LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Quick Hit: Hands off my Banana

Quick Hit: Hands off my Banana

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Quick Hit: 63.1.2

(I'm talking about PrepTest 63, Section 1, Question 2, if you weren't hip to my jive).

I think that for today's bit of LSAT enjoyment, we'd enjoy doing a Logical Reasoning problem together, concentrating on what I will call here the Four-Fold Path of Velocity (for LSAT Prep!™):

  1. What is this question asking us to do?
  2. What job will the right answer perform?
  3. What will the right answer sound like (typically)?
  4. What should I avoid in answer choices?

LET'S DO THIS.

  1. The question asks us to make the argument weaker; we're going to make the conclusion at least a little less likely to be true.
  2. The right answer will function by attacking the assumption of the argument; it'll show that in some way, some of the shit the arguer just assumed was true might not really be true.
  3. We can expect the right answer typically to use "semi-strong" language. I mean, you need enough evidence to really make the argument sting; you're not likely to hurt any argument much by saying a thing like "Some people don't like cumin in their chili"—you're much more likely to do damage if you say something like "But, hey; most people don't like cumin in their chili." And really, you could probably totally ruin someone's argument if you pointed out that "Actually all people hate cumin in their chili." See? The stronger the language, the more damage you're likely to do. Over time, we've come to find that most Weaken responses don't go so far as our third example here. That's why—even though such aggressive language would do the job—we've come to expect the middle (semi-strong) language in these cases.
  4. One thing to avoid is an answer that strengthens the argument. Yes, this sounds dumb to say, but the thing is that sometimes, an answer that does a really kick-ass job of making the argument better is attractive, even when it's the opposite of what you were supposed to be looking for. It's as if the mere fact that an answer choice has a clear effect on the passage makes it seem appealing in contrast to the sea of awful choices around it. Nearly every Weaken question has at least one answer choice that does something to strengthen the argument.

So, putting it all together here, we get a workup that looks something like this:

The zookeeper concludes that Jocko's keeping his mouth shut in order to keep the other chimps away from his banana [throughout, please try not to think of "banana" as a euphemism for anything]. 

This is an example of a Causal Flaw; the zookeeper has made an assumption about the cause of Jocko's behavior; essentially, she has assumed that chimpanzees are just kind of dicks. In her head, the other chimps heard about the bananas and then stole them (dicks!) and now Jocko wants to keep the last banana to himself (dick). And, hey; maybe that's true. But maybe there's another reason. As we head into answer choices, we do so with something specific in mind: We expect an answer that provides another possible cause for Jocko's behavior.

And then we notice how (B) does just that; if chimps bark only when there's lots of food, then maybe they're not dicks at all; maybe Jocko called the others over just to share, and when he had only one banana, and there wasn't enough to share, he didn't bother the others about it. This tells us the zookeeper was wrong in her assumption; chimps are really good sharers, and this alternate cause punctures the zookeeper's conclusion about Jocko's motives.

Lastly, notice that (E) tends to make the argument maybe a little better; if all the chimps love bananas, then maybe Jocko (being a chimp and thus a banana-lover) really did keep quiet so that those other a-holes wouldn't come steal his beloved banana.

So, that's that. Bananas!