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# Nearly every writer on the philosophy of civil rights activist Martin

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Nearly every writer on the philosophy of civil rights activist Martin  [#permalink]

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Updated on: 03 Oct 2019, 01:23
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New Project RC Butler 2019 - Practice 2 RC Passages Everyday
Passage # 151, Date : 18-APR-2019
This post is a part of New Project RC Butler 2019. Click here for Details

Nearly every writer on the philosophy of civil
rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., makes a
connection between King and Henry David
Thoreau, usually via Thoreau’s famous essay,
(5) “Civil Disobedience” (1849). In his book Stride
Toward Freedom (1958), King himself stated that
Thoreau’s essay was his first intellectual contact
with the theory of passive resistance to governmental
laws that are perceived as morally unjust. However,
(10) this emphasis on Thoreau’s influence on King is
unfortunate: first, King would not have agreed
with many other aspects of Thoreau’s philosophy,
including Thoreau’s ultimate acceptance of violence
as a form of protest; second, an overemphasis on
(15) the influence of one essay has kept historians from
noting other correspondences between King’s
philosophy and transcendentalism. “Civil
Disobedience” was the only example of
transcendentalist writing with which King was
(20) familiar, and in many other transcendentalist
writings, including works by Ralph Waldo
Emerson and Margaret Fuller, King would have
found ideas more nearly akin to his own.

The kind of civil disobedience King had in
(25) mind was, in fact, quite different from Thoreau’s
view of civil disobedience. Thoreau, like most other
transcendentalists, was primarily interested in
reform of the individual, whereas King was primarily
interested in reform of society. As a protest against
(30) the Mexican War, Thoreau refused to pay taxes,
but he did not hope by his action to force a change
in national policy. While he encouraged others to
adopt similar protests, he did not attempt to mount
any mass protest action against unjust laws. In
(35) contrast to Thoreau, King began to advocate the
use of mass civil disobedience to effect revolutionary
changes within the social system.

However, King’s writings suggest that, without
realizing it, he was an incipient transcendentalist.
(40) Most transcendentalists subscribed to the concept
of “higher law” and included civil disobedience to
unjust laws as part of their strategy. They often
invoked the concept of higher law to justify their
opposition to slavery and to advocate disobedience
(45) to the strengthened Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. In
his second major book, King’s discussion of just
and unjust laws and the responsibility of the
individual is very similar to the transcendentalists’
discussion of higher law. In reference to how one
(50) can advocate breaking some laws and obeying
others, King notes that there are two types of laws,
just and unjust; he describes a just law as a “code
that squares with the moral law” and an unjust law
as a “code that is out of harmony with the moral
(55) law.” Thus, King’s opposition to the injustice of
legalized segregation in the twentieth century is
philosophically akin to the transcendentalists’
opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law in the
nineteenth century.
1. Which one of the following best states the main idea of the passage?

(A) King’s philosophy was more influenced by Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience than by any other writing of the transcendentalists.
(B) While historians may have overestimated Thoreau’s influence on King, King was greatly influenced by a number of the transcendentalist philosophers.
(C) Thoreau’s and King’s views on civil disobedience differed in that King was more concerned with the social reform than with the economic reform of society.
(D) Although historians have overemphasized Thoreau’s influence on King, there are parallels between King’s philosophy and transcendentalism that have not been fully appreciated.
(E) King’s ideas about law and civil disobedience were influenced by transcendentalism in general and Thoreau’s essays in particular.

2. Which one of the following statements about “Civil Disobedience” would the author consider most accurate?

(A) It was not King’s first contact with the concept of passive resistance to unjust laws.
(B) It was one of many examples of transcendentalist writing with which King was familiar.
(C) It provided King with a model for using passive resistance to effect social change.
(D) It contains a number of ideas with which other transcendentalists strongly disagreed.
(E) It influenced King’s philosophy on passive resistance to unjust laws.

3. In the first paragraph, the author is primarily concerned with

(A) chronicling the development of King’s philosophy on passive resistance to unjust law
(B) suggesting that a common emphasis on one influence on King’s philosophy has been misleading
(C) providing new information about the influence of twentieth-century philosophers on King’s work
(D) summarizing the work of historians on the most important influences on King’s philosophy
(E) providing background information about nineteenth-century transcendentalist philosophers

4. According to the passage, which one of the following is true of Emerson and Fuller?

(A) Some of their ideas were less typical of transcendentalism than were some of Thoreau’s ideas.
(B) They were more concerned with the reform of society than with the reform of the individual.
(C) They would have been more likely than Thoreau to agree with King on the necessity of mass protest in civil disobedience.
(D) Their ideas about civil disobedience and unjust laws are as well known as Thoreau’s are.
(E) Some of their ideas were more similar to King’s than were some of Thoreau’s.

5. According to the passage, King differed from most transcendentalists in that he

(A) opposed violence as a form of civil protest
(B) opposed war as an instrument of foreign policy under any circumstances
(C) believed that just laws had an inherent moral value
(D) was more interested in reforming society than in reforming the individual
(E) protested social and legal injustice in United States society rather than United States foreign policy

6. The passage suggests which one of the following about Thoreau?

(A) He was the first to develop fully the theory of civil disobedience.
(B) His work has had a greater influence on contemporary thinkers than has the work of Emerson and Fuller.
(C) His philosophy does not contain all of the same elements as the philosophies of the other transcendentalists.
(D) He advocated using civil disobedience to force the federal government to change its policies on war.
(E) He is better known for his ideas on social and legal reform than for his ideas on individual reform.

7. The passage provides support for which one of the following statements about the quotations in lines 52–55 ?

(A) They are an example of a way in which King’s ideas differed from Thoreau’s but were similar to the ideas of other transcendentalists.
(B) They provide evidence that proves that King’s philosophy was affected by transcendentalist thought.
(C) They suggest that King, like the transcendentalists, judged human laws by ethical standards.
(D) They suggest a theoretical basis for King’s philosophy of government.
(E) They provide a paraphrase of Thoreau’s position on just and unjust laws.

• Source: LSAT Official PrepTest 11 (June 1994)
• Difficulty Level: 650

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Last edited by SajjadAhmad on 03 Oct 2019, 01:23, edited 1 time in total.
Updated - Complete topic (781).
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Re: Nearly every writer on the philosophy of civil rights activist Martin  [#permalink]

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26 May 2019, 11:57
1
Question #1, #2, #6, and #7 below:

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

(B) While historians may have overestimated Thoreau’s influence on King, King was greatly influenced by a number of the transcendentalist philosophers.

Was King greatly influenced by other transcendentalist philosophers? This is never stated. Let's look at the last sentence of the first paragraph.

“Civil Disobedience” was the only example of transcendentalist writing with which King was familiar, and in many other transcendentalist writings, including works by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, King would have found ideas more nearly akin to his own."

See how it says MLK was only familiar with HDT's writing and not other transcendentalist philosophers? The author is just showing us that in retrospect, MLK had more in common with them than HDT, not that MLK was influenced by them.

(D) Although historians have overemphasized Thoreau’s influence on King, there are parallels between King’s philosophy and transcendentalism that have not been fully appreciated.

Absolutely. This is shown in the end of the 1st paragraph and the entire 3rd paragrph

(E) King’s ideas about law and civil disobedience were influenced by transcendentalism in general and Thoreau’s essays in particular.

Like I mentioned in answer choice (B), we can't make the mistake of thinking that MLK was influenced by Transcendentalism. In fact, the first sentence of the 3rd paragraph explicitly says that MLK did not realize that he was a Transcendentalist. See below.

However, King’s writings suggest that, without realizing it, he was an incipient transcendentalist.

2. Which one of the following statements about “Civil Disobedience” would the author consider most accurate?

(B) It was one of many examples of transcendentalist writing with which King was familiar.

Like I mentioned in Question #1, MLK was not familiar with transcendentalist writing. We only know that he was familiar with "Civil Disobedience."

(C) It provided King with a model for using passive resistance to effect social change.

I was stuck between (C) and (E).

(D) It contains a number of ideas with which other transcendentalists strongly disagreed.

There is no evidence that other transcendentalists specifically had issues with the ideas in "Civil Disobedience."

(E) It influenced King’s philosophy on passive resistance to unjust laws.

I was stuck between (C) and (E).

6. The passage suggests which one of the following about Thoreau?

(C) His philosophy does not contain all of the same elements as the philosophies of the other transcendentalists.

Inference. Notice the extreme language "all of the same elements..." We can safely make this inference because we've been told that MLK would not be aligned with HDT, but he would be have been more aligned with other transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller.

THEREFORE, HDT's philosophy had some different elements than other transcendentalists, like RWE and MF.

(D) He advocated using civil disobedience to force the federal government to change its policies on war.

Tough one. We do know that HDT "encouraged" others to adopt similar protests. But "advocate" may be too strong of a word here. I don't know, I think (C) is crystal clear our answer, but this one is tricky.

7. The passage provides support for which one of the following statements about the quotations in lines 52–55 ?

(A) They are an example of a way in which King’s ideas differed from Thoreau’s but were similar to the ideas of other transcendentalists.

In paragraph 3, we're no longer talking about HDT. We are talking about how MLK was "without realizing it," a transcendentalist.

(B) They provide evidence that proves that King’s philosophy was affected by transcendentalist thought.

jawele , I hope this clears your doubt on answer choice (B):

Here we go again. They're trying to trap us into thinking that transcendentalists influenced MLK. That is clearly not true. Let's once again look back to the Line 17-24:

“Civil Disobedience” was the only example of transcendentalist writing with which King was familiar, and in many other transcendentalist writings, including works by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, King would have found ideas more nearly akin to his own.

MLK was NOT influenced by transcendentalists. He was only familiar with "Civil Disobedience," which was written by HDT.

(C) They suggest that King, like the transcendentalists, judged human laws by ethical standards.

Absolutely. This paragraph is all about showing us the parallels between the transcendentalists ideas of "higher laws" and MLK's ideas of "just laws" vs "unjust laws."
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Re: Nearly every writer on the philosophy of civil rights activist Martin  [#permalink]

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03 May 2019, 09:33
7/7, text and the majority of the questions seem quite straight forward.
However, I noticed that the last question seems to cause headaches for many people, so I´ll try to give my two cents:

While the text, in general, does point out ways in which King´s ideas differ from those of Thoreau, the paragraph in question does not mention those differences.
The respective paragraph is more focused on highlighting similarities between King and the transcendentalists in their common understanding of laws in relation to ethics.
The question and the AC´s make it easy to incorporate outside information, but one must remain focused on the information contained in the paragraph of interest.

Best regards,
Chris
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Re: Nearly every writer on the philosophy of civil rights activist Martin  [#permalink]

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19 May 2019, 10:42
GMATNinja

Hello

could anybody please help me with Q7? As many of the people who have answered the question, I was stuck between B and C. I found "ethics" a bit too broad, and so picked B. Since it's inference, not sure what should have been my decision point...

7. The passage provides support for which one of the following statements about the quotations in lines 52–55 ?
(B) They provide evidence that proves that King’s philosophy was affected by transcendentalist thought.

Below is an explanation by a Manhattan prep instructor "tommywallach":
(B) is directly contradicted by the passage. We are led to believe that this was a way in which King was like the transcendentalists without knowing that he was. See the first sentence of that paragraph: "However, King's writings suggest that, without realizing it, he was an incipient transcendentalist." - does it mean that the noted similarity weakens the influence of transcendentalist thought? What is exactly meant by "contradicted"?

I'm sorry, but I find the explanation by Arro44 a bit too general.

I would really appreciate a bit more detail.

Thank you
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Re: Nearly every writer on the philosophy of civil rights activist Martin  [#permalink]

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01 Jul 2019, 10:37
jawele wrote:
GMATNinja

Hello

could anybody please help me with Q7? As many of the people who have answered the question, I was stuck between B and C. I found "ethics" a bit too broad, and so picked B. Since it's inference, not sure what should have been my decision point...

7. The passage provides support for which one of the following statements about the quotations in lines 52–55 ?
(B) They provide evidence that proves that King’s philosophy was affected by transcendentalist thought.

Below is an explanation by a Manhattan prep instructor "tommywallach":
(B) is directly contradicted by the passage. We are led to believe that this was a way in which King was like the transcendentalists without knowing that he was. See the first sentence of that paragraph: "However, King's writings suggest that, without realizing it, he was an incipient transcendentalist." - does it mean that the noted similarity weakens the influence of transcendentalist thought? What is exactly meant by "contradicted"?

I'm sorry, but I find the explanation by Arro44 a bit too general.

I would really appreciate a bit more detail.

Thank you

I think MikeScarn has you more than covered here, but just in case somebody wants to hear this stuff in different words...

Let's take a look at quotations referenced in question #7:
Quote:
King notes that there are two types of laws, just and unjust; he describes a just law as a “code that squares with the moral law” and an unjust law as a “code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”

From this, we can see that King believed that sometimes laws are just and sometimes they are unjust. To determine if a particular law is just, he compares it to "moral law," which exists outside of the current law of the land.

This is similar to the concept of "higher law," which the author discusses earlier in the last paragraph, saying that "most transcendentalists subscribed to the concept of “higher law” and included civil disobedience to unjust laws as part of their strategy." In the same way that King compared human laws to moral law, the transcendentalists compared human laws to higher law.

Take a look at answer choice (B):
Quote:
(B) [The quotations] provide evidence that proves that King’s philosophy was affected by transcendentalist thought.

We know that King's "moral law" is similar to the "higher law" to which transcendentalists subscribed -- but can we say that the earlier transcendental idea affected Dr. King's philosophy? Or did they just both happen to develop similar ideas?

The passage makes it clear that King was not familiar with transcendental works outside of a single essay by Thoreau. The author argues that, had King read more works of various transcendentalists, he "would have found ideas more nearly akin to his own." In addition, the author states that King was a transcendentalist "without realizing it." If King did not read transcendental works and did not realize that his ideas were similar to theirs, we cannot say that these quotations show that his philosophies were affected by transcendental thought. For this reason, (B) is out.

Now take a look at (C):
Quote:
(C) [The quotations] suggest that King, like the transcendentalists, judged human laws by ethical standards.

King judged human laws against "moral law," and the transcendentalists compared human laws to "higher law." Both moral law and higher law are based on a higher level view of right or wrong -- in other words, they are ethical standards. (C) is the correct answer for question #7.

I hope that helps!
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Re: Nearly every writer on the philosophy of civil rights activist Martin   [#permalink] 01 Jul 2019, 10:37
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