LSAT Reading Comprehension: Sample Social Science Passage

By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch, Amy Hackney Blackwell

The reading comprehension section of the LSAT includes a passage about a different kind of science: social science. This passage type includes topics like philosophy, history, political science, archaeology, sociology, and psychology. The good news about social science passages is that their topics tend to crop up more in the news and in daily conversation than does, for example, physics! So you may be more comfortable with social science topics.

Although passages about the social sciences are still mostly descriptive and informative, they’re more likely to be persuasive than natural science passages, so you may see more variety in the kinds of tones these passages display. For instance, the personality and opinion of the author of this excerpt of a sample philosophy passage are very apparent:

For most Americans and Europeans, this should be the best time in all of human history to live. Survival — the very purpose of all life — is nearly guaranteed for large parts of the world, especially in the West.

This should allow people a sense of security and contentment. If life is no longer, as Thomas Hobbes famously wrote, “nasty, brutish, and short,” then should it not be pleasant, dignified, and long? To know that tomorrow is nearly guaranteed, along with thousands of additional tomorrows, should be enough to render hundreds of millions of people awe-struck with happiness.

And modern humans, especially in the West, have every opportunity to be free, even as they enjoy ever-longer lives. Why is it, then, that so many people feel unhappy and trapped? The answer lies in the constant pressure of trying to meet needs that don’t actually exist.

The word need has been used with less and less precision in modern life. Today, many things are described as needs, including fashion items, SUVs, vacations, and other luxuries. People say, “I need a new car,” when their current vehicle continues to function. People with many pairs of shoes may still say they “need” a new pair.

Clearly, this careless usage is inaccurate; neither the new car nor the additional shoes are truly “needed.”

This author conveys a clear opinion regarding Western interpretations of needs. The dubious tone and clear opinion of this social science passage comes through in the placement of copious quotation marks and the introduction of rhetorical questions.