It is now a common complaint that the electronic media have corroded the intellectual skills required and fostered by the literary media. But several centuries ago the complaint was that certain intellectual skills, such as the powerful memory and extemporaneous eloquence that were intrinsic to oral culture, were being destroyed by the spread of literacy. So, what awaits us is probably a mere alteration of the human mind rather than its devolution.
The reference to the complaint of several centuries ago that powerful memory and extemporaneous eloquence were being destroyed plays which one of the following roles in the argument?
evidence supporting the claim that the intellectual skills fostered by the literary media are being destroyed by the electronic media
an illustration of the general hypothesis being advanced that intellectual abilities are inseparable from the means by which people communicate
an example of a cultural change that did not necessarily have a detrimental effect on the human mind overall
evidence that the claim that the intellectual skills required and fostered by the literary media are being lost is unwarranted
possible evidence, mentioned and then dismissed, that might be cited by supporters of the hypothesis being criticized
Pedantic Turd argues that electronic media are probably just changing the way we think rather than making us stupider. Why? See, back when books were invented, some cranks complained that they made us stupider too, since before that Pericles and Socrates had to memorize long speeches and debate each other in ancient Greek forums.
P.T. let all the books go to his head. Socrates and Pericles probably were way smarter than us, and books totally could have made us stupider. Without this support, the tech argument is toast.
The question asks us what role the reference to the cranks who complained about books plays in the argument. You have to sort this out before going into the answer choices. As we predicted, this is the evidence (a supposedly analogous situation) that P.T. gives to argue that tech probably isn’t making us dumber.
A. No, this is the opposite of P.T.’s argument.
B. That “intellectual abilities are inseparable from the means of communication” is not the general hypothesis of the argument, so no.
C. Yes. Think of this as a Must Be True question. This is a perfect, conservatively worded answer. P.T. argues that tech probably isn’t having a net negative effect because books didn’t have a net negative effect.
D. This turns the volume up too high. The argument never goes so far as to say that the opposing position is “unwarranted,” nor does it claim that those opposed think literary skills are being “lost.”
E. This evidence isn’t dismissed. There would literally be no support for the argument if it was.
Ready for more?