Question

Distressed by his own personal tragedies, the Roman philosopher Cicero once asked himself whether a wise person should try to achieve the Stoic ideal of complete emotionlessness. Cicero reasoned that, however desirable the goal may be, a wise person could never attain it, since emotions are not simply irrational urges. They are, rather, a product of one’s estimate of the goodness and badness of the events, people, and actions one witnesses.

Which of the following is an assumption required by Cicero’s reasoning?

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)

Solution

The Story

Distressed by his own personal tragedies, the Roman philosopher Cicero once asked himself whether a wise person should try to achieve the Stoic ideal of complete emotionlessness.

C was distressed by his personal tragedies. Once, while distressed, C wondered should a wise person try to achieve complete emotionlessness. 

Cicero reasoned that, however desirable the goal may be, a wise person could never attain it, since emotions are not simply irrational urges.

After posing the question to himself, he went on to claim that a wise person could never attain complete emotionlessness. How come? Since emotions are more than just irrational urges. (What else are they? We’ll probably find out in the next statement.)

They are, rather, a product of one’s estimate of the goodness and badness of the events, people, and actions one witnesses.

 Emotions are a result of a person’s judgment of various things the person witnesses.

(For now, to help with understanding, we have not considered the nuances of “estimate of the goodness and badness of the events, people, and actions one witnesses”. We’re simply treating this phrase to roughly mean ‘judgment’. If anything in the question or answer choices needs us to, we’ll focus again on the specific aspects of this phrase.)

Gist: Since emotions are a product of a person’s judgments (Support), a wise person could never become completely emotionless (conclusion).In other words, since emotions are a product of judgments, a wise person will always have emotions.

The Gap

There’s a clear jump in the argument. So what if emotions are a result of judgments? What does that have to do with a wise person’s ability to become emotionless? The author claims a wise person cannot become emotionless. Why not? Since emotions come from judgments. What if a wise person did not make judgments? Couldn’t he then become emotionless?

Also, what if the judgments do not lead to emotions? The passage indicates that all emotions come from judgments. However, the passage does not indicate that all judgments lead to emotions.

The Goal

The author assumes that a wise person will for sure make judgments. 

Since emotions are born from judgments (and all wise people make emotions-producing judgments) a wise person cannot become emotionless.

The idea in brackets is an assumption we have been able to come up with. Needless to say, there could be more.

The Evaluation

(A) CorrectThis is in line with the assumption we thought of above. Notice the wording: “evaluate at least some of the things”. This completely fits. For the argument above, this option is necessary.

Let’s consider the negation of this option. What if wise people do not necessarily judge (“evaluate at least some of the things they observe”)? Could C now make the argument that since emotions are a product of judgments, a wise person could never become completely emotionless? He couldn’t.

What if the option were changed to:

  • Wise people inevitably evaluate most things they observe.
  • Wise people inevitably evaluate all things they observe. 

Is either of these an assumption required by C’s reasoning?

(B) Incorrect. Irrationality makes evaluation impossible. While we can possibly make a logical link that wise people are generally not irrational, the behavior of irrational people does not impact the argument. An assumption being made about wise people is: wise people judge. However, it is not necessary that ‘irrational people cannot judge what they observe’ for the argument to hold.

(C) Incorrect. The option says that wisdom prevents humans from trying to attain things that they cannot. In other words, wise people do not try to attain what they cannot. The conclusion is that a wise person could not attain emotionlessness. Whether a wise person tries and still does not attain, or does not even try and thus does not attain, the argument holds.

(D) IncorrectThe argument is that since emotions are derived from evaluations, a wise person cannot become emotionless. What does the ‘accuracy’ of these evaluations have to do with the argument? Nothing. On top, is it necessary for a certain subset of judgments to be inaccurate for the argument to hold? Not at all. 

(E) Incorrect. Whether a wise person evaluates or not what cannot be directly observed is irrelevant to the argument. Per the argument, emotions are a result of an evaluation of what one observes. Now, whether a wise person evaluates something beyond what can be observed, i.e. what cannot be observed, has no impact on the argument. 

This solution was created by Anish Passi and Chiranjeev Singh.

If you have any doubts regarding any part of this solution, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

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