June 2007 LSAT, II, #11

Section 2, number 11 of the June 2007 LSAT asks us to identify "the role played in the argument" by one sentence of a longer argument.  The sentence in question is "several centuries ago, the complaint was that certain intellectual skills... were being destroyed by the spread of literacy."  I'm going to attack this question by asking one, two, or three questions of my own. 1)  Is it the conclusion of the argument?  (If yes, then that's the answer.)

2)  If not, then does it support the conclusion of the argument?  (i.e., is it a premise of the argument?)  (If yes, then that's the answer.)

3)  Or is it something else entirely?

Go ahead and ask yourself these questions now.  As always, remember that the answer choices aren't going to explain anything to us.  We've got to arm ourselves with a prediction before wandering into the disorienting jungle of the answer choices.

1)  Is it the conclusion of the argument?

Um, I don't think so.  I think the conclusion of the argument is the very last line:  "What awaits us is probably a mere alteration of the human mind, rather than its devolution."

2)  Does it support the conclusion of the argument?

Let's see:  "Several centuries ago the complaint was that certain intellectual skills, such as the powerful memory and extemporaneous eloquence that were intrinsic to oral culture, were being destroyed by the spread of literacy"... THEREFORE... "What awaits us is probably a mere alteration of the human mind rather than its devolution."

Yes, I think that sounds pretty good.  The bit about the old complaint is being used in a "the sky wasn't falling then, so it's probably not falling now" sort of argument.  "Our brains were just changing then, not disappearing... so our brains are probably just changing now."  I think the phrase in question is support for the argument's conclusion.  So I don't need to ask my third question (is it something else).

A)  No, this answer choice misstates the conclusion of the argument.  The argument concluded that the sky was NOT falling, but this answer says the sky IS falling.

B)  Uh, no.  I think this answer also misstates the conclusion of the argument.  The speaker wasn't trying to show that "intellectual abilities are inseparable from the means by which people communicate."  The speaker was just trying to show that, in this case, the sky isn't falling.  Still looking.

C)  Okay, this is the best one so far.  The complaint from centuries ago was used to provide an example in support of the idea that the sky isn't falling.  I like this answer.  I hope D and E are both bad, so I can happily choose C.

D)  I think this answer misstates the conclusion of the argument.  The conclusion was NOT that we aren't losing the intellectual skills required and fostered by the literary media.  We probably are!  The conclusion of the argument was a different way to interpret that fact:  Our brains are changing and we're getting new skills as we outgrow other skills.  This answer feels like a trap to me.  I still like C the best.

E)  The argument does not "dismiss" the example from centuries ago.  Rather, the argument relies on the example from centuries ago to try to make a point.  Our answer is C.