Few weaklings fail to be cowards

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sdwarrior403
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Few weaklings fail to be cowards

Postby sdwarrior403 » Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:14 pm

It seems there can be multiple ways to diagram this.

It comes from Preptest 29 Section 4 #21.

Weaklings-SOME-Cowards

Weaklings-SOME-~Cowards

Weaklings-MOST-Cowards

How does one deal with a statement like "Few A are B." Do we know for a fact that there are A's that are B's? Must there be a majority of A's that are not B's?

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Jeffort
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Re: Few weaklings fail to be cowards

Postby Jeffort » Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:53 pm

sdwarrior403 wrote:It seems there can be multiple ways to diagram this.

It comes from Preptest 29 Section 4 #21.

Weaklings-SOME-Cowards

Weaklings-SOME-~Cowards

Weaklings-MOST-Cowards

How does one deal with a statement like "Few A are B." Do we know for a fact that there are A's that are B's? Must there be a majority of A's that are not B's?


In the example you gave "Few A are B", phrased that way does indicate proportion, meaning only a small percentage of As are Bs, which would also imply that most As are not Bs. However, simply adding the letter A to the phrase "A few A are B" would change what it establishes because the phrase would then not be talking about a proportion of a group, but rather only an overall quantity. Depending on the full context/phrasing of the sentence, 'few' can mean a small amount/small number in quantity without indicating anything about what proportion in the group that small number constitutes.

'few' can be a bit logically tricky depending upon the exact phrasing and context. Compare a few different ways the word can be used:

A few XYZs showed up to the meeting.
vs.
Only a few of the XYZs showed up for the meeting.

The first does not establish that most XYZs did not show up whereas the second does establish that most XYZs that exist did not show up. The important thing for LSAT formal logic questions is simply to recognize that no matter which way it is phrased, 'few' always establishes 'some', and that is typically all that you'll need to derive in order to solve the question. Both XYZ example statements above establish that some XYZs showed up for the meeting.

The premise in the LR question you referenced does establish that most weaklings are cowards, but that didn't turn out to be important to solve the question. It was not part of the flawed reasoning leading to the conclusion. The flaw in the argument you were asked to parallel is drawing an invalid transitive conclusion by linking together and bridging together two 'some' premises to establish a 'some' quantity conclusion, which is always a flaw no matter the arrangement of the multiple linked premises. You can never form an absolute must be true valid quantified conclusion by putting two or more 'some' premises together. Some plus some never establishes a valid conclusion about quantity from one element group that must also be part of another element group.

tomwatts
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Re: Few weaklings fail to be cowards

Postby tomwatts » Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:58 pm

I can't recall off the top of my head a situation in which it matters exactly what "few" means. "Few... fail to be" definitely means that some are, but that's as far as I've bothered to go with it. Are there questions in which you have to go farther than that?

(It's been almost a year since the last time I taught LSAT, so I may just be forgetting some questions.)

I love to read this question in class, by the way.

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totgafk180
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Re: Few weaklings fail to be cowards

Postby totgafk180 » Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:21 pm

PT 44 – LR1 - #13

In this question, it seems that the usage of "few" refers to "most...not."

For example:

Few children went to the party. (Most children did not go.)

vs.

A few children went to the party. (Some children went.)

TylerJonesMPLS
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Re: Few weaklings fail to be cowards

Postby TylerJonesMPLS » Mon Sep 03, 2012 5:14 pm

Few = less than 50%. It would be perverse for the LSAC to mean by Few more than 50%, because their regular word for that is Most. And it would be just as perverse if 50% meant Few, because the LSAC’s regular word for 50% is half. Just imagine what an outcry there would be if Few really meant Most. The LSAC would have to remove that question from scoring, and the LSAC does not want that embarrassment.

Fail is functioning here as a negation. So the whole premise is:
Most cowards are fools.

I think that the first premise is ambiguous. Is All Too Many = Most or Half or Few? But fortunately, as Jeffort said, it doesn’t matter whether All Too Many means Most or Half or Few. Since it doesn’t matter, take All Too Many to mean Some, and get on with finding the correct answer choice.

So the premises are:

Some weaklings are cowards
Most cowards are fools.
Therefore, necessarily, at least one weakling is a fool.

C) is the only answer choice that has parallel fallacious reasoning.

When you see an ambiguous premise, always interpret it in the most natural way in the first instance. If you can’t find an answer choice that fits with the most natural interpretation of the premise, then try alternate interpretations.

From the LSAC’s point of view, it doesn’t matter whether a premise is ambiguous or not. It is your job to keep trying to find the right interpretation until you find one that has an answer choice that fits it. If you find two answer choices that fit two different interpretations of a premise, which is very very unlikely, then it is time to complain to LSAC and get that question removed from scoring.

Again, as long as one interpretation fits one answer choice, you have nothing to complain about. In law practice, you will certainly come across ambiguous claims, and it is your job to find the best interpretation. When the LSAT has ambiguous premises, that means that the LSAC is testing your ability to do this, and rightly so, because it is an essential skill for a lawyer to have.

The important question is, did you get the right answer choice? If you did, great, that was all you were asked to do. If you didn’t, then work on the best way to test all the interpretations you come up with as quickly as possible.




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