, the argument ‘works.’ This is known as a sufficient assumption question. What answer choice is is sufficient to complete the argument and make it work? But before we get to that, can you spot the argument’s gap?

The order in which the premises are presented in the stimulus makes this question appear more difficult than it actually is. Basically, we’re going from three premises to a deductively valid subconclusion (which also happens to be a conditional) and from that subconclusion to another conclusion. Fine. Easy. It’s just kind of hard to see that that’s what’s happening if we only read the stimulus once over and we only have five minutes left for the rest of the section and we don’t break the argument down and organize it formally. But that’s why we’re doing BR.

Important to note is that the main conclusion is a strong universal claim about morality–about what no person should do. The use of ‘no one’ indicates that the claim is a universal, and the use of ‘should’ indicates it’s a moral claim. And, I mean, if anyone is making a claim universal about morality, I guess it ought to be an ethicist?

Also important is that the argument’s subargument is valid; the first three premises deductively entail [4], the subconclusion. So we need to find a way to get from the subconclusion to the main conclusion. Our answer should bridge the gap from “if love refers to feeling, then promise of love makes no sense” to “no one should take love in this context to be referring to feelings.”

The Answer Choices

With all of that in mind, let’s examine the answer choices.

(A) None of our feelings are within our control.

Why incorrect: Simply put, this doesn’t get the job done. It may be a necessary assumption, although it’s not obvious to me that it is. In any case, it doesn’t bridge the gap between [4] and [5]

(B) People should not make promises to do something that is not within their control.

Why incorrect: Tempting (at least more so than answer choice A) because of the inclusion of the words “should not.” But the main conclusion doesn’t say that people should not make these kinds of promises; rather, it says that when these kinds of promises are made, people should not take a particular word in these promises in a particular context. Tempting, but can be confidently eliminated.

(C) Love can legitimately be taken to refer to something other than feelings.

Why incorrect: When I first read this AC I immediately crossed it off, and I’m comfortable doing the same now. It’s definitely not sufficient–it doesn’t bridge the gap to ‘should’– and it’s not clear to me that it’s even necessary. Who cares if love can legitimately be taken to refer to something other than feelings? What does that have to do with the ethicist’s argument?

(D) Promises should not be interpreted in such a way that they make no sense.

Why correct: Ah. This does the trick. If this statement is true, and if premise [4] is true, then it follows that no one should take “love” in marital vows to be referring to feelings.

We’ve already said that marital vows contain the promise to love “until death do us part.” And we’ve concluded from the other premises that the statement “If love in marital vows refers to a feeling, then the promise to love ‘until death do us part’ makes no sense” is true. So if it’s true that promises should not be interpreted in such a way that they make no sense, it’s also true that no one should take ‘love’ in the context of marital vows to be referring to feelings.

(E) Promises that cannot be kept do not make any sense.

Why incorrect: This was the other answer choice I was considering when first taking this section. For some reason it sounded good to me. Now, I’m not really sure why I was drawn to it–how the hell does it help us get to the main conclusion? In fact, I’m not sure it’s even a necessary assumption. A promise to do something not within control makes no sense, but is a promise to do something not within one’s control the same thing as a promise that cannot be kept? Maybe. I’m not sure. (E) is 100% not sufficient for our purposes.

Sweet, Sweet Victory

I originally chose (D) on this section, and it turns out (D) is the correct answer. But I had this question circled because I wasn’t 100% confident in my answer choice. By outlining the argument’s structure and analyzing the question thoroughly, I see that this question was not terribly difficult and I feel more confident about my reasoning. Hopefully you do, too.

Thanks for reading!

Let’s Do Blind Review (PT 59.3.19)

Ok I so want to try something new: a typed report of my blind review methodology. By repeatedly doing this (or something like it) I hope to solidify my understanding of certain question types and increase the speed at which I’m able to dissect them, as well document this process for future reference.

What follows is a copy of a Logical Reasoning question from PT 59 and, after that, my notes from BR regarding the answer choices. When I was taking this LR section timed, I quickly recognized this question was going to be difficult, marked it, and came back once I finished the rest of the section. My original answer choice was (B). After doing blind review, I selected (E), which turned out to be the correct answer. Let’s find out why:

19. If understanding a word always involves knowing its dictionary definition, then understanding a word requires understanding the words that occur in that definition. But clearly there are people–for example, all babies–who do not know the dictionary definitions of some of the words they utter. 

Which one of the following statements follows logically from the statements above?

(A) Some babies utter individual words that they do not understand.

(B) Any number of people can understand some words without knowing their dictionary definitions.

(C) If some words can be understood without knowing their dictionary definitions, then babies understand some words.

(D) If it is possible to understand a word without knowing its dictionary definition, the it is possible to understand a word without having to understand any other word.

(E) if some babies understand all the words they utter, then understanding a word does not always involve knowing its dictionary definition.


So the first thing I did during BR was convert some of the terminology in the passage to shorthand to try to better understand the logical structure I had to work with.

IMG_6152

UW: understanding a word

KDD: knowing its dictionary definition

UOW: Understanding other words


With this, I sought to capture the logical structure as follows:

  1. (UW->KDD)–>(UW->UOW)
  2. (∃x)~KDDx
  3. Therefore, _________

I’m not sure how useful doing this turned out to be (or that I even represented the logical structure of the argument correctly) but in my explication of my thought processes I use the shorthand.


Now for those thought processes:

(A) Some babies utter individual words that they do not understand.

100% False. This would be true IF (UW–>KDD) were true, but it’s only the antecedent of a larger conditional. (KA: Not sure that this is reasoning is correct. But it’s hard to see how this answer choice follows from the stimulus. Actually now that I’ve reread it, I think I’m right; it would be true via contraposition of the antecedent.

If not having knowledge of the dictionary definition of words meant not having understanding of those words, then anyone who uttered a word of which she didn’t know the dictionary definition would utter a word that she didn’t understand. IF.)

(B) Any number of people can understand some words without knowing their dictionary definitions.

This is the answer I chose during the timed section, but I think it’s wrong. It would only be true if the babies understood the words they utter, which they don’t necessarily. And even in that case, the quantifier ANY is very strong and doesn’t follow from the passage. Any baby? Sure. But any people? No…

(C) If some words can be understood without knowing their dictionary definitions, then babies understand some words.

Does not follow. Perhaps there are other requirements for knowing a word. The fact that KDD is false doesn’t mean that babies who utter words understand any of them.

(D) If it is possible to understand a word without knowing its dictionary definition, the it is possible to understand a word without having to understand any other word.

Uhh..no…? (KA: Even though I thought this answer was obviously wrong, I shouldn’t be as lazy with my approach. I should take the time to articulate my reasons for eliminating the answer. Imagine how embarrassed I would be if D turned out to be the correct answer.

In light of this, I’ll now explain why this is answer choice is incorrect: it’s just negating the logical structure without any contraposition.

Take the larger conditional (UW->KDD)—>(UW->UOW).

This answer choice, is in effect saying:

~(UW->KDD)—>~(UW->UOW).

There is no reason to think this is true. It might be, but nothing in the stimulus indicates that it is. If we want the logical equivalent of the passage but with fancy tildes out in front, the contraposition of the original conditional would be:

~(UW->UOW)—>~(UW->KDD)

Ok. At this point I’m ready to say fuck this question, it’s 9:26 on a Saturday night and I’m writing about contraposition and babies who do OR, HYPOTHETICALLY, JUST HEAR ME OUT, do NOT know words. If you’ve made it this far, God bless your soul.)

(E) if some babies understand all the words they utter, then understanding a word does not always involve knowing its dictionary definition.

This has to be true.

If it’s true that all babies do not know the dictionary definitions of some of the words they utter and that some babies do understand all of the words they utter, then it is true that understanding a word does not always involve knowing dictionary definitions.

Christ.