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Direct observation of contemporary societies at the threshold of wides

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Direct observation of contemporary societies at the threshold of wides  [#permalink]

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New post 05 Apr 2019, 09:19
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New Project RC Butler 2019 - Practice 2 RC Passages Everyday
Passage # 127, Date : 05-APR-2019
This post is a part of New Project RC Butler 2019. Click here for Details


Direct observation of contemporary societies at the threshold of widespread literacy has not assisted our understanding of how such literacy altered ancient Greek society, in particular its political culture. The discovery of what Goody has called the “enabling effects” of literacy in contemporary societies tends to seduce the observer into confusing often rudimentary knowledge of how to read with popular access to important books and documents; this confusion is then projected onto ancient societies. “In ancient Greece,” Goody writes, “alphabetic reading and writing was important for the development of political democracy.”

An examination of the ancient Greek city Athens exemplifies how this sort of confusion is detrimental to understanding ancient politics. In Athens, the early development of a written law code was retrospectively mythologized as the critical factor in breaking the power monopoly of the old aristocracy: hence the Greek tradition of the “law-giver,” which has captured the imaginations of scholars like Goody. But the application and efficacy of all law codes depend on their interpretation by magistrates and courts, and unless the right of interpretation is “democratized,” the mere existence of written laws changes little.

In fact, never in antiquity did any but the elite consult documents and books. Even in Greek courts the juries heard only the relevant statutes read out during the proceedings, as they heard verbal testimony, and they then rendered their verdict on the spot, without the benefit of any discussion among themselves. True, in Athens the juries were representative of a broad spectrum of the population, and these juries, drawn from diverse social classes, both interpreted what they had heard and determined matters of fact. However, they were guided solely by the speeches prepared for the parties by professional pleaders and by the quotations of laws or decrees within the speeches, rather than by their own access to any kind of document or book.

Granted, people today also rely heavily on a truly knowledgeable minority for information and its interpretation, often transmitted orally. Yet this is still fundamentally different from an ancient society in which there was no “popular literature,” i.e., no newspapers, magazines, or other media that dealt with sociopolitical issues. An ancient law code would have been analogous to the Latin Bible, a venerated document but a closed book. The resistance of the medieval Church to vernacular translations of the Bible, in the West at least, is therefore a pointer to the realities of ancient literacy. When fundamental documents are accessible for study only to an elite, the rest of the society is subject to the elite’s interpretation of the rules of behavior, including right political behavior. Athens, insofar as it functioned as a democracy, did so not because of widespread literacy, but because the elite had chosen to accept democratic institutions.
1. Which one of the following statements best expresses the main idea of the passage?

(A) Democratic political institutions grow organically from the traditions and conventions of a society.
(B) Democratic political institutions are not necessarily the outcome of literacy in a society.
(C) Religious authority, like political authority, can determine who in a given society will have access to important books and documents.
(D) Those who are best educated are most often those who control the institutions of authority in a society.
(E) Those in authority have a vested interest in ensuring that those under their control remain illiterate.


2. It can be inferred from the passage that the author assumes which one of the following about societies in which the people possess a rudimentary reading ability?

(A) They are more politically advanced than societies without rudimentary reading ability.
(B) They are unlikely to exhibit the positive effects of literacy.
(C) They are rapidly evolving toward widespread literacy.
(D) Many of their people might not have access to important documents and books.
(E) Most of their people would not participate in political decision-making.


3. The author refers to the truly knowledgeable minority in contemporary societies in the context of the fourth paragraph in order to imply which one of the following?

(A) Because they have a popular literature that closes the gap between the elite and the majority, contemporary societies rely far less on the knowledge of experts than did ancient societies.
(B) Contemporary societies rely on the knowledge of experts, as did ancient societies, because contemporary popular literature so frequently conveys specious information.
(C) Although contemporary societies rely heavily on the knowledge of experts, access to popular literature makes contemporary societies less dependent on experts for information about rules of behavior than were ancient societies.
(D) While only some members of the elite can become experts, popular literature gives the majority in contemporary society an opportunity to become members of such an elite.
(E) Access to popular literature distinguishes ancient from contemporary societies because it relies on a level of educational achievement attainable only by a contemporary elite.


4. According to the passage, each of the following statements concerning ancient Greek juries is true EXCEPT:

(A) They were somewhat democratic insofar as they were composed largely of people from the lowest social classes.
(B) They were exposed to the law only insofar as they heard relevant statutes read out during legal proceedings.
(C) They ascertained the facts of a case and interpreted the laws.
(D) They did not have direct access to important books and documents that were available to the elite.
(E) They rendered verdicts without benefit of private discussion among themselves.


5. The author characterizes the Greek tradition of the “law-giver” (Highlighted) as an effect of mythologizing most probably in order to

(A) illustrate the ancient Greek tendency to memorialize historical events by transforming them into myths
(B) convey the historical importance of the development of the early Athenian written law code
(C) convey the high regard in which the Athenians held their legal tradition
(D) suggest that the development of a written law code was not primarily responsible for diminishing the power of the Athenian aristocracy
(E) suggest that the Greek tradition of the “law-giver” should be understood in the larger context of Greek mythology


6. The author draws an analogy between the Latin Bible and an early law code (Highlighted) in order to make which one of the following points?

(A) Documents were considered authoritative in premodern society in proportion to their inaccessibility to the majority.
(B) Documents that were perceived as highly influential in premodern societies were not necessarily accessible to the society’s majority.
(C) What is most revered in a nondemocratic society is what is most frequently misunderstood.
(D) Political documents in premodern societies exerted a social influence similar to that exerted by religious documents.
(E) Political documents in premodern societies were inaccessible to the majority of the population because of the language in which they were written.


7. The primary purpose of the passage is to

(A) argue that a particular method of observing contemporary societies is inconsistent
(B) point out the weaknesses in a particular approach to understanding ancient societies
(C) present the disadvantages of a particular approach to understanding the relationship between ancient and contemporary societies
(D) examine the importance of developing an appropriate method for understanding ancient societies
(E) convey the difficulty of accurately understanding attitudes in ancient societies



  • Source: LSAT Official PrepTest 9 (October 1993)
  • Difficulty Level: Will update after 30+ timers attempts

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New post 05 Apr 2019, 09:25
SajjadAhmad, the timers are not formatted properly. Timers are appearing above the passage.
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New post 05 Apr 2019, 09:47
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Please reload the page. I hope it will look good

Chethan92 wrote:
SajjadAhmad, the timers are not formatted properly. Timers are appearing above the passage.

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New post 05 Apr 2019, 09:52
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SajjadAhmad wrote:
Please reload the page. I hope it will look good

Chethan92 wrote:
SajjadAhmad, the timers are not formatted properly. Timers are appearing above the passage.


My bad. It's fine now :)
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New post 05 Apr 2019, 10:54
Got 5/7 questions correct .please mention the difficulty level
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New post 05 Apr 2019, 18:14
This passage was very difficult, Can anyone explain in simple language please
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New post 06 Apr 2019, 09:15
Please Explain the question no 7 . ( Why the answer is n't C and why it's B ? ) . Thanks for this great passage man .
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New post 06 Apr 2019, 11:59
jaisrajat wrote:
This passage was very difficult, Can anyone explain in simple language please


I got this from a forum. Even, I misinterpreted this passage.
Anyways, here we go.

This one is structured as an argument against an established theory or point of view.
The author’s big idea is that scholars who study the development of literacy today have misunderstood the development of literacy in ancient Greece and its effect on the political culture of the day.
Note how examining merely the first sentence of Paragraph 2 lays out the argument structure, as it were, and tells you clearly where the author stands: Examining Athens “exemplifies” (that means “is evidence for”) how“this sort of confusion” (a reference to whatever confusion was just described) works against really understanding the politics of ancient times.
Most reading passages are in fact extended arguments, and your Logical Reasoning skills can and should be brought to bear on them.
In terms of the building blocks,
Paragraph 1 describes the problem: Scholars, particularly some character named Goody, assume that widespread literacy democratized ancient Greek society by “enabling” (Goody’s word) everyone to access (i.e. read) important documents.
But our author’s point of view on this becomes clear at the end of Paragraph 2 : Developments such as a written code of law didn’t necessarily bring political change, because the power of interpretation remained with the magistrates.
Paragraphs 3 and 4 simply reinforce this idea of vested interest. Essentially, by controlling the books, the elite continued to maintain legal and political power in ancient Greece.
The only other major point of interest are the last lines, in which the author may have startled you by suddenly alluding to modern life in the midst of the discussion of ancient Athens.
But given lines 1-11, we shouldn’t have been surprised: The whole reason we misunderstand the effect of literacy on the ancient world is that we see how literacy affects
our world and project that vision onto the past.

This passage indeed have a roller coaster interpretations.
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New post 07 Apr 2019, 07:41
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Mapping of the Passage:

P1: How was wide-spread literacy possible in ancient Greek society?
some discovery, Goody, as of today-giving access to docs the same thing happened in ancient culture.
" reading, writing important for pol democracy "
NOTE: confusing often rudimentary knowledge of how to read means how to read is a rudimentary knoweledge

P2: Eg: ancient Athens on politics understanding?
law code, breaking power monopoly
law-giver, Goody
application depends on interpretation,
magistrate had all the powers
democratized, law existence changes little

P3: Elite consults doc & books only
Greek court jury - oral > written (prev preceding), verdict on spot
Athens, jury broad spectrum
guided by speeches, no access to doc

P4: Today scene - also oral
Prev v/s today - pop culture
Acient Law Book = closed book
Eg: Latin Bible, Church resistance
if popular- society might question
Thus, widespread because of elite accept democratic institutions.
Not because of widespread literacy.


1. Which one of the following statements best expresses the main idea of the passage?

Democratic pol institutions : like court etc..

(A) Democratic political institutions grow organically from the traditions and conventions of a society. -Incorrect, Not mentioned in the passage. It does not relate with the passage.
(B) Democratic political institutions are not necessarily the outcome of literacy in a society. -Correct, The gist of the author’s argument is probably best summarized at the end of Paragraph 4, but really it's implicit throughout: Contrary to Goody’s claims, literacy did not bring about radical political change, because the elite retained control of the important documents.
(C) Religious authority, like political authority, can determine who in a given society will have access to important books and documents. -Incorrect, it was a sub-topic: religion
(D) Those who are best educated are most often those who control the institutions of authority in a society. -Incorrect, best educated is not equal to democratic. The passage describes the authority of the elite over these documents and the effect of democracy on literacy.
(E) Those in authority have a vested interest in ensuring that those under their control remain illiterate.-Incorrect, illiterate was not the intention. Control on the documents was.

Answer- B

2. It can be inferred from the passage that the author assumes which one of the following about societies in which the people possess a rudimentary reading ability?

the gist of the author’s argument is that rudimentary reading ability did not shake up the aristocracy in ancient Greece, because the elite had exclusive access to the most important texts.
They - ancient societies

(A) They are more politically advanced than societies without rudimentary reading ability. - Incorrect, Goes against the author of the passage.
(B) They are unlikely to exhibit the positive effects of literacy. - Incorrect, no one cares in the passage about literacy
(C) They are rapidly evolving toward widespread literacy.- Incorrect, maybe/maybe not. The passage did say that the society is going ahead with the attaining documents because the elite allowed the process. But evolving towards widespread literacy is stated for contemporary society, not an ancient one.
(D) Many of their people might not have access to important documents and books.- Correct, Yes, last para, the elite allowed that process
(E) Most of their people would not participate in political decision-making.- Incorrect, Not mentioned in the passage about ancient v/s pol decisions

Answer - D

3. The author refers to the truly knowledgeable minority in contemporary societies in the context of the fourth paragraph in order to imply which one of the following?

(A) Because they have a popular literature that closes the gap between the elite and the majority, contemporary societies rely far less on the knowledge of experts than did ancient societies. - Incorrect, The passage does not suggest that the elite and the majority gap relations anywhere. It is about knowledge and control over the documents.
(B) Contemporary societies rely on the knowledge of experts, as did ancient societies because contemporary popular literature so frequently conveys specious information. - Incorrect, Criticism for today's media is not mentioned in the passage. It has a positive tone when it comes to the today's scenario.
(C) Although contemporary societies rely heavily on the knowledge of experts, access to popular literature makes contemporary societies less dependent on experts for information about rules of behavior than were ancient societies. - Correct, And looking at Granted, people today also rely heavily on a truly knowledgeable minority for information and its interpretation, often transmitted orally., we see that both societies rely on the interpretations of powerful, knowledgeable elites; but ancient Greek society wasn’t able to get “sociopolitical” information from the kind of popular literature and media that we have access to today
(D) While only some members of the elite can become experts, popular literature gives the majority in contemporary society an opportunity to become members of such an elite. - Incorrect, Ellite membeship??? Not mentioned in the passage
(E) Access to popular literature distinguishes ancient from contemporary societies because it relies on a level of educational achievement attainable only by a contemporary elite. - Incorrect, There was no link between the educational achievements and the pop literature.

Answer - C

4. According to the passage, each of the following statements concerning ancient Greek juries is true EXCEPT:

Greek Juries-
1. heard only the relevant statutes read out during the proceedings, as they heard verbal testimony,
2. They then rendered their verdict on the spot,
3. without the benefit of any discussion among themselves
4. broad spectrum (athens) - these juries, drawn from diverse social classes
5. both interpreted what they had heard and determined matters of fact.
6. they were guided solely by the speeches prepared for the parties by professional pleaders and by the quotations of laws or decrees within the speeches
7. rather than by their own access to any kind of document or book.


(A) They were somewhat democratic insofar as they were composed largely of people from the lowest social classes. -Incorrect, Juries were democratic because they had a broad spectrum of people in their midst, but how many of them were from low status were not mentioned in the passage. This statement is jumping into conclusions.
(B) They were exposed to the law only insofar as they heard relevant statutes read out during legal proceedings. - Correct Point 1
(C) They ascertained the facts of a case and interpreted the laws. - Correct, point 5 and 6. ascertained the facts of the case, okay ; interpreted the laws, as they did not have any document of their own. They simply just went along with the quotations of laws or decrees within the speeches
(D) They did not have direct access to important books and documents that were available to the elite.- Correct, point 7
(E) They rendered verdicts without benefit of private discussion among themselves. - Correct, point 3.

Answer- A


5. The author characterizes the Greek tradition of the “law-giver” (Highlighted) as an effect of mythologizing most probably in order to

In Athens, the early development of a written law code was retrospectively mythologized as the critical factor in breaking the power monopoly of the old aristocracy: hence the Greek tradition of the “law-giver,”
mythologizing - means, convert into myth. Inshort, the idea of written law code can break the monopoly of the aristocracy was a mistaken idea/made up idea.

(A) illustrate the ancient Greek tendency to memorialize historical events by transforming them into myths -Incorrect, memorialise historical events?? I dont think so. Nothing of that sort was mentioned in the passage.
(B) convey the historical importance of the development of the early Athenian written law code -Incorrect, The author mentions the law-giver in order to dispute its historical importance, overestimated by people like Goody. In short, the word development goes against the tone of the sentence of law-giver in the passage.
(C) convey the high regard in which the Athenians held their legal tradition -Incorrect, yes, they do have a high regard as, hence the Greek tradition but it follows with a But, that means the point of the para-2 was something else. Not concentrating on the tradition.
(D) suggest that the development of a written law code was not primarily responsible for diminishing the power of the Athenian aristocracy -Correct, Yes, that was the whole point.
(E) suggest that the Greek tradition of the “law-giver” should be understood in the larger context of Greek mythology -Incorrect, Greek mythology, Nothing of that sort was mentioned in the passage.

Answer- D

6. The author draws an analogy between the Latin Bible and an early law code (Highlighted) in order to make which one of the following points?

The author’s point once again relates to the inaccessibility of important documents, the implication being that while ancient law codes were tremendously influential documents, very few people were permitted to read them, contrary to the misinterpretation of Goody and others like him.

(A) Documents were considered authoritative in premodern society in proportion to their inaccessibility to the majority. - Incorrect, Nowhere does the author suggest that the fewer people read an ancient document, the more important it was considered
(B) Documents that were perceived as highly influential in premodern societies were not necessarily accessible to society’s majority. -Correct, yes, true
(C) What is most revered in a nondemocratic society is what is most frequently misunderstood. -Incorrect, The author’s not making a critique of superstition in “nondemocratic” societies, they aren’t even part of his scope of interest.
(D) Political documents in premodern societies exerted a social influence similar to that exerted by religious documents. -Incorrect, because the influence of ancient laws is not the issue, it’s how accessible they were
(E) Political documents in premodern societies were inaccessible to the majority of the population because of the language in which they were written. -Incorrect, because it stretches the analogy too far; it was the elite’s control of texts, and not a language barrier, that prevented the majority from reading ancient law codes.

Answer- B

7. The primary purpose of the passage is to

As it is a global question, it demands that we translate the author’s specific approach into abstract language. Because such language is a step or two removed from the explicit content, it poses a special challenge for many students. Pay special attention to passage structure and, when appropriate, tone, in trying to translate
the abstract choices back into an approximation of the passage you’ve just read. Reviewing the passage from the top, it should be clear that the author outlines an
established theory in Paragraphs 1 and 2, and then sets out to disprove it in Paragraphs 3 and 4.

(A) argue that a particular method of observing contemporary societies is inconsistent - Incorrect, as it is misfocused on the topic of contemporary societies, which only
come up in the passage because people like Goody are misled by modern life when they try to analyze the ancient world — which is the real topic
(B) point out the weaknesses in a particular approach to understanding ancient societies - Correct, In other words, the author is “point[ing] out the weaknesses” in Goody’s approach
(C) present the disadvantages of a particular approach to understanding the relationship between ancient and contemporary societies - Incorrect, because it gives too great a weight to the modern world. Again, correcting misconceptions about ancient Greece is the focus of the passage as a whole; today’s world simply contributes to the
source of those misconceptions
(D) examine the importance of developing an appropriate method for understanding ancient societies -Incorrect, appropriate method? the author seems to consider his own assessment of the evidence satisfactory enough
(E) convey the difficulty of accurately understanding attitudes in ancient societies -Incorrect, The passage conveys no sense of methodical difficulties here, and no concern about the attitudes of the ancient Greeks either.

Answer- B

Refer to this link for any more explanations.
https://www.urch.com/forums/gmat-readin ... hours.html
GMAT Club Bot
Re: Direct observation of contemporary societies at the threshold of wides   [#permalink] 07 Apr 2019, 07:41
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