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Elle Woods
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Q12 - Art history professor: Costa criticizes

by smiller Fri Nov 10, 2017 9:03 am

Question Type:

Stimulus Breakdown:
Costa's argument:
Premise: There are no features possessed by all works of a certain historical period, and only by those works.
Conclusion: It is not intelligent to assign works of art to period styles.

Professor's argument:
Premise: Costa has theories about French opera that are based on assigning works of art to period styles.
Conclusion: Costa's argument can be discounted.

The professor's premise is found in the last sentence of the stimulus. We have to read this sentence carefully, since it refers back to an earlier sentence. "Such an assignment" refers to assigning works of art to period styles.

Answer Anticipation:
We don't have to dive too deeply into Costa's argument. Keep your eye on the ball—or in this case, the last sentence of the stimulus. We're looking for the flaw in the professor's argument. The professor states that we can disregard Costa's argument because the argument contradicts some of Costa's own theories. Does this prove that Costa's argument is wrong? Maybe Costa's argument is fine, and his theories are wrong.

Correct answer:

Answer choice analysis:
(A) Wrong flaw: This describes a conditional logic flaw—an illegal reversal, or for you true logic nerds out there, "affirming the consequent." For choice (A) to be correct, the professor would have to include a premise that states, "if Costa's argument can be discounted, then his argument contradicts his own theories," or something very similar. This isn't what's happening in the argument.

(B) Out of scope: The professor's whole argument seems to be about the present. There's no indication that the argument is confusing Costa's past theories with his present ones, so choice (B) isn't relevant.

(C) Correct: Let's break this answer down. Costa is criticizing the professor's theories. Costa's criticism is based on the reasoning (argument) described in the second sentence of the stimulus. The professor is rejecting Costa's criticism based only on the fact that the reasoning in that second sentence could be applied to Costa's own theories about French opera.

(D) Wrong flaw: How do the terms "art in general" and "every particular type of art" relate to the stimulus? Costa makes a claim about art in general: he says that it's unintelligent to assign works of art to period styles. Costa has theories about a particular type of art, French opera. But the professor's argument doesn't assume anything about "every particular type of art" based on Costa's claim about art in general.

(E) Wrong flaw: The argument doesn't assume that theories about art can't be compared to other theories.

When there is an argument within an argument, keep the sides straight. And as is often the case, this Flaw question requires us to unpack abstract language in answer choices.

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Vinny Gambini
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Re: Q12 - Art history professor: Costa criticizes

by MingL143 Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:38 pm

I understand why C is correct.
However, I still have trouble to understand why D is wrong. Is it wrong because of the wording "compare to"? So, if I change it to "The argument presumes, without providing justification, that theories about one type of art cannot be APPLIED to theories about another.", is it also the correct answer?
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Atticus Finch
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Re: Q12 - Art history professor: Costa criticizes

by ohthatpatrick Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:05 pm

When you read (D), I hope you're asking yourself
"DID the author have to assume this?"

The easiest type of trap answer to get rid of in Flaw questions are those answers that say the author
TAKES FOR GRANTED + something extreme
PRESUMES + something extreme

This professor had to assume that
"Anything that is true of art in general is also true of every particular type of art"?

That's such a broad, sweeping claim. Can we really the accuse the professor of believing such a thing?

If we say, "art in general involves working with your hands"
then this author must assume that "every type of art involves working with your hands"?

If we say, "art in general is something that is done by and for social elites", then this author must assume that "every type of art is done by and for social elites"?

I think you were attracted to (D) because you wanted an answer that was more like, "presumes that if a certain type of assigning is illegitimate for painting then that type of assigning is also illegitimate for opera".

Or in more general form, "presumes that something that is true of ONE particular type of art is also true of ANOTHER particular type of art".

(D) refers to the WHOLE vs. PART flaw (since it moves from "art in general" to "each type of art"), whereas the argument is committing the AD HOMINEM flaw (dismissing someone's ideas because of their ulterior motive or hypocritical behavior)