In their creation of the LSAT, the test makers have found many ways to make Logical Reasoning questions challenging. Often the stimulus is so long or complex that it can be tough to get through. Sometimes even the question stems can be difficult to interpret. And, as you may have noticed, the writers of the test are quite adept at hiding the right answers among very appealing incorrect answer choices.
One element that is often used to complicate language is that of the double (or multiple) negative. When you’re dealing with complicated ideas, any additional element of difficulty can make things much more challenging. If I were to tell you, for example, that it would be disingenuous for me to claim that I was not entirely without regret when I chose not to abstain from the vote on the ban, I would not be totally surprised if you weren’t completely sure whether I had voted, or how I felt about my decision.
Double negatives and multiple negatives appear routinely on the LSAT. Why? Because the test makers are well aware of the challenge they can provide. A great example comes from the second Logical Reasoning section from PrepTest 51, which includes in question #23 a stimulus that takes an impressive number of turns: “mistake…not inclined…do otherwise…does not deserve…resist a desire…to do what is wrong…no less virtuous…in extinguishing.” All of these negative concepts appear not just in a single stimulus—but in a single sentence.
The case made by the ethicist, the specified speaker in this example, is that one would be wrong to claim that the absence of an inclination otherwise makes a person undeserving of praise for doing the right thing, based on the fact that although we consider the successful resistance of wrongful inclinations particularly virtuous, there is not less virtue associated with a complete cessation of such wrongful inclinations. that’s a tough point by itself, made even more complicated by the language choices used by the test makers!
This is Intentional
Perhaps this point could have been made in a slightly more straightforward way: Just because someone doesn’t even want to do bad, that doesn’t mean the person is not virtuous. Sure, we usually think of resisting bad desires as a virtue, but it’s just as good to have totally gotten rid of such desires in the first place.
The bottom line is that you need to carefully track negatives. And that’s because I’m not unconvinced that these test makers are very good at what they do.
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