June 2013 LSAT, LR2, Q15 linguist vs. philosopher

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project Holy hell, what is this bullshit? I only wrote a handful of the Logical Reasoning explanations for this project--the crowd did the bulk of the work--but here, yet again, I want to slap someone in the face. The philosopher is a dumbass.

His nonsensical conclusion is that "Ivan and Joan are siblings" cannot be identical in meaning to "Joan and Ivan are siblings." We all know that's untrue. So how did the philosopher get to the peak of Mount Jackass? Well, the two sentences are "physically different," and in order for two things to be the same, they must have "all the same attributes." If you add those two things together, you get "therefore the two sentences don't mean the same thing." Right? Right? 

Wrong. If I were the linguist, after removing my glove and using it to deliver a swift blow to the philosopher's face, I would calmly explain that "physically different" and "all the same attributes" do not have to be mutually exclusive. For example, if I made a cheeseburger with the cheese under the beef, and made another cheeseburger with the cheese on top of the beef, the two burgers would be physically different. But they would, nonetheless, have all the same attributes. They'd both be cheeseburgers... they'd be "identical in meaning" to my belly. Shit, I could get crazy and put the cheese inside the patty... it would still be a cheeseburger. (I can imagine the geniuses at Carl's Junior getting ahold of that last idea... "We've revolutionized the cheeseburger!")

We're asked to find a "logical counter" to the philosopher's stupid argument. Let's see if we can find an answer that matches up to our cheeseburger retort.

A. No, the linguist doesn't need to prove that the two sentences are identical. Since the words are in different order, they're clearly not. The linguist only needs to show that the two sentences have identical meaning.

B. This is true in real life. "You're on fire!" can mean one thing in the context of a basketball game and another thing entirely in the context of a Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial.


But anyway, neither speaker was talking about how identical sentences can mean different things. The point was whether different sentences can mean identical things.

C. No. The point isn't whether the two sentences, in fact, have identical meaning. We're not arguing about the definition of the word "sibling." The philosopher is certainly vulnerable to attack on this point, but the thing about siblings was really just an example. The linguist could make a stronger attack by attacking the foundation of the philosopher's argument, rather than attacking one dumb example. (If the linguist said C, I would be afraid that the philosopher would respond with some other dumb example, and could spend all day coming up with dumb examples.)

D. Yes, perfect. The linguist should calmly point out that generally, identical meaning and identical structure are two different issues. This would prevent any other dumb examples from spilling out of the philosopher's mouth. If the linguist said D, the philosopher be forced to shut up. This answer also makes our cheeseburger example work... two cheeseburgers don't have to be completely identical in order to mean (or taste) the same.

E. Experience is completely irrelevant... neither speaker relies on "experience" to make his point.

Our answer is D, because it shows the philosopher's confusion between structure and meaning.

Please ask questions and/or suggest corrections to anything that seems confusing... we want to make this the best resource we can for LSAT students. We'll have all the June 2013 explanations up as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading. Tell your friends!


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Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project