Essayist: Only happiness is intrinsically valuable; other things are valuable only insofar as they contribute to h...

kens on May 6, 2020

question 19

I don't quite understand what "is itself to be understood in terms of happiness" is referring to? Also, can you explain in more detail why A is incorrect? Thanks in advance!

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Annie on May 7, 2020

Hi @Kenken,

This is a tricky question made difficult by the strange language used throughout it (you pinpointed one of those phrases in your question). The question asks you to pick the answer choice which "most logically completes" the conclusion of the argument.

Answer (A) is incorrect because it contradicts the sentence before the conclusion which reads "But the happiness people deserve is determined by the amount of happiness they bring to others." This sentence tells us that people deserve a certain amount of happiness and that amount is determined by how happy they make other people. So, Answer (A) cannot be correct because it says that the idea of "deserving" happiness is incoherent. This is contradictory to what the passage tells us.

Answer (C) is correct because it correctly fills in the gap. The argument is structured as a response to the "some philosophers" who argue that we value happiness only when its deserved. So, we need the conclusion to continue this response in some way. The argument tells us the amount of happiness that we deserve is determined by the happiness we cause. This essentially means that there's a happiness circle- with people deserving the happiness that they are causing- and it goes in an endless loop. Answer (C) reflects this loop by filling in that the idea of "deserving" happiness (as raised by "some philosophers") has to be understood in terms of happiness anyways (per the second to last sentence).

This question works hard to confuse test-takers with its strange wording. The key to trying to avoid getting lost in it is to try to break the argument down into its component parts and guess at the answer before turning to the answer choices. This will allow you to avoid being thrown off course by the odd phrasing.