June 2007 LSAT, II, #25

Section 2 of the June 2007 LSAT wraps up with a mystery. We're told that the French academy of art was "a major financial sponsor" of both painting and sculpture in France in the 19th century. We're also told that the academy "discouraged innovation in the arts." But then we're told a puzzling fact: French sculpture during that period showed little innovation, while French painting showed a lot of innovation. Why would this be? The question says exactly that: "Which one of the following, if true, most helps to explain the difference between the amount of innovation in French painting and the amount of innovation in French sculpture during the nineteenth century?"

You've gotta let your natural curiosity get aroused here: If the academy was funding both painters and sculptors, and "discouraged innovation," then why would the painters go on innovating while the sculptors didn't? The correct answer must EXPLAIN this mystery.

Before looking at the answer choices, I have a few ideas:

1) Maybe the painters were also funded by a lot of OTHER sources, for example wealthy patrons, so maybe the painters weren't as beholden to the anti-innovation academy. Maybe the sculptors had no other funding. If this scenario is true, it would be a good explanation for why the painters kept innovating but the sculptors didn't.

2) Maybe painters are just naturally ballsier than sculptors. Maybe the painters didn't care if the academy kicked them out on the street. Maybe the painters were all single bohemians, while the sculptors had families to support. If this scenario is true, it explains the innovation discrepancy.

3) Maybe there was simply no room to innovate in sculpture at the time--maybe everything had already been invented in sculpture. Maybe painting, on the other hand, was ripe for innovation at the time. This scenario is unlikely, perhaps... but if it's true, it explains the innovation discrepancy.

One last thing before looking at the answers. Let me tell you an answer that would certainly NOT be correct: "Contrary to previous accounts, there was actually quite a lot of innovation in French sculpture in the 19th century." There is no way in hell that would be the correct answer, because it doesn't "explain" anything. Instead, it says "oh, actually, there was no mystery in the first place." This type of answer is like a mystery/suspense movie where the lead character wakes up at the end of the movie and ooooooooooh... IT WAS ALL A DREAM!  That's not an explanation! That's cheating! The correct answer on an LSAT "Explanation" question must actually EXPLAIN something.

Okay, our curiosity has been aroused. We really want to know why there was innovation in painting but not in sculpture. (If we're not actually interested, we're going to fake interest in hopes of actually getting interested.) So let's find the answer choice that makes us go "OHHHHHH, I see! That makes sense."

A)  This, if true, would actually make it harder to understand why the painters kept innovating and the sculptors didn't. No way.

B) I don't think so. If each individual painter was getting MORE money from the academy than each individual sculptor, wouldn't that make the painters more likely to bow to the wishes of the academy? This answer, like A, actually seems to muddy the waters instead of making things clear.

C) Ahhhhhh this makes sense. This answer, if true, provides a good reason why sculptors had to do what the academy wanted (stone was too expensive to buy without academy support) but painters could continue innovating (because they could still sneak out and buy some canvas and produce whatever they wanted). This seems like an explanation, so it might be the answer. It's certainly better than A and B.

D) So what? This says "the sculptors and painters were mostly two different groups of people," but it doesn't even start to explain why one group continued innovating while the other group did not. No way.

E) Again, this answer makes no distinction between the circumstances and motivations of painters and those of sculptors. How can this explain anything about the difference in behavior of the two groups? Luckily, C was a good explanation... so our answer is C.

And that's the end of Section 2! It's been a pleasure writing these explanations. If you have any questions or comments or feedback, please email me or leave a comment on the page--I'd like to make the blog as useful as possible for my students. Next time, I'll be back with our first look at Logic Games.

Best,

--nathan