People who take what others regard as a ridiculous position should not bother to say, "I mean every word!" For either...

Jesse on July 29, 2014

Explanation

Can you explain this please? Thank you!

3 Replies

Melody on July 31, 2014

Alright let's break this argument down.

We are told that those who take on a position that others find ridiculous should never say "I mean every word." Why? Because either their position is ridiculous and saying that will merely expose them to more embarrassment, or their position isn't ridiculous, in which case they should corroborate it with a rational argument as opposed to "assurances of their sincerity."

So stripping the argument down to its core, we are introduced to something that others think is not good in some way, they should never say a specific phrase. Why? Because either others are correct, meaning this position is not good, which will only cause matters to be worse, or others are incorrect, meaning the position should be defended in a better way.

Let's look at answer choice (A).

"A practice that has been denounced as a poor practice should not be defended on the grounds that 'this is how we have always done it.' If the practice is a poor one, so much the worse that it has been extensively used; if it is not a poor one, there must be a better reason for engaging in it than inertia."

Answer choice (A) follows the same reasoning as the argument.

We are given something that is thought of as not good in some way, i.e. "a practice that has been denounced as a poor practice." We are then told that a phrase should not be said referring to this practice, i.e. "should not be defended on the grounds that 'this is how we have always done it.'" We are told that if those who denounce it are right, then things will only be worse, i.e. "If the practice is a poor one, so much the worse that it has been extensively used." And we are told that if those who denounce it are not right, then the position should be defended in a better way, i.e. "if it is not a poor one, there must be a better reason for engaging in it than inertia."

Hope that clears things up! Please let us know if you have any more questions.

Julie on August 3 at 03:55PM

I was wondering if explanations can be given for answer choices (D) and (E) because I had a hard time breaking them down. Thanks!

Ravi on August 3 at 10:44PM

@Julie-V,

Let's take a look at (D) and (E).

(D) says, "Scholars who champion unpopular new theories should not
assume that the widespread rejection of their ideas shows that they
"must be on the right track." The truth is that few theories of any
consequence are either wholly right or wholly wrong and thus there is
no substitute for patient work in ascertaining which parts are right."

The original argument discusses two distinct possibilities. With (D),
it appears that there are an infinite number of possibilities because
almost no theory is totally right or totally wrong. Thus, we can get
rid of this answer choice.

(E) says, "People who set themselves goals that others denounce as
overly ambitious do little to silence their critics if they say, "I
can accomplish this if anyone can." Rather, those people should either
admit that their critics are right or not dignify the criticism with
any reply."

(E) does not completely parallel the argument in the stimulus. With
(E), there are two possible ways in which the goal setters should
respond to their critics, but the argument in the stimulus is more
about the two different types of ways that the critics would respond.
Thus, we can get rid of (E).

Does this make sense? Let us know if you have any other questions!