Arts and Humanities Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 1 (page 2)
Arts and Humanities Critical Reading
Questions 1–4 are based on the following passage.
The following paragraph details the design of New York City's Central Park.
(1) Although it is called Central Park, New York City's great green space has no "center"—no formal walkway down the middle of the park, no central monument or body of water, no single orienting feature. The paths wind, the landscape constantly shifts and changes, the sections
(5) spill into one another in a seemingly random manner. But this "decentering" was precisely the intent of the park's innovative design. Made to look as natural as possible, Frederick Law Olmsted's 1858 plan for Central Park had as its main goal the creation of a democratic playground—a place with many centers to reflect the multiplicity of its uses and users.
(10) Olmsted designed the park to allow interaction among the various members of society, without giving preference to one group or class. Thus, Olmsted's ideal of a "commonplace civilization" could be realized.
- In lines 3–5, the author describes specific park features in order to
- present both sides of an argument.
- suggest the organization of the rest of the passage.
- provide evidence that the park has no center.
- demonstrate how large the park is.
- show how well the author knows the park.
- The main idea of this passage is that
- New York City is a democratic city.
- Olmsted was a brilliant designer
- More parks should be designed without centers.
- Central Park is used by many people for many different purposes.
- Central Park is democratic by design.
- The passage suggests that Olmsted's design
- was like most other parks being designed at the time.
- was radically different from other park designs.
- was initially very unpopular with New Yorkers.
- was inspired by similar parks in Europe.
- did not succeed in creating a democratic playground.
- The word commonplace as used in line 12 most nearly means
Questions 5–8 are based on the following passage.
In this excerpt from Book One of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle expands his definitions of "good" and "happiness."
Good things are commonly divided into three classes: (1) external goods, (2) goods of the soul, and (3) goods of the body. Of these, we call the goods pertaining to the soul goods in the highest and fullest sense. But in speaking of "soul," we refer to our soul's actions and activties. Thus, our definition [of good] tallies with this opinion which has been current for a long time and to which philosophers subscribe. We are also right in defining the end as consisting of actions and activities; for in this way the end is included among the goods of the soul and not among external goods.
Also the view that a happy man lives well and fares well fits in with our definition: for we have all but defined happiness as a kind of good life and well-being. Moreover, the characteristics which one looks for in happiness are all included in our definition. For some people think that happiness is a virtue, others that it is practical wisdom, others that it is some kind of theoretical wisdom; others again believe it to be all or some of these accompanied by, or not devoid of, pleasure; and some people also include external prosperity in its definition.
- According to the passage, the greatest goods are those that
- are theoretical.
- are spiritual.
- are intellectual.
- create happiness.
- create prosperity.
- The word tallies in line 5 means
- keeps count.
- The author's definition of happiness in lines 11–12 is related to the definition of good in that
- living a good life will bring you happiness.
- happiness is the same as goodness.
- happiness is often sacrificed to attain the good.
- all things that create happiness are good things.
- happiness is a virtue.
- In lines 13–18, the author's main purpose is to
- show that different people have different definitions of happiness.
- define virtue.
- prove that his definition of happiness is valid.
- explain the relationship between happiness and goodness.
- provide guidelines for good behavior.
Questions 9–13 are based on the following passage.
The following passage describes the ethical theory of utilitarianism.
If you have ever made a list of pros and cons to help you make a decision, you have used the utilitarian method of moral reasoning. One of the main ethical theories, utilitarianism posits that the key to deciding what makes an act morally right or wrong is its consequences. Whether our intentions are good or bad is irrelevant; what matters is whether the result of our actions is good or bad. To utilitarians, happiness is the ultimate goal of human beings and the highest moral good. Thus, if there is great unhappiness because of an act, then that action can be said to be morally wrong. If, on the other hand, there is great happiness because of an action, then that act can be said to be morally right.
Utilitarians believe that we should carefully weigh the potential consequences of an action before we take it. Will the act lead to things that will make us, or others, happy? Will it make us, or others, unhappy? According to utilitarians, we should choose to do that which creates the greatest amount of good (happiness) for the greatest number of people. This can be difficult to determine, though, because sometimes an act can create short-term happiness but misery in the long term. Another problematic aspect of utilitarianism is that it deems it acceptable—indeed, even necessary—to use another person as a means to an end and sacrifice the happiness of one or a few for the happiness of many.
- In lines 1–2, the author refers to a list of pros and cons in order to
- show that there are both positive and negative aspects of utilitarianism.
- suggest that making a list of pros and cons is not an effective way to make a decision.
- emphasize that utilitarians consider both the good and the bad before making a decision.
- indicate that readers will learn how to make decisions using pro/con lists.
- show readers that they are probably already familiar with the principles of utilitarian reasoning.
- The word posits in line 3 means
- According to the definition of utilitarianism in lines 3–11, stealing bread to feed hungry children would be
- morally right because it has good intentions.
- morally wrong because of it violates another's rights.
- morally right because it has positive consequences.
- morally wrong because stealing is illegal.
- neither morally right nor wrong; a neutral action.
- According to the utilitarian principles described in lines 13–19, we should
- do what will bring us the most happiness.
- always think of others first.
- make our intentions clear to others.
- do what will make the most people the most happy.
- avoid things that will make us unhappy.
- In lines 19–22, the author's purpose is to show that
- using utilitarianism to make a moral decision is not always easy.
- sacrifice is necessary in life.
- long-term consequences are more important than short-term consequences.
- a pro/con list is the most effective technique for making an important decision.
- great good often comes at a great price.
Questions 14–21 are based on the following passage.
Written by John Henry Newman in 1852, the following passage presents Newman's idea of the purpose and benefits of a university education.
I have said that all branches of knowledge are connected together, because the subject-matter of knowledge is intimately united in itself [ . . . ]. Hence it is that the Sciences, into which our knowledge may be said to be cast, have multiple bearings on one another, and an internal sympathy, and admit, or rather demand, comparison and adjustment. They complete, correct, and balance each other. This consideration, if well-founded, must be taken into account, not only as regards the attainment of truth, which is their common end, but as regards the influence which they excise upon those whose education consists in the study of them. I have already said, that to give undue prominence to one is to be unjust to another; to neglect or supersede these is to divert those from their proper object. It is to unsettle the boundary lines between science and science, to disturb their action, to destroy the harmony which binds them together. Such a proceeding will have a corresponding effect when introduced into a place of education. There is no science but tells a different tale, when viewed as a portion of a whole, from what it is likely to suggest when taken by itself, without the safeguard, as I may call it, of others.
Let me make use of an illustration. In the combination of colors, very different effects are produced by a difference in their selection and juxtaposition; red, green, and white, change their shades, according to the contrast to which they are submitted. And, in like manner, the drift and meaning of a branch of knowledge varies with the company in which it is introduced to the student. If his reading is confined simply to one subject, however such division of labor may favor the advancement of a particular pursuit, a point into which I do not here enter, certainly it has a tendency to contract his mind. If it is incorporated with others, it depends on those others as to the kind of influence that it exerts upon him. Thus the Classics, which in England are the means of refining the taste, have in France subserved the spread of revolutionary and deistical doctrines. [ . . . .] In a like manner, I suppose, Arcesilas would not have handled logic as Aristotle, nor Aristotle have criticized poets as Plato; yet reasoning and poetry are subject to scientific rules.
It is a great point then to enlarge the range of studies which a University professes, even for the sake of the students; and, though they cannot pursue every subject which is open to them, they will be the gainers by living among those and under those who represent the whole circle. This I conceive to be the advantage of a seat of universal learning, considered as a place of education. An assemblage of learned men, zealous for their own sciences, and rivals of each other, are brought, by familiar intercourse and for the sake of intellectual peace, to adjust together the claims and relations of their respective subjects of investigation. They learn to respect, to consult, to aid each other. Thus is created a pure and clear atmosphere of thought, which the student also breathes, though in his own case he only pursues a few sciences out of the multitude. He profits by an intellectual tradition, which is independent of particular teachers, which guides him in his choice of subjects, and duly interprets for him those which he chooses. He apprehends the great outlines of knowledge, the principles on which it rests, the scale of its parts, its lights and its shades, its great points and its little, as he otherwise cannot apprehend them. Hence it is that his education is called "Liberal." A habit of mind is formed which lasts through life, of which the attributes are, freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom; or what in a former discourse I have ventured to call a philosophical habit. This then I would assign as the special fruit of the education furnished at a University, as contrasted with other places of teaching or modes of teaching. This is the main purpose of a University in its treatment of its students.
- The main idea of the first paragraph (lines 1–18) is that
- each science should be studied independently.
- the sciences are interrelated.
- the boundary lines between each of the sciences should be clearer.
- some sciences are unduly given more emphasis than others at the university level.
- it is difficult to attain a proper balance among the sciences.
- By the Sciences (line 3), the author means
- the physical sciences only.
- the social sciences only.
- the physical and social sciences.
- all branches of knowledge, including the physical and social sciences and the humanities.
- educational methodologies.
- The word excise in line 9 most nearly means
- By using the word safeguard in line 18, the author suggests that
- it is dangerous to limit one's education to one field or area of specialization.
- it is not safe to study the sciences.
- the more one knows, the safer one will feel.
- one should choose a second area of specialization as a backup in case the first does not work out.
- each science has its own specific safety guidelines.
- The purpose of the second paragraph (lines 19–34) is to
- introduce a new idea.
- develop the idea presented in the previous paragraph.
- state the main idea of the passage.
- present an alternative point of view.
- compare and contrast different branches of knowledge.
- The word apprehends as used in lines 50 and 52 means
- Which of the following best describes the author's idea of a liberal education?
- in-depth specialization in one area.
- free education for all.
- a broad scope of knowledge in several disciplines.
- training for a scientific career.
- an emphasis on the arts rather than the sciences.
- The author believes that a university should
- have faculty representing a wide range of subjects and philosophies
- teach students how to see the relationships among ideas
- teach students to understand and respect other points of view
- teach students liberal rather than conservative ideals
- I and II only
- I, II, and III
- I and IV
- IV only
- all of the above
- c. The description of the winding paths, shifting landscape and sections that spill into one another support the assertion that the park lacks a center.
- e. Line 8 states that Olmsted wanted to create a democratic playground, so he designed the park to have many centers that would allow interaction among the various members of society (lines 10–11).
- b. Line 6 states that the park's design was innovative, suggesting it was very different from other park designs.
- a. Olmsted's goal of creating a democratic park with many centers that would allow interaction among everyone without giving preference to one group or class (line 11) shows his philosophy of inclusion.
- b. Lines 3–4 state that the goods pertaining to the soul are called goods in the highest and fullest sense.
- d. In line 5 Aristotle notes that the definition of good corresponds with the current opinion about the nature of the soul.
- a. In the second paragraph, Aristotle states that we have all but defined happiness as a kind of good life and well-being. Thus, the definitions of happiness and goodness are intertwined; living a good life will bring happiness.
- c. In the third paragraph, Aristotle lists several different ways that people define happiness to show that they all fit into the broad definition of a kind of good life and well-being.
- e. The opening sentence tells readers that making a list of pros and cons is a technique of utilitarian reasoning. Thus, readers who have used this technique will realize they are already familiar with the basic principles of utilitarianism.
- b. The second sentence explains the main argument of utilitarianism—that we should use consequences to determine our course of action. Thus posits is used here in the sense of asserts.
- c. Lines 2–4 explain that according to utilitarianism, only the consequences of our actions are morally relevant. Lines 5–8 explain that an action is morally good if it creates good (happiness).
- d. Lines 15–17 state the utilitarian principle of choosing actions that create the greatest amount of good (happiness) for the greatest number of people.
- a. Lines 17–22 explain two aspects of utilitarianism that complicate the decision-making process: that it is not always clear what the consequences of an action will be (whether they will bring shortor long-term happiness and to what degree), and that sometimes we must sacrifice the happiness of others.
- b. In the first sentence, the author states that the subject-matter of knowledge is intimately united (line 2), while in the second sentence he adds the Sciences […] have multiple bearings on one another (lines 3–4). In line 6 he states that the sciences complete, correct, balance each other.
- d. In the first sentence, the author states that all branches of knowledge are connected together (line 1). Then, in the second sentence, he writes Hence it is that the Sciences, into which our knowledge may be said to be cast (lines 3–4). Thus, Newman is using the term the Sciences to refer to all branches of knowledge.
- c. The word excise here is used in an unusual way to mean impose or put upon. The main context clue is the word influence, which suggests a giving to rather than a taking away.
- a. Throughout the first paragraph, the author emphasizes the interdependence of the branches of knowledge and warns against focusing on one branch at the neglect of others. He states that to give undue prominence to one [area of study] is to be unjust to another; to neglect or supersede these is to divert those from their proper object (lines 10–12). More importantly, he states that this action would serve to unsettle the boundary lines between science and science, to destroy the harmony which binds them together (lines 12–14). Thus the knowledge received would be skewed; it would tel[l] a different tale when it is not viewed as a portion of a whole (lines 16–17).
- b. The first sentence of the second paragraph shows that its purpose is to further develop the idea in the first by way of example. Newman writes, Let me make use of an illustration (line 19)—an illustration that further demonstrates how one's understanding of an idea changes in relation to the other ideas around it.
- a. Here apprehends is used to mean understands. In this paragraph, the author describes what it is the university student would learn from his or her professors.
- c. Throughout the passage, Newman argues that the branches of knowledge are interrelated and should be studied in combination and in relation to each other. He argues against focusing on one science or discipline, and he states that the university student apprehends the great outlines of knowledge (line 50), suggesting that he understands the broad issues in many subject areas.
- b. At the beginning of the third paragraph, Newman states that it is a great point then to enlarge the range of studies which a University professes (lines 35–36) and that students would be best served by living among those and under those who represent the whole circle (lines 38–39) of knowledge. He argues that students will learn from the atmosphere created by their professors who adjust together the claims and relations of their respective subjects and who learn to respect, to consult, to aid each other (lines 43–45).
For more practice on arts and humanities critical reading questions, review:
- Arts and Humanities Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 1 You are here
- Arts and Humanities Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2
- Arts and Humanities Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 3
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- Theories of Learning
- Definitions of Social Studies
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction