Reply To: The LSAT Trainer – Lesson 5 – Flaw Drill (p.75)

March 7, 2016 at 11:56 am #1584
Mike Kim

Hi Alex,

This is Mike Kim — great questions —

Here are some thoughts I hope you find helpful — if you have any follow-up, just let me know.

“Ironically, in our current general economic state, individuals need to spend more money in order for our general economy to improve. So, go out and spend, spend, spend! It’s good for our country.”

I saw the conclusion as: Go out and spend, spend, spend! It’s good for our country.

With the premise being: Individuals need to spend more money in order for our general economy to improve.

Looking at the argument on those terms, you can see that the spending part is consistent and the part that differs between premise and conclusion is “economy..improve” and “good for our country.” And thus to me the primary error is the assumed connection between those two concepts.

One thing to keep in mind is that the rules of grammar are not absolute (as opposed to the rules of logic, which are absolute) — so, you could argue for reading various arguments in different ways (however, in my experience LSAC will never have a right/wrong answer issue hinge on any sort of questionable grammatical interpretation) —

In this case, an alternative way one could read this argument would be

Individuals need to spend more to improve economy → thus (intermediate conclusion, which also counts as premise for conclusion) spending is good for country → thus one ought to spend, spend, spend.

If you choose to see it this way, which is I think closer to how you saw it, the error can occur either between the premise and the intermediate conclusion, or the intermediate conclusion and the final conclusion.

And if you read it this way, than the flaw I mention would be one of two you see, with the other being that, as you said, taking for granted one ought to spend, spend, spend just because it’s good for the country (yes, u could definitely be evil, etc. 🙂 and I think it’s great you are already thinking of all those alternatives).

I’ll discuss all of this — intermediate conclusion, and so on, in much greater detail in future lessons.

So, short answer, I read the structure differently, and hence the different explanation of the flaw, but you could certainly argue for a different read of the argument, in which case the flaw I saw would be one of two, with what u saw being the other.

“Good intentions line the histories of many of our most environmentally harmful products. For example, plastic was invented, at least in part, to combat the wasting of wood and paper products. This proves that good intentions, coupled with limited foresight, can cause negative consequences for our environment.”

One thing that can be very helpful for focusing in on the flaw, or a view of the flaw, that will best match what the test writers will focus on is to start by thinking about what type of point the author is trying to make, then work backwards to see how he/she is trying to make it.

I realize that’ a bit of a “duh,” statement — what I mean is to do is emphasize the value of thinking of the conclusion first, then the premise(s), as opposed to premise(s), then conclusion (I’ll get into a lot more detail about exact reading strategies later in the book) —

Back to this argument — the conclusion is specifically about something having a causal impact. The fact that plastic was invented for a certain intention tells us nothing about actual cause and effect, and neither does the correlation that exists between good intentions and environmentally harmful products.

Causation is a unique reasoning issue onto itself, and the only thing that can actually prove causation is causation. This will also be discussed at length in later lessons (you can jump ahead to 112 for a sneak peek of some of it), but, for now — if you see a conclusion about causation and no premises that directly mention causation in any way, that’s going to be an issue with the reasoning, and that’s what’s going on here.

Hope I’ve addressed your concerns and that the above helps clear things up, and hope you are finding the Trainer useful — if you have any other q’s, happy to answer, so just let me know — Mike