Several critics have claimed that any contemporary poet who writes formal poetry—poetry that is rhymed and metered—is performing a politically conservative act. This is plainly false. Consider Molly Peacock and Marilyn Hacker, two contemporary poets whose poetry is almost exclusively formal and yet who are themselves politically progressive feminists.
The conclusion drawn above follows logically if which one of the following is assumed?
No one who is a feminist is also politically conservative.
No poet who writes unrhymed or unmetered poetry is politically conservative.
No one who is politically progressive is capable of performing a politically conservative act.
Anyone who sometimes writes poetry that is not politically conservative never writes poetry that is politically conservative.
The content of a poet’s work, not the work’s form, is the most decisive factor in determining what political consequences, if any, the work will have.
Explanation for Question 7
This question asks you to identify the option containing information that makes the conclusion of the argument follow logically. The conclusion of the argument is that it is false that any contemporary poet who writes formal poetry is performing a politically conservative act. To draw this conclusion logically, one only needs to show at least one contemporary poet who is writing formal poetry and is not thereby performing a politically conservative act. Showing such an instance would provide a counterexample to the claim attributed to the critics, demonstrating that the critics’ generalization is false.
The premise given is that there are two contemporary and politically progressive feminist poets who write formal poetry—Molly Peacock and Marilyn Hacker. If no one who is politically progressive is capable of performing a politically conservative act, and Peacock and Hacker are politically progressive, it follows logically that neither is capable of performing a politically conservative act. Since both write formal poetry, their writing of formal poetry cannot be a politically conservative act. This shows that one can write formal poetry without performing a politically conservative act, so (C) is the correct response.
If it is true that no one who is a feminist is politically conservative, as response (A) says, we can conclude that Peacock and Hacker, who are identified as being feminists, are not politically conservative. But we already knew this, as they were also identified as being politically progressive. As long as people who are not themselves politically conservative are capable of performing politically conservative acts, the question of whether it is possible for someone to write formal poetry without performing a politically conservative act remains unanswered. (A) is thus incorrect.
If no poet who writes unrhymed and unmetered poetry is politically conservative, as response (B) indicates, this tells us little about Peacock and Hacker, whose poetry, we are told, is almost exclusively formal. Insofar as (B) may indicate that Peacock and Hacker are not politically conservative (because they write some poetry that is not both rhymed and metered), we already knew this, as they are identified as being politically progressive. Since the argument works by presenting Peacock and Hacker as counterexamples to the claim that to write formal poetry is to perform a politically conservative act, (B) contributes nothing in the way of additional support for the conclusion.
Response (D) says that anyone who sometimes writes poetry that is not politically conservative never writes poetry that is politically conservative. However, to make the conclusion of the argument follow logically, one must show that some contemporary poets who write formal poetry are sometimes not performing a politically conservative act. The information in (D) is not applicable to this question.
Response (E) concerns the effects of the content of a poet’s work on determining the political consequences of the work. However, the question that must be answered is whether any contemporary poet who writes formal poetry is performing a politically conservative act, not what the consequences of that poetry might be. The question of whether writing a particular poem is a politically conservative act is different from the question of what that poem’s political consequences will be. Moreover, because the content of neither Peacock’s nor Hacker’s work has been specified, (E) does not even allow us to draw a conclusion about the political consequences of their work.
This was a difficult question, based on the number of test takers who answered it correctly when it appeared on the LSAT.