Drama critic: There were many interesting plays written last year. Surely some will gain widespread popularity for at...

Kim on August 18, 2014

Please Explain

Please explain correct answer

3 Replies

Melody on August 26, 2014

Here we have a Strengthen with Necessary Premise question. Remember that a premise is necessary for a conclusion if the falsity of the premise guarantees or brings about the falsity of the conclusion. First, we check to see if the answer choice strengthens the passage, and then, if it does strengthen, we negate the answer choice to see if its negation makes the argument fall apart. If the answer choice does both those things, then it is our correct answer.

The conclusion of the argument is: none of the plays written last year will be popular several centuries from now.

Why? "The only plays that continue to be performed regularly over many decades and centuries are those that skillfully explore human nature, and none of the plays written last year examine human nature in a particularly skillful way."

Let's diagram:

"The only plays that continue to be performed regularly over many decades and centuries are those that skillfully explore human nature,"

PR: CMPD ==> SEHN
not SEHN ==> not CMPD

(Remember that "the only" introduces a sufficient condition, while "only" introduces a necessary condition.)

"none of the plays written last year examine human nature in a particularly skillful way."

P1: not SEHN

"none will be popular several centuries from now."

C: not PSYN

Answer choice (A) states: "No play will be popular several centuries from now unless it continues to be performed."

(A) PSYN ==> CMPD
not CMPD ==> not PSYN

Answer choice (A) strengthens the argument because we can use the transitive property to connect the contrapositive of the PR to the contrapositive of (A) to get: not SEHN ==> not CMPD ==> not PSYN and conclude: not SEHN ==> not PSYN, i.e. our conclusion. Thus, answer choice (A) supports the argument.

Now, let's negate. Answer choice (A) is a Sufficient & Necessary statement. So we must show the sufficient condition being present without the necessary condition in order to negate it.

Negation: If a play will be popular several centuries from now, then it does not necessarily continue to be performed.

N: PSYN ==> not CMPD
CMPD ==> not PSYN

If we take the negation of answer choice (A) to be true, then that means that continuing to be performed is not a requirement for the play to be popular several centuries from now. Therefore, the fact that none of the plays written last year will continue to be performed regularly over many decades and centuries to come no longer necessarily means we can conclude that none of them will be popular several centuries from now. So, the negation of answer choice (A) makes the conclusion of the argument fall apart.

Thus, answer choice (A) is our correct answer.

Hope that was helpful! Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Melissa Friday at 08:21PM

Hi, could this question be explained in a different manner? I'm still having a bit of trouble following. Thank you.

Victoria Monday at 01:57PM

Hi @melissarod20,

Happy to help!

As Naz said, this is a Strengthen with Necessary Premise question. Therefore, the correct answer choice will outline the underlying assumption that has been made by the critic which is necessary for them to properly draw their conclusion.

How do we find the correct answer? We are looking for the answer choice which:

(1) Fills in a gap in reasoning, thereby strengthening the argument; AND
(2) If negated, no longer allows the conclusion to be properly drawn

As the correct answer choice will be one that, if negated, no longer allows the critic to properly draw their conclusion, it is a necessary assumption.

Now, let's go through the stimulus.

The critic concludes that, while there were many interesting plays written last year, none will be popular several centuries from now.

Why? Because the only plays that continue to be performed regularly over many decades and centuries (PRDC) are those that skillfully explore human nature (SEHN), and none of the plays written last year skillfully explore human nature.

P1: PRDC --> SEHN
Contrapositive: Not SEHN --> Not PRDC

The critic's reasoning suggests that there is a connection between being performed regularly over many decades and centuries and popularity several centuries from now. However, there is no such relationship explicitly stated in the critic's reasoning.

To strengthen this reasoning, we are looking for an answer choice which expresses this relationship.

Therefore, we can eliminate answer choices (B) and (D) because they focus on the relationship between popularity/exploration of human nature and critical acclaim.

We can also eliminate answer choice (C) because it is irrelevant. The critic does not necessarily have to have read or seen a play performed to know whether it skillfully examines human nature. Maybe their friend saw it and told them about it or maybe they read a review in the newspaper.

This narrows down our possible answer choices to (A) and (E). (E) is tempting, but (A) explicitly focuses on the relationship between popularity several centuries from now and regular performance.

Answer choice (A) tells us that no play will be popular several centuries from now (PCN) unless it continues to be performed regularly during the intervening time (PRDC).

PCN --> PRDC
Not PRDC --> not PCN

Notice that we can connect the contrapositive of answer choice (A) to the contrapositive of the critic's premise.

Not SEHN --> Not PRDC --> Not PCN
Not SEHN --> Not PCN

This allows the critic to properly conclude that none of the plays written last year will be popular several centuries from now because the sufficient condition (i.e. not skillfully exploring human nature) has been met.

Therefore, we have met the first requirement for the correct answer of a Strengthen with Necessary Premise question. Now, we must determine whether answer choice (A), if negated, no longer allows the conclusion to be properly drawn.

If we negate answer choice (A), then we can no longer make our transitive chain. If a play is not popular several centuries from now, then it has not necessarily been performed continually during the intervening time.

Not PCN --> Not PRDC
PRDC --> PCN

Therefore, answer choice (A) has met both of our requirements and is the correct answer.

Hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any further questions.