Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

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Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby 3|ink » Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:08 pm

Answer choice B was an obvious pick for me until I read answer choice D. I was still convinced that B was correct, but I couldn't rule out answer choice D without acknowledging that the LSAT made a mistake in language or that my understanding of the LSAT’s use of many is incorrect. Please allow me to elaborate:

First, it must be established that the stimulus sets up an 'If and Only If' relationship between the following conditions:

"A scientific theory is a good theory if it satisfies.”
AND
"It must accurately describe[s] a large class of observations in terms of a model that is simple enough to contain only a few elements, and make definite predictions about the results of future observations."

The combination of the “IF” and the “MUST” allows us to conclude that this is an “If and only if” conditional. I have no problem with this part of the stimulus. My problem is with the word “Few” in the second condition.

"Few" is a relative term. I don't see how it has any logical boundaries with the exception of "one or more". Answer choice D states that "A scientific theory that contains many elements is not a good theory." "Many" is also a relative term. However, for the purposes of the LSAT, I believe people have been debating whether "Many" means "one or more" or "more than two". If we accept the former definition, then there is really no way to rule out answer choice D, because "Few" and "Many" would have the same strict logical boundaries and would therefore be interchangeable in this context.

Since the question stem asks for what must be true EXCEPT (i.e. what is not necessarily true), the incorrect answer choices MUST BE TRUE. However, I submit that based on the former definition of “Many”, which is “one or more”, the statement in Answer choice D is not necessarily true and therefore could be the correct answer. A scientific theory that contains “MANY” elements could contain as many as “FEW” elements (one) based on the previously discussed definition. If this were the case, then we could not deduce that the model was not a good theory until knowing whether or not the other half of that condition had been met.

Based on this, we can deduce that one of the following probably happened:

1.) The LSAC screwed up. This is only PT4.
2.) “Many” actually means “two or more” for the purposes of the LSAT; or
3.) The LSAC intended “Many” to be relative to “Few” within the context of this passage. In any event, I think this would be a writing error.

Can anyone check my work here?

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby Anaconda » Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:35 pm

Many and few are both context based. Many plane crashes in the US could be 10 a year, even though there are thousands of flights every year. 10/10,000 could be considered few, but based on the context it could also be considered many. BUT, it could also mean that few means 1-2 and many means 10+, so it fluctuates.

Remember the ones that make clear distinctions are:

NONE: 0
Some: 1-100
Most: 51-100
ALL: 100

Few and Many are NOT included since they're totally based on context of the stimulus.

BTW, I'm shocked that there was a few/many distinction in an LSAT questions, that's really not fair IMO. You know what you're getting with some vs. most, but many vs. few blurs the line and makes you guess what the testmakers were thinking.

EDIT: thinking about this, there is a distinction between few and many if used in the same exact example. Many would certainly imply more than few, so that probably explains it. If you think about it many and few are only the same if used in different contexts. In the same context, they are different numerically. Still kind of an unfair answer choice, I doubt there's another one like it.
Last edited by Anaconda on Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby 3|ink » Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:42 pm

I agree that "many" and "few" are often relative, but I think this passage is poorly written if they expect us to deduce that "many" means more than "few". The LSAT tests us on this sort of thing all of the time. It would be inconsistent if they were to abandon the logical definitions of the terms and adhere simply to their relative meanings for the purposes of any single LR stimulus.

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby suspicious android » Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:51 pm

There's no problem here, "few" is less than "many", that makes perfect sense.

"Few" by itself is a relative term. When used in this manner, we can infer that "few" is less than "many" even if that word isn't used in the phrase. This makes sense according to both the formal meaning and our normal usage of the word. Consider:

Few Americans are from Ohio.

This sentence indicates that the number of Ohioans is relatively small compared to the number of Americans.

Few Americans are from Ohio, but many are from North Carolina.

This is a nonsensical phrase (assuming the population of Ohio is larger than the population of North Carolina). That's because "few" is always less than "many" within the same context.

Few Americansw are from Ohio, but many are from California.

This sentence makes sense, since the number of Californians exceeds the number of Ohioans. It only makes sense if that is true.

One slightly interesting thing, "few" doesn't necessarily imply the existance of any members of a group. For example, "Few people have been to Mars" is a true, intelligible English sentence, even though no human has ever been to Mars. "A few", in contrast, is a slightly different phrase. It is asserting the existance of a group, but need not refer to another group. "A few people prefer strawberry ice cream to chololate" indicates at least 2 ("a few" is plural) people like strawberry more than chocolate, but does not at all indicate the abundance or existance of chocolate lovers.

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby 3|ink » Fri Jul 30, 2010 3:35 pm

suspicious android wrote:There's no problem here, "few" is less than "many", that makes perfect sense.

"Few" by itself is a relative term. When used in this manner, we can infer that "few" is less than "many" even if that word isn't used in the phrase. This makes sense according to both the formal meaning and our normal usage of the word. Consider:

Few Americans are from Ohio.

This sentence indicates that the number of Ohioans is relatively small compared to the number of Americans.

Few Americans are from Ohio, but many are from North Carolina.

This is a nonsensical phrase (assuming the population of Ohio is larger than the population of North Carolina). That's because "few" is always less than "many" within the same context.

Few Americansw are from Ohio, but many are from California.

This sentence makes sense, since the number of Californians exceeds the number of Ohioans. It only makes sense if that is true.

One slightly interesting thing, "few" doesn't necessarily imply the existance of any members of a group. For example, "Few people have been to Mars" is a true, intelligible English sentence, even though no human has ever been to Mars. "A few", in contrast, is a slightly different phrase. It is asserting the existance of a group, but need not refer to another group. "A few people prefer strawberry ice cream to chololate" indicates at least 2 ("a few" is plural) people like strawberry more than chocolate, but does not at all indicate the abundance or existance of chocolate lovers.

I have to respectfully disagree on all counts. “Few” by itself doesn’t necessarily mean “Fewer” than “Many” just like “Many” by itself does not mean “Many more than few”. I agree that we typically accept “Many” to mean more than “Few” in conversation, but their logical meanings are not so cut and dry.

First, let’s look at your examples:

suspicious android wrote:Few Americans are from Ohio.


I have to agree that in the context of this sentence and based on our knowledge of the United States, the sentence does make sense. However, logically speaking, just because “Few Americans are from Ohio” does not mean that there are Americans who are not from Ohio. In fact, we could not rule out the fact that “All Americans are from Ohio.” This statement simply acknowledges that there exist a few Americans who are from Ohio. It does not provide sufficient language to indicate that the proportion of Americans from Ohio is less than the proportion of Americans not from Ohio.

suspicious android wrote:Few Americans are from Ohio, but many are from North Carolina.

Actually, this statement makes plenty of sense despite the difference in population. The difference between “Many” and “Few” is undefined here.

It wouldn’t make sense if it were written as.
“FEWER Americans are from Ohio than are from North Carolina”
Or
“Few Americans are from Ohio, but many MORE are from North Carolina”.
Few and More are only comparable when you take this extra step.

suspicious android wrote:Few Americans are from Ohio, but many are from California.


Still, the exact difference between “Few” and “Many” remains undefined here. This statement makes sense, but it doesn’t really tell us anything.

I also have to disagree with your statement that “few” doesn’t imply existence of a group. Logically speaking, you can’t really make a “Few” statement without acknowledging the existence of the subject group. It isn't the same as an "If..then" conditional statement. Otherwise, “few” would be interchangeable with “none” or “no”. For that reason, I have to say that “Few people have been to Mars” doesn’t really make sense, strictly speaking. I believe this is the source of confusion:

Few people have been to Mars =/= More people have not been to Mars than have been

This is because few is not necessarily a measure of proportion between two groups. “Fewer”, on the other hand, would be a measure of proportion. Few could simply reflect the author’s understanding of “few”.

Fewer = less than or zero
Few = more than one

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby AverageTutoring » Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:11 pm

Actually in the world of the LSAT the following definitions apply

Many: At least one (inclusive of some). Potentially All.

Few: Not many. Inclusive of 0.

A Few: Same as "Some" which means at least 1.

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby blhblahblah » Fri Jul 30, 2010 5:42 pm

suspicious android wrote:One slightly interesting thing, "few" doesn't necessarily imply the existance of any members of a group. For example, "Few people have been to Mars" is a true, intelligible English sentence, even though no human has ever been to Mars. "A few", in contrast, is a slightly different phrase. It is asserting the existance of a group, but need not refer to another group. "A few people prefer strawberry ice cream to chololate" indicates at least 2 ("a few" is plural) people like strawberry more than chocolate, but does not at all indicate the abundance or existance of chocolate lovers.


Now your moniker makes sense

Few necessarily commits to at least one member, but, unlike "some" or "many", which are equivalent terms, few cannot exceed most.

In other words, few is some, but not most

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby suspicious android » Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:21 pm

blhblahblah wrote:
Now your moniker makes sense

Few necessarily commits to at least one member, but, unlike "some" or "many", which are equivalent terms, few cannot exceed most.

In other words, few is some, but not most


I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing here, but tell me what you think of this:

Consider a universe with only three objects. All of them are apples, two are green, one is red.

A few apples are green. True.
Most apples are green. True.

So it seems to me that few and most can sometimes refer to the same quantity.

Now consider a universe with only five objects. Three of which are green apples, one of which is an green banana, one is a yellow banana.

A few fruits are green. True.
Most fruits are apples. True.

So it seems to me that few can sometimes refer to a quantity greater than most.

Now, additionally, given the second universe with three apples and two bananas:

A few fruits are oranges. Clearly false.
Few fruits are oranges. Sounds okay to me, but I won't argue it. The idea that "few" implies existance is not crazy, and I can't find any good sources either way, so I'll just concede this point.

And last:

A few fruits are apples (3) and many fruits are bananas (2).

This doesn't make any sense to me, although I don't think you claimed it did.

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby suspicious android » Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:31 pm

3|ink wrote:
Fewer = less than or zero
Few = more than one


This is definitely our point of contention, I'm not sure I want to get into it too much, might just be better to agree to disagree. Not saying you're wrong, or trying to be a last-word-getting asshole, just don't feel like arguing.

Do you agree or disagree that the statements "Few x's are y's" is different than "A few x's are y's"?

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby suspicious android » Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:35 pm

AverageTutoring wrote:Actually in the world of the LSAT the following definitions apply

Many: At least one (inclusive of some). Potentially All.

Few: Not many. Inclusive of 0.

A Few: Same as "Some" which means at least 1.


This is pretty much how I see it. Although isn't "many" plural?

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby skip james » Sat Jul 31, 2010 1:34 am

suspicious android wrote:I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing here, but tell me what you think of this:

Consider a universe with only three objects. All of them are apples, two are green, one is red.

A few apples are green. True.
Most apples are green. True.

So it seems to me that few and most can sometimes refer to the same quantity.


Yeah but you're taking 'few' out of context. In the argument at hand, the phrase is 'only a few'.

So the dual example should be:

Only a few apples are green.
Most/Many apples are green.

These statements cannot be simultaneously true.

Also, merriam webster's definition of 'few' is:
not many persons or things


http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/few

that essentially means that the term 'few' and the term 'many' are logical negations of each other, even if they do not specify a bottom limit or upper limit as precisely as, or as definitively as, the terms 'most' or 'half or less'.

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby 3|ink » Sat Jul 31, 2010 1:51 am

skip james wrote:
suspicious android wrote:I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing here, but tell me what you think of this:

Consider a universe with only three objects. All of them are apples, two are green, one is red.

A few apples are green. True.
Most apples are green. True.

So it seems to me that few and most can sometimes refer to the same quantity.


Yeah but you're taking 'few' out of context. In the argument at hand, the phrase is 'only a few'.

So the dual example should be:

Only a few apples are green.
Most/Many apples are green.

These statements cannot be simultaneously true.

Also, merriam webster's definition of 'few' is:
not many persons or things


http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/few

that essentially means that the term 'few' and the term 'many' are logical negations of each other, even if they do not specify a bottom limit or upper limit as precisely as, or as definitively as, the terms 'most' or 'half or less'.


This completely destroys my argument. I gladly concede. Thanks to Android, skip james and all others who contributed.

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Re: Few vs. Some - The Plot Thickens - PT 4, LR 2 #9

Postby Anaconda » Sat Jul 31, 2010 2:10 am

3|ink wrote:
This completely destroys my argument. I gladly concede. Thanks to Android, skip james and all others who contributed.


Only two options here: shed a few tears in the face of defeat, or shed many. The option is up to you. One WILL require more Kleenex :D




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