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

March 15, 2016 at 2:37 pm #1593

Hi Mike,

Thank you for your response! This definitely helps and the first argument is much clearer to me now. However, the second drill still feels problematic to me.

Here is the part where I am having trouble: “The fact that plastic was invented for a certain intention tells us nothing about actual cause and effect”. Similarly, on p.77 you’ve written: “Takes for granted that good intentions had a hand in causing these negative consequences. It could be that, even though these items were made with good intentions…” From what I see in the premises of the argument, plastic wasn’t just invented with good intentions, it was invented because of good intentions, thus indicating causation!

Allow me to explain why I keep on seeing causation instead of simply correlation here.

The second sentence of the argument states: “plastic was invented, at least in part, to combat the wasting of wood and paper products”. To me this means that the unnamed inventor of plastic had a goal he wanted to accomplish: he wanted to combat the wasting of wood and paper products. And as the means of accomplishing this goal, he invented plastic.

The causation can be represented as:

Wanting to combat the wasting of wood and paper products (Cause) → Invention of plastic (Effect).

But why did the inventor care if wood and paper products were being wasted in the first place?

The second sentence starts with the words “For example”, indicating that the Cause → Effect relationship in the second sentence is in fact an example of what’s being described in the first sentence. The first sentence is “Good intentions line the histories of many of our most environmentally harmful products.” Therefore, the desire to “combat the wasting of wood and paper products” is an example of the plastic inventor’s good intentions and plastic itself is an example of one of the most environmentally harmful products. Now we know at least one reason why the inventor set out to create plastic – it is because he had good intentions. The connecting phrase “For example, …” within the two premises (and one is not supposed to cast doubt on what the LSAT premises say) indicates that the “good intentions” were not just some unrelated state of mind for the inventor but were in fact one of the driving factors behind his decision to do something about the problem that he saw taking place.

Putting this all together, we have:

Having good intentions (Cause) → Wanting to combat the wasting of wood and paper products (Intermediate Effect, which also acts as Cause for the subsequent Effect) → Invention of plastic (Effect).

Am I really confused? Or is this another case of grammar rules not being absolute and allowing different interpretations of the same argument?

This drill actually reminded me of Question #22 from PT 66, S 4. I am not sure if you are a fan of PowerScore but their Logical Reasoning Bible discusses it in depth on p.262-265 of Chapter 8. They call it an advanced causal chain problem because (according to the conclusion) the altruism of a meerkat sentinel causes the sentinel to engage in watchful behavior, which in turn (as the premises state) causes other meerkats to become aware of danger by hearing the sentinel’s loud bark. Isn’t the sentinel’s altruism in that causal problem very much analogous to the good intentions of the inventor of plastic in this problem? Or am I seeing similarities which are not really there?


Thank you for reading this! I know it’s a rather wordy question.