LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Quick Hit: Mutual Causality for Her Pleasure

Quick Hit: Mutual Causality for Her Pleasure



Flaw Types on the LSAT and Reading Every Answer Choice in the Logical Reasoning Section

Today, we're going to have a twofer; yes, about flaw types and answering Flaw Questions, but also about how to deal with answer choices, generally (I KNOW. IT'S ALMOST LIKE WE'RE WORKING OUT OF A COMPLETE, COHERENT SYSTEM OR SOMETHING).

Again, we start with our Four-Fold Path™ (not really ™, but as you know, it's important for test prep people to ™ things, and I didn't want to miss out on the fun).

  1. This question asks that we analyze the argument for weakness, and then say what the weakness is.
  2. The right answer will correctly identify something that the argument has assumed to be true.
  3. If the argument displays typically flawed reasoning, then we can expect language that describes a typical flaw [for more on typical LSAT flaws, check out the free series on typical flaws starting here, with some thoughts about Cause].
  4. We'll probably see a wrong answer that correctly identifies a common flaw of reasoning, just one that was not committed in the argument at hand.

Here, the arguer claims that crying reduces emotional stress, because crying removes lots of hormones that are present in times of stress. This argument gives us a typical error in reasoning; I call it the Causal Flaw (BECAUSE. Just because.) When I say it's typical, all I mean is that it happens a lot. All the time, you'll find an argument that shows two things go together, then just assumes that one of those things causes the other.

In this case, the author has shown us that these hormones in the tears are present with stress. Then, by claiming that removing those hormones reduces stress, she has implicitly—and illicitly, and feloniously! (?)—assumed that those hormones cause the stress.

So I go into answer choices looking for something that identifies the causal error this arguer has committed. And I see (C) and it's got the word "causally" in it like six times, plus it's really dense and hard to read, and that seems about right for a Question 24, so I'm all "Yes!" but then, I keep skimming, JUST TO BE SURE, and I see (E) and that's also about cause and yet it's much more clearly-written and I'm pretty sure what it's saying is actually right, so now I need to read these two and think about them for just a sec. [So, again, this is the way I deal with answer choices; it starts with knowing—through practice!—what the right answer should look like. Then it's mostly just skimming until I find the answer that says what I want.]

So, on sober reflection, (E) is surely right; it says exactly what we said above when diagnosing the error of this argument. But what about that attractive (C) answer?

Let's unpack it, just for fun profit sh*ts and giggles™:

(C) says that we've forgotten to consider that just because A causes B, that doesn't mean that B can't also cause A. Now, this would be a bad thing to have done; it's just that our argument didn't do it. An example would be the relationship between public schools and local home prices; high prices pay for good schools, but at the same time, good schools help drive prices up [feelings about this redacted for brevity]. In this argument, we made no claim about mutual causation, so (C) just doesn't apply to what we're actually dealing with.

And now, being finished with that causes me to be done with this post.