We’re back for some more Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) full-length 10 with CARS passage 3. Follow along with the handout on the blog post for this episode.
Again, we’re joined by Clara from Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) as we break down the passage for you to help you rock your CARS section.
[02:12] Passage 3, Paragraph 1
Free will, the ability to actively choose one’s possible behaviors, has proven one of philosophy’s most persistent difficulties and important concepts. Given its direct linkage with responsibility, many are loathed to accept that deterministic view that free will is a little more than illusion. Compatibilism, or soft determinism, accepts the core tenets of determinism but holds that free will still exists. Determinism is couched in several different terms, most commonly, causal determinism and logical determinism. That is, causal determinism asserts that every single event or effect has a cause that preceded it. And that those causes could not have possibly resulted in any different effect. The universe is seen as a vast, almost incomprehensibly complicated machine, ticking along with no room for human choice. Any behavior a person might exhibit is an effect of an earlier cause. And that behavior could not have possibly happened differently. Logical determinism is a closely related concept about the true state of propositions in a future tense. This view asserts that the sentence “it will rain tomorrow” is either necessarily true today or necessarily false. The fact that a weatherman can only say, there’s a 75% chance of rain tomorrow, reflects a frailty of human understanding rather than an indeterminacy in the universe itself.
[03:53] Breaking Down Dense Paragraphs
Clara says that first when you see a passage as dense as the above, a lot of students can freak out. Accept that you don’t have to understand every word you’re reading as your reading through it the first time. The question can’t possibly ask about everything, right? So it’s not as if you really have to understand what every word is saying. Otherwise, you’ll end up reading and rereading the same sentence over and over without really getting out of it. And this will take too long.
Instead, Clara recommends reading through the passage and keep moving through it. Then highlight as you encounter key terms. For example, in the paragraph above, you can highlight things like free will, determinism, compatibilism, logical determinism, etc. This can be very helpful because it’s likely that one or more of the questions will ask about one of those terms. Then it would be easier for you to go back to it.
For notetakers, your approach may be a little bit different. But get the same core understanding. Something to keep in mind is not to write out whole words. For example, you can write words like FW for free will and then FW=direct linkage, responsibility. So you’d abbreviate those words.
[06:47] Paragraph 2
Compatibilism asserts that while both of these forms of determinism are valid, free will, properly understood, still exists. The main focus here is only construing free will in a sense under which one has the freedom to act without outside compulsion. According to one’s own motives and goals, rather than under some coercion or other threat, this kind of political liberty is constructed as a non metaphysical concept focused more on definite relations between people, rather than on complex attributions of preexisting brain states. That is, one is not held responsible for action X, if one literally has a gun being pointed at one’s head with another person saying “Do X, or I’ll shoot.” Here, there is neither political liberty nor any sort of free will. However, if there is no threat of violence, no law, and no political compulsion to carry out action X, and if a person chooses to consider whether or not to do X and then ends up doing X, the person had political liberty over the choice and thus had free will in choosing to do X, and is therefore responsible for the action and its direct consequences.
[08:21] Question 14
If they could be proven via quantum mechanics that the universe has phenomena that can lead to two different possible outcomes given exactly the same starting conditions, then:
(A) Soft determinism would be a more accurate representation of reality than determinism.
(B) At least, causal determinism and probably also logical determinism would be less likely to be true.
(C) The passage author’s argument about the proper definition of free will would be weakened.
(D) It can be concluded that the neurological and psychological processes underlying human behavior are not deterministic.
[10:00] Thought Process Behind the Answer
The right answer here is B. So if an answer stands out as seemingly clear right away, there’s no reason not to just pick it. But Clara recommends flagging that first or mark the question. So if you have a little bit of extra time in the end, you can go back to it and check.
Going back to logical determinism that is part of B, it’s pretty closely related to causal determinism so B makes sense. As with the other answer choices, they just don’t work as well.
The passage says that soft determinism accepts the core tenets of determinism. So if the question talks about undermining determinism, then it should do the same with soft determinism too. So (A) is wrong.
(B) is not even in the passage. The author did mention free will but you won’t really find any argument there. While (D) is not anywhere in the passage. You don’t want to get tempted to pick it because it’s complicated, which can be a common thing for students to do. Again, Clara stresses that if the answer choice makes no sense, don’t pick it for that reason. That is actually the opposite of the reason to pick it because the test is not generally trying to trick you.
[12:40] Question 15
The author implies that:
(A) Any philosopher who thinks any responsibility must depend on free will hold to a non-deterministic view of the universe.
(B) A person who is forced to carry out an action would not be held responsible for that action under any ethical framework.
(C) Responsibility is of lesser concern to determinists than to compatibilists.
(D) If determinists have a definition of responsibility that is applicable in the real world, it must not depend on free will.
[13:20] Thought Process Behind the Answer
The correct answer here is D. A can stand out here and it may be tempting to pick it. So you may pay attention to the other choices. Especially, when it gets to D, a lot of students can have their eyes all glazed over.
Another point is that the word “any” in answer choice A is such a strong word. And seeing an extreme statement like that, be careful with picking that choice.
B can be tempting too but it’s also saying “under any ethical framework.” The same thing as A, the passage doesn’t cover “every” ethical framework. Again, it’s too strong.
Clara recommends highlighting extreme words on the answer choices or strike them out so that when you look back at the choice, you’re not going to be tempted by it.
C talks about comparison and the passage didn’t give any comparison. They did mention responsibility in the first paragraph but they only did it in passing.
Hence, you’re left with answer choice D. The first paragraph says that the deterministic view is that free will is a little more than an illusion. So if a determinist thinks that responsibility is a concept that makes sense and free will is an illusion, hence they’re not going to think that responsibility depends on free will.
[20:03] Question 16
Compatibilists will hold someone responsible for which of the following actions:
(A) A man chooses a speed while driving to work because he’s late and causes a near-fatal car accident but the causes that made him late could not have resulted in any other possible outcome but his tardiness.
(B) A person lives in a society whose laws require individuals to report possession of illegal drugs to the police. Thus, he reports his friend for possession even though he doesn’t want to and knows his friend will be punished.
(C) A hostage negotiator agrees to have a suitcase with a large sum of money delivered to a hostage taker because the hostage taker has demonstrated a willingness to kill innocent bystanders.
(D) A person engages in a distasteful act because she’s told will be killed if she fails to comply even though she is never shown a weapon or given a direct reason to believe beyond the threat itself.
[21:18] Thought Process Behind the Answer
Don’t freak out when you see long answer choices like the above. Now, the correct answer here is A. All the other answer choices are similar where they’re being in some sort of violence or force or legal pressure to commit an activity. But A is just the man’s choice. He chose the speed when he shouldn’t have done that.
Where you find direct support in the passage here is near the end of the second paragraph when they talked about the compatibilism where if there’s no threat of violence, no law and no political compulsion to carry out an action, that’s when you have this free will and responsibility. Again, A is the only answer choice here with any force, political compulsion, or a law.
[24:07] Question 17
Logical determinism differs from causal determinism in that:
(A) Only logical determinism is consonant with compatibilism.
(B) Only logical determinism is incompatible with soft determinism.
(C) It can be demonstrated correct through deductive proof rather than scientific experimentation.
(D) It is concerned with the present rather than the future effects.
[25:00] Thought Process Behind the Answer
Just go back straight to those terms. But if you’ve got to this point and you just want to pick an answer and just move on, you’d probably pick D since it says the word “future.” And D is the right answer here. As you can see, sometimes, it can be that easy. Obviously, you don’t want to pick an answer choice that has a word that matches the passage. But if you’ve got to rush, this is a better tactic than picking some other random answer.
Digging a bit into logical determinism, they say that the sentence that it will rain tomorrow is either true or false right now. And the fact the weatherman can only predict the 75% chance of rain is just the frailty of his understanding. So logical determinists don’t care about whether something is happening in the future or the present. They just say it’s either true or false. We just don’t know enough to know about the future.
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