The passage below is accompanied by four questions. Based on the passage, choose the best answer for each question.

Steven Pinker’s new book, “Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters,” offers a pragmatic dose of measured optimism, presenting rationality as a fragile but achievable ideal in personal and civic life. . . . Pinker’s ambition to illuminate such a crucial topic offers the welcome prospect of a return to sanity. . . . It’s no small achievement to make formal logic, game theory, statistics and Bayesian reasoning delightful topics full of charm and relevance.

It’s also plausible to believe that a wider application of the rational tools he analyzes would improve the world in important ways. His primer on statistics and scientific uncertainty is particularly timely and should be required reading before consuming any news about the [COVID] pandemic. More broadly, he argues that less media coverage of shocking but vanishingly rare events, from shark attacks to adverse vaccine reactions, would help prevent dangerous overreactions, fatalism and the diversion of finite resources away from solvable but less-dramatic issues, like malnutrition in the developing world.

It’s a reasonable critique, and Pinker is not the first to make it. But analyzing the political economy of journalism — its funding structures, ownership concentration and increasing reliance on social media shares — would have given a fuller picture of why so much coverage is so misguided and what we might do about it.

Pinker’s main focus is the sort of conscious, sequential reasoning that can track the steps in a geometric proof or an argument in formal logic. Skill in this domain maps directly onto the navigation of many real-world problems, and Pinker shows how greater mastery of the tools of rationality can improve decision-making in medical, legal, financial and many other contexts in which we must act on uncertain and shifting information. . . .

Despite the undeniable power of the sort of rationality he describes, many of the deepest insights in the history of science, math, music and art strike their originators in moments of epiphany. From the 19th-century chemist Friedrich August Kekulé’s discovery of the structure of benzene to any of Mozart’s symphonies, much extraordinary human achievement is not a product of conscious, sequential reasoning. Even Plato’s Socrates — who anticipated many of Pinker’s points by nearly 2,500 years, showing the virtue of knowing what you do not know and examining all premises in arguments, not simply trusting speakers’ authority or charisma — attributed many of his most profound insights to dreams and visions. Conscious reasoning is helpful in sorting the wheat from the chaff, but it would be interesting to consider the hidden aquifers that make much of the grain grow in the first place.

The role of moral and ethical education in promoting rational behavior is also underexplored. Pinker recognizes that rationality “is not just a cognitive virtue but a moral one.” But this profoundly important point, one subtly explored by ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, doesn’t really get developed. This is a shame, since possessing the right sort of moral character is arguably a precondition for using rationality in beneficial ways.

Question 7

The author mentions Kekulé’s discovery of the structure of benzene and Mozart’s symphonies to illustrate the point that:


In the case of Kekulé, the discovery of the benzene structure reportedly came to him in a dream, showcasing how creative insights can emerge unexpectedly and unconsciously. Similarly, Mozart's symphonies, considered masterpieces of classical music, are often seen as products of his musical genius and creative intuition. Therefore, the examples support the notion that groundbreaking achievements in both scientific and artistic domains may involve moments of inspiration, intuition, or epiphany, challenging the idea that all significant accomplishments are the result of conscious and sequential reasoning. This aligns with the broader point that while conscious reasoning is valuable, there are also subconscious and intuitive processes at play in the generation of innovative ideas and creations. Option A correctly captures this idea.

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