CAT Critical Reasoning Practice question with Solution 72

Court records from medieval France show that in the years 1300 to 1400 the number of people arrested in the French realm for "violent interpersonal crimes" (not committed in wars) increased by 30 percent over the number of people arrested for such crimes in the years 1200 to 1300. The increase was not the result of false arrests; therefore, medieval France had a higher level of documented interpersonal violence in the years 1300 to 1400 than in the years 1200 to 1300.

Which one of the following statements, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?

[A]. In the years 1300 to 1400 the French government's category of violent crimes included an increasing variety of interpersonal crimes that are actually nonviolent.
[B]. Historical accounts by monastic chroniclers in the years 1300 to 1400 are filled with descriptions of violent attacks committed by people living in the French realm
[C]. The number of individual agreements between two people in which they swore oaths not to attack each other increased substantially after 1300.
[D]. When English armies tried to conquer parts of France in the mid- to late 1300s. violence in the northern province of Normandy and the south-western province of Gascony increased.
[E]. The population of medical France increased substantially during the first five decades of the 1300s until the deadly bubonic plague decimated the population of France after 1348.
Answer: A

You may have been struck by the unusual phrase “violent interpersonal crimes”; this indeed turns out to be the argument’s weak point. (A) says that the French government’s definition of what constituted a “violent interpersonal crime” expanded throughout the 1300’s to include crimes that were actually NON-violent. If that’s the case, then the evidence that more people were arrested for so-called “violent interpersonal crimes” no longer warrants the conclusion that there was actually a higher level of real violence documented. (A) is therefore our weakener.

(B) is irrelevant. The fact that there are descriptions of violent attacks in the 1300’s has no bearing on an argument discussing the number of such attacks as compared with the previous century.

(C) doesn’t hurt the conclusion at all. We don’t know how many people actually took the oaths (it might be a very small number like thirty, up from a previous count of twenty), how many kept them, or whether the non-oath takers were bashing each other with more and more gusto.

(D) First of all, the acts of violence answer choice (D) refers to may very well have been committed in war, which doesn’t count. More importantly, though, choice (D) refers to violence increasing, whereas a weakener must suggest that documented interpersonal violence didn’t increase.

(E) As an account of France’s population in the 1300’s, (E) is ambiguous (first it increased then it decreased), so we don’t know how France’s population in that century compared to France’s population in the 1200’s. Even so, it’s also unclear how the supposed population changes are connected to interpersonal violence. In essence, (E) tells us nothing

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