How the pigment known as Han purple was synthesized by the ancient Chinese of the Qin and Han dynasties has puzzled s...

AndrewArabie on April 15, 2023

Why can't we rule out A for the same reason we ruled out C?

The explanation for C was that if the recipe for Han purple was known by very few people, it is as likely that Han purple was discovered accidentally as it is that it was discovered intentionally and kept a trade secret. To me that exact logic would apply to A as well. It is just as likely that Han purple was discovered intentionally and kept as a trade secret in that one area. My understanding of the stimulus is essentially: Because the ingredients to Han purple and white glass are the same, use a similar technique to produce, and because white glass is very common, it is likely that Han purple was discovered accidentally. Probably through over/under cooking or too much/less of one ingredient etc. Is my understanding of how the premises support the conclusion wrong?

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AndrewArabie on April 15, 2023

Why is even ruling out the fact they were produced in two locations a way to strengthen the argument? Why can't they be accidentally discovered in two locations?

Emil-Kunkin on April 16, 2023

Hi, I actually slightly disagree with the reason given for dismissing C, and I think your understanding of the argument is spot on. While I get what they explanation is saying (fewer people means less likely that people would have been experimenting, so less likely to have discovered by accident), I think there's another reason I dislike C: so what? So what that there were few people who knew the recipe? I struggle to come up with a good reason that that matters.

As for A, I don't think that same reasoning applies. A small radius could be a huge number of people. Even in the Bronze Age, population density in a Han or Qin capital could have been high.

More important, to your second question, I think it's important to rebut the idea that the two things were made in completely separate areas. If the purple were only found in areas that did not make the white glass, that would make it pretty unlikely that the purple was discovered while making white glass.

I like to think of strengthening questions as moving an offense forward. Some strengthening answers are a 75 yard TD pass to AJ Brown, others are a 1 yard rush up the middle. This is certainly a 1 yd rush up the middle.

AndrewArabie on April 17, 2023

Thank you Emil. I reread the explanation for why A is correct and I still don't quite understand it. Would you mind explaining that to me?

Emil-Kunkin on April 18, 2023

A is entirely a defensive strengthener: it's trying to rebut a possible counter argument. We could attack the argument by showing that the white glass was only ever made in Chengdu, and was never produced in any other area, and that the purple was only ever made in Louyang, thousands of miles away.

If this were true, this would severely weaken the argument. While it may still have been possible that craftsmen traveled between the two cities, if the two products were made in two distant and mutually exclusive areas it's unlikely that one was discovered by accident in the process of making the other.

A strengthens the argument by rebutting this possible weakener.

AndrewArabie on April 20, 2023

Great explanation! That makes total sense! I really have trouble with defensive strengtheners.