LSAT® Comparative Reading Sample Questions
Read the two passages below and answer the questions associated.
It goes without saying that it is the content of art that constitutes its value, and the form is merely the means of expression of whatever message, representation, analogy or other content the artist wishes to bring before the viewer. Although much attention has been given in recent years to the artistic form, and arguments have been advanced that aesthetics are at least as important as content, the truth is that a painting or other work of art that fails to say something to the viewer can hardly be classified a work of art at all.
What remains to be determined is the correct approach to the assessment of the meaning and resulting value of a work of art. Plato would have had us believe that art was of little or no value at all—objects themselves, in his view, were only imitations, and thus an artistic representation of an object one step further removed from the truth. Most who retain an interest in the issue in modern times agree that art, or at least some art, has value, but the standard for determining that value, and for assessing the meaning conveyed by the creator, remains a point of contention.
Certainly, when one critic interprets a work as a literal representation, another as a religious allegory, and still a third as a psychological expression of the artist's own issues and experiences, only one can be correct: the mere fact that they arrive at opposing conclusions illustrates that. However, as yet a clear standard has not emerged for determining which the artist actually intended, and so in those cases where the artist has not explicitly shared that information, there will always be contention about the true meaning and value of an individual work.
Susan Sontag summed up everything important about artistic interpretation when she said, "To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world in order to set up a shadow world of 'meanings'." For particular types of criticism, she had even stronger language, and rightly so. For instance, she suggested that Freudian symbolic interpretation necessarily reflected dissatisfaction with the work, a desire to substitute for it. After all, if the viewer-critic had responded deeply to the actual work of art, then he or she would have had no need to create some alternate meaning or interpretation to impose value upon it.
Such dissatisfaction, however, isn’t necessarily indicative of a flaw in the work. The flaw, if there is one, may be in the viewer, or rather in the urge to interpret and the preconceived form of interpretation that makes it impossible for the viewer to experience the work fresh and unfettered. Thus, it seems that the very standards and analysis that we apply in an effort to determine the meaning and value of a work of art may become the screen that clouds the true meaning and value, making an accurate assessment of the worth of a work impossible.
Which of the following assumptions is common to both passages?
1. Freudian interpretation does not yield an accurate view of the meaning and value of a work of art
2. There is an objective answer to the question as to whether or not a work of art has value
3. Interpretation is a negative approach to art that does not help to determine the meaning or value of a particular work
4. The artist's intention is key to the valid interpretation of a work of art
5. Plato was incorrect in viewing art as an imitation of an imitation
Which of the following is mentioned by the author of Passage A, but not by the author of Passage B, as a problem with the current state of artistic interpretation?
1. Interpretation is destructive to the original work, in that it seeks to replace it with something outside the work
2. Interpretation obscures the true meaning of a work
3. Too much emphasis is placed on what the artist intended and not enough on what the work actually conveys
4. There is no clear standard for assessing the value and meaning of a work of art
5. Modern interpretation seeks to project value onto works of art, which are inherently limited in value because they are simply imitative
The authors of the two passages would be most likely to disagree over:
1. The best formula for interpreting the meaning of a work of art accurately
2. The validity of Freudian interpretation as a means of deriving important information about the meaning of a work of art
3. Plato's assessment of the value of art overall
4. The importance of the artist's intentions in assessing the value of a work of art
5. Whether or not there is a "correct" system of artistic interpretation
The attitude of the author of Passage B toward artistic interpretation can best be described as:
2. cautiously optimistic
The author of Passage B would be most likely to make which of the following criticisms about the analysis contained in the last paragraph of Passage A?
1. It places an unwarranted value on the intention of the artist
2. It assumes that there is a form of artistic interpretation that will yield valuable and accurate information about a work of art
3. It underestimates the role of literal representation in most artwork
4. It lists only a small fraction of the possible methods of interpretation
5. It misstates the relationship between content and form in a work of art
The relationship between Passage A and Passage B is most analogous to the relationship between the documents described in which of the following?
1. A position paper that encourages the creation of an accepted set of standards for remodeling an existing structure and one offering the opinion that remodeling would not be beneficial at all
2. An article supporting a new school of thought about educational processes, and an article arguing that the current processes are superior to the proposed changes
3. An article describing three conflicting schools of thought regarding musical interpretation and an article advancing one of those three schools as clearly superior to the others
4. An article describing the sociological impact of art on early cultures and an article detailing the timeline and technical aspects of early art
5. A criticism of avant-garde fiction as a genre and a criticism of conventional fiction as outdated and stale
Which of the following most accurately describes the relationship between the argument in Passage A and the argument in Passage B?
1. Passage A makes vague claims without providing supporting evidence, while the conclusions in Passage B are based strictly on specific illustrations
2. Passage A and Passage B come to the same conclusion, but arrive at it through very different analyses
3. Passage A warns about the dangers and weaknesses of a much broader spectrum of approaches than Passage B, which is more limited in scope
4. Passage A seeks a workable set of standards to apply to a process that Passage B suggests cannot be addressed productively regardless of the standards applied
5. Passage A provides examples that are used by the author of Passage B to prove a very different point
Correct answers above are highlighed in green