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CAT 2021 Reading Comprehension Solution 03

[PASSAGE]

Direction for Reading Comprehension: The passages given here are followed by some questions that have four answer choices; read the passage carefully and pick the option whose answer best aligns with the passage.

For the Maya of the Classic period, who lived in Southern Mexico and Central America between 250 and 900 CE, the category of "persons" was not coincident with human beings, as it is for us. That is, human beings were persons - but other, nonhuman entities could be persons, too. . . . In order to explore the slippage of categories between "humans" and "persons", I examined a very specific category of ancient Maya images, found painted in scenes on ceramic vessels. I sought out instances in which faces (some combination of eyes, nose, and mouth) are shown on inanimate objects. . . . Consider my iPhone, which needs to be fed with electricity every night, swaddled in a protective bumper, and enjoys communicating with other fellow-phone-beings. Does it have personhood (if at all) because itis connected to me, drawing this resource from me as an owner or source? For the Maya (who did have plenty of other communicating objects, if not smartphones), the answer was no. Nonhuman persons were not tethered to specific humans, and they did not derive their personhood from a connection with a human. . . . It's a profoundly democratising way of understanding the world. Humans are not more important persons - we are just one of many kinds of persons who inhabit this world. . . .

The Maya saw personhood as 'activated' by experiencing certain bodily needs and through participation in certain social activities. For example, among the faced objects that I examined, persons are marked by personal requirements (such as hunger, tiredness, physical closeness), and by community obligations (communication, interaction, ritual observance). In the images I examined, we see, for instance, faced objects being cradled in humans' arms; we also see them speaking to humans. These core elements of personhood are both turned inward, what the body or self of a person requires, and outward, what a community expects of the persons who are a part of it, underlining the reciprocal nature of community membership.

Personhood was a nonbinary proposition for the Maya. Entities were able to be persons while also being something else. The faced objects I looked at indicate that they continue to be functional, doing what objects do (a stone implement continues to chop, an incense burner continues to do its smoky work). Furthermore, the Maya visually depicted many objects in ways that indicated the material category to which they belonged - drawings of the stone implement show that a person-tool is still made of stone. One additional complexity: the incense burner (which would have been made of clay, and decorated with spiky appliques representing the sacred ceiba tree found in this region) is categorised as a person - but also as a tree. With these Maya examples, we are challenged to discard the person/nonperson binary that constitutes our basic ontological outlook. . . . The porousness of boundaries that we have seen in the Maya world points towards the possibility of living with a certain uncategorisability of the world.


Question: 1

Which one of the following best explains the "additional complexity" that the example of the incense burner illustrates regarding personhood for the Classic Maya?

  1. The example adds a new layer to the nonbinary understanding of personhood by bringing in a third category that shares a similar relation with the previous two.

  2. The example provides an exception to the nonbinary understanding of personhood that the passage had hitherto established.

  3. The example adds a new layer to the nonbinary understanding of personhood by bringing in a third category that shares a dissimilar relation with the previous two.

  4. The example complicates the nonbinary understanding of personhood by bringing in the sacred, establishing the porosity of the divine and the profane.

Option: 1
Solution:
This passage is difficult to read and understand. We have to pick the choice that best explains the "additional complexity" that the example of the incense burner illustrates regarding personhood. Option 2 is the first to go out because the example is not an exception to the nonbinary understanding. In fact, it adds one more layer about the nonbinary personhood of the Maya people. Option 3 goes out because it is not adding "a third category", and is not sharing "dissimilar relation". In fact, the relationship is similar, not dissimilar. Option 4 goes out because without any evidence it says "the example complicates the nonbinary understanding of personhood". Option 1 is the best choice as everything given in it matches with what the passage has to say.

Question: 2

Which one of the following, if true about the Classic Maya, would invalidate the purpose of the iPhone example in the passage?

  1. The clay incense burner with spiky appliques was categorised only as a person and not as a tree by the Classic Maya.

  2. Classic Maya songs represent both humans and non-living objects as characters, talking and interacting with each other.

  3. The personhood of the incense burner and the stone chopper was a function of their usefulness to humans.

  4. Unlike modern societies equipped with mobile phones, the Classic Maya did not have any communicating objects.

Option: 3
Solution:
To answer this question we have to understand the iPhone example. The author says that to us iPhone has a personhood because it is connected to or useful to me, but this was not the case with Maya people. To them nonhuman persons were not tethered to specific humans. To invalidate this example, we have to pick a choice that goes against this. Option 3 precisely does that. It makes the personhood of the incense burner and the stone chopper a function of their usefulness to humans, something that the author wants to deny through the example of iPhone. Thus if 3 is true than the purpose of the iPhone example is invalidated. All the other three choices don't invalidate the iPhone example in any way.

Question: 3

On the basis of the passage, which one of the following worldviews can be inferred to be closest to that of the Classic Maya?

  1. A futuristic society that perceives robots to be persons as well as robots because of their similarity to humans.

  2. A tribe that perceives plants as person-plants because they form an ecosystem and are marked by needs of nutrition.

  3. A tribe that perceives its hunting weapons as sacred person-artefacts because of their significance to its survival.

  4. A tribe that perceives its utensils as person-utensils in light of their functionality and bodily needs.

Option: 2
Solution:
This too can be a tough question, but to answer it we have to understand the Classic Maya view. They looked at things democratically and in a nonbinary way. Humans were not the only important things to them. Everything was equally important and equally human. Option 1 goes out because it says that robots are perceived to be persons because they are similar to us. This is not democratic (for something to be a person it need not be necessarily similar to humans). Option 2 is both democratic and derives personhood not because of humans but by its needs of nutrition. It is the best choice. Both 3 and 4 go out because it is the functionality to humans that is giving them personhood. This was not the case with Maya people.

Question: 4

Which one of the following, if true, would not undermine the democratising potential of the Classic Maya worldview?

  1. They understood the stone implement and the incense burner in a purely human form.

  2. They believed that animals like cats and dogs that live in proximity to humans have a more clearly articulated personhood.

  3. They depicted their human healers with physical attributes of local medicinal plants.

  4. While they believed in the personhood of objects and plants, they did not believe in the personhood of rivers and animals.

Option: 3
Solution:
Option 1 goes out because to understand something in a purely human form means to have a binary outlook which is undemocratic. As per the passage, this was not how the Maya people viewed the objects of the outside world. Option 2 also is undemocratic because cats and dogs that live in proximity to humans have "a more clearly articulated personhood". Why only those that live close to humans, why not all? Option 2 is highly undemocratic. Option 3 is not invalidating the democratising potential in any way. Like option 2, option 4 believes in personhood of objects and plants but not of rivers and animals.

CAT 2021 RC passage with solution

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