GRE Prep: Hard-level Reading Comprehension Questions (Part 5)

GRE Prep: Hard-level Reading Comprehension Questions (Part 5)

In our previous post, we dealt with a difficult passage on prudential and moral reasoning, and worked through one challenging question by annotating the entire argumentative structure of the passage.

Using your thorough understanding of the passage now, attempt the next two questions. (The same passage is reproduced here for your convenience.)

Despite numerous studies on the topic, it is at this point far from clear whether Turiel’s distinction between the moral and the prudential domain of reasoning is tenable. First, and most importantly, there is no direct research on the type of events that typically elicit prudential reasoning. It may be, as some have pointed out, that an evolutionary explanation relying on precautionary reasoning could clarify this. However, in that case, the extent to which Turiel’s use of prudential reasoning coincides with precautionary reasoning in an evolutionary context would have to be clarified. Another pressing question about the domains of prudential and moral reasoning concerns the role and relevance of harm. While harm seems relevant to both, many now hold that it is not harm but the related violation of basic rights that is relevant to moral reasoning. A second problem for Turiel’s distinction is that it is only weakly supported by empirical findings. While there is strong evidence that people reason differently about prudential items and moral items, it cannot be ruled out that personal reasoning is responsible for (at least part of) this difference. This means that, at least until the effects of personal reasoning are controlled for in further studies, we should exercise caution in separating moral and prudential reasoning.


1. Which of the following sentences is most likely to be the first sentence of the paragraph that follows that given above:

A) Despite these worries, various scientists have continued to investigate the distinction between prudential and moral reasoning.

B) It is no surprise, then, that various authors have raised doubts about explanations of human behavior that presuppose a distinction between moral and prudential reasoning.

C) Given these worries, it may be best to abandon Turiel’s distinction, and focus on the distinction between moral and precautionary reasoning instead.

D) It is no surprise, then, that most cognitive scientists have now ceased to investigate domains of reasoning.

Explanation:

A) Despite these worries, various scientists have continued to investigate the distinction between prudential and moral reasoning.

The ‘despite’ is not correct here, as the first paragraph argues that it is unclear whether the distinction works, and more research should be done. The ‘despite’ would only work if there were good reasons to think that the distinction doesn’t work.

B) It is no surprise, then, that various authors have raised doubts about explanations of human behavior that presuppose a distinction between moral and prudential reasoning.

This is correct. Given that the tenability is unclear and the distinction is as likely to hold as it is to fail, it should be expected that explanations that take it for granted are put into doubt.

C) Given these worries, it may be best to abandon Turiel’s distinction, and focus on the distinction between moral and precautionary reasoning instead.

No, the whole point was that more research was needed. The second part of this statement is in no way suggested either.

D) It is no surprise, then, that most cognitive scientists have now ceased to investigate domains of reasoning.

No, first, this claim is too broad as the passage is about two particular domains of reasoning. Second, this sentence would only make sense if the distinction were to be disproven.

Answer: B.


2. Which of the following reflect(s) the author’s position?

A) Turiel’s distinction is not useful for explaining human behavior.

B) Turiel’s distinction should at least for now not be used for explaining human behavior.

C) Turiel’s distinction is often inappropriately used for explaining human behavior.

D) Turiel’s distinction could be useful for explaining human behavior.

Explanation:

A) Turiel’s distinction is not useful for explaining human behavior.

FALSE. This claim is not made. The author argues that more research is needed to know if the distinction is tenable.

B) Turiel’s distinction should at least for now not be used for explaining human behavior.

TRUE. Since the author argues that the tenability of the distinction does not entirely hold, it follows that the tenability of its applications is equally doubtful.

C) Turiel’s distinction is often inappropriately used for explaining human behavior.

FALSE. This is not mentioned in the passage.

D) Turiel’s distinction could be useful for explaining human behavior.

TRUE—note that it “could be” useful, rather than “is” useful.

Answer: B and D.

For more esoteric passages, why not look at the next few posts on hard-level RC questions?