Wealth is not a good thing, for good things cause no harm at all, yet wealth is often harmful to people.Which one of ...

Jon on April 21, 2022

Thinking out loud...Is this the correct interpretation of "often"?

Hi there, I would imagine I'm among the majority of people who got the answer incorrect. I selected answer choice (D) because I thought that the use of the word 'often' in the stimulus showed the argument to be invalid, hence matching an, albeit incorrectly perceived, invalid argument to another invalid argument. Having said that, I struggled to understand what was meant by the word 'often' in the stimulus, and the commentary in the answer choice is still quite opaque. So, I'm going to try to state what I think the commentator is trying to say and then hopefully one of the tutors can correct me, or affirm the interpretation I made. 'Often' as it is used in the stimulus is not used to imply a quantifier of 'some'. Instead, it's used to describe the frequency of an occurrence amongst every member of a particular group. As an example, let's say there was a group of 100 people and all of these people had wealth, whatever the definition of wealth may be... In my original interpretation of the word 'often', I thought that the stimulus was implying that 'some' of the holders of wealth experienced harm, say 20 of them, while the other 80 in the group did not experience harm because of wealth. This, however, is clearly incorrect. What I think the commentator in the answer choice is saying is that, given this same example of 100 holders of wealth, all 100 of them would experience pain because of the wealth. The word 'often', rather than implying that a portion of the 100 experience pain, implies that all 100 holders of wealth often/frequently experience pain over time. That is the only way I can rationalize the stimulus as a valid argument. Is this a correct interpretation? if not, can you please expound on the point. Thank you, Jon

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Emil on April 27, 2022

Hi @Jonjay,

Personally, I actually would have considered the word "often" to be equivalent to a "some" or "many." We could rephrase the final clause to read something like "wealth is harmful to some/many people who have it."

That said, I don't disagree at all with the point that you summarized, the word often could indeed mean that of people who have wealth, some uncertain percent (could be 20, could be 60, could be 80) are harmed by that wealth. That is, I think your initial interpretation was correct. However, it does not have to be the case that wealth harms 100 percent of people who have it. In fact, (D) is wrong for a different reason.

The stimulus precedes as follows:
W not good, because good does not harm, and W sometimes harms.
We could "anonymize" this as follows
A is not B, because B never C, and A some C

Let's look at (D),
S is not D, because S is H, and D rarely H.

This answer choice is missing the "never" that we would have expected from the stimulus.

Let's apply this approach to (A) then.
A does G, and C never G, so A is not C.

While this is in the wrong order, the logic flow is very similar to the stimulus. We could rearrange this to read
A is not C, because C never G, and alex is G.

The first two parts of this are identical to the stimulus, and the final part is close- although not an exact match. Rather than saying that wealth often harms, we are told that Alex plays golf. There is a mismatch between the subject matter (one person or a concept like wealth), but in both cases, the final part tells us that the "never" condition has been violated.