June 2007, Logical Reasoning 1, Question 23

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Question 23, the question stem asks for something that would allow the philosopher's conclusion to follow logically if we were to assume it. Those key words indicate that we are dealing with a sufficient assumption question, and our job is to prove the conclusion true. Before we can prove it true, we have to find what it is. And helpfully, they've put a thus right in front of it.

Thus, actions that would be reasonably expected to leave unchanged the aggregate well-being of the people affected by them are also right. This kind of wordy, convoluted structure is pretty common anytime they put the word philosopher in front of the stimulus. Philosophers like to use normal language in weird ways, and this is a good example of that.

So interpreting that sentence, basically, any action that would neither hurt nor harm people, something that's right in the middle, this conclusion says that that kind of action, that neutral action is right. And morally right, as they define in the first sentence. So the first piece of evidence that we're given to prove this conclusion is that an action is morally right if it would be reasonably expected to increase the aggregate well-being of the people affected by it.

Or in other words, if it makes people better off, it's morally right. The second sentence does two things. It tells us that an action is morally wrong if and only if, that's important. So if an action could be expected to reduce the aggregate well-being, or in other words, hurt people. If an action hurts people, then it's definitely morally wrong.

But also, that's the only kind of thing that's morally wrong. An action is morally wrong only if we could expect that it would harm people. So if it helps people, it's morally good. If it hurts people, it's morally wrong, and if it's morally wrong, it hurts people. Those are our two pieces of evidence, and with them, we're trying to prove that neutral actions, ones that neither hurt nor harm people, are also morally right.

Probably the easiest way to see the relationship between the pieces is to break them down into a series of formal logic statements. So if we were to write this in formal logic shorthand, this is what we would have. The first piece of evidence in blue, if it increases the well-being of people or if it helps people, it's morally right.

The contrapositive of that would be, if it's not morally right, then it doesn't increase the well-being of people. The second sentence gives us two pieces of formal logic. If something decreases the well-being of people, if it hurts them, then it's morally wrong. If it's not morally wrong, we know it doesn't hurt them.

But also, if it is morally wrong, we know that it has to hurt people, it has to decrease their well-being. If it doesn't decrease them, it doesn't count as morally wrong. The reason that the blue is only one statement and the green has two is because the first sentence was written in if language. And the second sentence was written as an if and only if sentence.

Now, those are the three things that we have to prove the conclusion, which is that if it's a neutral action, it's morally right. So the correct answer, when added to the information we already have, will prove that conclusion absolutely true. Answer choice A, only wrong actions would be reasonably expected to reduce the aggregate well-being, or in other words, hurt people.

So only wrong actions hurt people. That's something that we've already been told. We're told that something is wrong only if it hurts people. So answer choice A is something we already know. Thus, when we add it to what we already have, we're not adding anything. It's already there, so that answer can't help us prove our conclusion, so let's go to B.

B, no action is both right and wrong. This is close to what we want, but not quite there. So we know for sure from the stimulus that these neutral actions, the ones that neither hurt nor harm people, we know that they are not morally wrong. Because the only way to be morally wrong is if you hurt people. This says it's impossible to be both right and wrong.

But finding out something isn't wrong then wouldn't prove that it was right. For example, think if you are 30, then it is true that you are not 5. But it doesn't follow if you're not 5, you're definitely 30. You could be an age in between, you could be on either side of 5 and 30. Saying that something can't be both isn't gonna help us prove that a neutral action is morally good.

So let's go to answer choice C, any action that is not morally wrong is morally right. Now, this is our answer. Again, it might be easier to see it if we use a little bit of formal logic. So remember the statements that we had earlier. This was the evidence that we already had.

If we were to translate answer choice C into formal logic, any action that is not morally wrong is morally right, we would write that like that. So if something is not morally wrong, we know it's morally right. The contrapositive of that would be, if it's not morally right, then it has to be morally wrong. Now, if we take these pieces we can definitely prove that, if something is neutral, it is morally right.

If something is neutral, we know it doesn't decrease the well-being of people, we know it doesn't harm them. And if it doesn't harm them, the second sentence told us that it is not morally wrong. Now if we add the answer choice to this, if it's not morally wrong, then it is morally right, well, then we can prove that neutral things are morally right.

Neutral means doesn't harm, doesn't harm means not wrong, not wrong means right, it is sealed. So just look at the other answers to see why they're wrong. Answer choice D, well, all it does is establish that there are some neutral actions out there. There are actions that could be reasonably expected to leave unchanged the aggregate well-being of people affected by them.

So they exist, doesn't prove to us that they're right or wrong, it just says they exist. Answer choice E, only right actions have good consequences. And the have is important here, because this argument is entirely composed of things about what our reasonable expectations are. So ironically, what actually happens from our actions is completely aside from this argument, it's only concerned with our expectations.

So the actual effects are not gonna help us prove that these neutral actions are morally good. So answer choice C is our answer.

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