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Elle Woods
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Q16 - The prevailing view among historians

by smiller Fri Nov 10, 2017 9:53 am

Question Type:

Stimulus Breakdown:
Premise: Medieval European record keepers were members of the clergy.
Premise: It would not be surprising if these record keepers exaggerated people's religious devotion.
Conclusion: There is reason to doubt the prevailing view that peasants in medieval Europe were deeply religious.

Answer Anticipation:
It might not be surprising if the clergy exaggerated people's beliefs, but do we have any evidence that they actually did? No. The argument doesn't present evidence that the record keepers actually exaggerated anything. And even if they did, was there a small amount of exaggeration, or a lot? We have no idea. Maybe the clergy exaggerated a bit, but the peasants were also very devoted.

The conclusion is questioning the "prevailing view" among historians; in other words, it's questioning a view widely held by people who are presumably knowledgeable about the subject. If we're going to doubt their opinion, it would help to have stronger evidence. A correct answer will widen the gap between the questionable evidence and the conclusion.

Correct answer:

Answer choice analysis:
(A) Too weak: Even if there are "a number of documents" detailing nonreligious activities, the clergy could still be exaggerating people's degree of religious devotion.

(B) Unhelpful comparison: This might explain why clergy kept records of peasants, but doesn't help us decide if they did or didn't exaggerate any details in those records.

(C) Correct: If the clergy were exaggerating the peasants' religious devotion, why didn't they also exaggerate the merchants' and nobles' devotion? This casts doubt on the assumption that the clergy actually did exaggerate the peasants' devotion.

(D) Out of Scope: We don't know if historians have or have not consulted all relevant surviving records, so this doesn't strengthen or weaken the argument.

(E) Too specific: Knowing that documents contained "detailed" descriptions doesn't help us. "Detailed" descriptions might or might not be exaggerated.

Stating that something would not be surprising does not provide strong evidence that it actually happened.

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Vinny Gambini
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Re: Q16 - The prevailing view among historians

by MatthewE452 Fri Feb 02, 2018 4:39 pm

Hi. Can you explain C further? I'm confused as to how the portrayal of merchants or nobles weakens the prevailing view about peasants.
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Vinny Gambini
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Re: Q16 - The prevailing view among historians

by MingL143 Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:39 pm

Why is D wrong? “ Historian cannot develop a reliable account of the religious attitudes held during any given historical period unless they have consulate all of the relevant surviving records from that period”. Is it wrong because “ the surviving records can be the record keepers”, therefore won’t weaken the argument”?
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Atticus Finch
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Re: Q16 - The prevailing view among historians

by ohthatpatrick Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:19 pm

I'm basically looking for an answer choice that would help me to argue, "We CAN trust the prevailing view", i.e. "medieval European peasants WERE deeply dedicated to religion".

How would (D) help me do that?

In order for (D) to help me say we CAN trust the prevailing view / historians HAVE developed a reliable account, then I would need to know that historians have consulted all the relevant surviving records from that period.

But I don't know if they have or haven't. If anything, the gist I got from reading the argument was that "the surviving records" come from members of the clergy.

As a conditional rule, we can tell that (D) isn't going to help us prove that historians HAVE developed a reliable account, since the rule looks like this:
"IF haven't consulted all records, THEN can't develop reliable account"

This rule has no power to ever prove that someone CAN or DID develop a reliable account.

Meanwhile, for the previous poster, (C) helps me to stick up for the prevailing view by saying, "Hey, we can put some trust in the records kept by the clergy. After all, if they were so biased towards religion that they were motivated to exaggerate people's religious devotion, then we would expect them to exaggerate everyone's religious devotion (especially the powerful and influential). But since the records indicate that the powerful / influential people weren't dedicated to religion, it looks like the clergy was not exaggerating everyone's devotion."

Sure, it's still possible that the clergy lied about one group and told the truth about the other (or lied about both). But (C) weakens the idea that the clergy records were some pro-religion lie.

It's akin to if someone nowadays were to complain
"Fox News is just state run media. They exaggerate the successes and virtues of the Trump administration. So we can't trust them as a source of reality."

Were someone to respond
"There are many pundits on Fox News who are openly critical of the Trump administration"
that person would be salvaging some credibility for Fox News and weakening the claim that the network is simply propaganda.