RC – 32

Dear students,
RC constitutes a very important part of the Verbal Ability section in CAT. Here is a passage from CAT 2002 for you to practice. This will help you to adopt the correct strategies while solving a passage and improve your accuracy.

If translated into English, most of the ways economists talk among themselves would sound plausible enough to poets, journalists, businesspeople, and other thoughtful though non economical folk. Like serious talk anywhere-among boat designers and baseball fans, say — the talk is hard to follow when one has not made a habit of listening to it for a while. The culture of the conversation makes the words arcane. But the people in the unfamiliar conversation are not Martians. Underneath it all (the economist’s favorite phrase) conversational habits are similar. Economics uses mathematical models and statistical tests and market arguments, all of which look alien to the literary eye. But looked at closely they are not so alien. They may be seen as figures of speech-metaphors, analogies, and appeals to authority .
Figures of speech are not mere frills. They think for us. Someone who thinks of a market as an “invisible hand” and the organization of work as a “production function” and his co efficients as being “significant,” as an economist does, is giving the language a lot of responsibility. It seems a good idea to look hard at his language.
If the economic conversation were found to depend a lot on its verbal forms, this would not mean that economics would be not a science, or just a matter of opinion, or some sort of confidence game. Good poets, though not scientists, are serious thinkers about symbols; good historians, though not scientists, are serious thinkers about data. Good scientists also use language. What is more (though it remains to be shown) they use the cunning of language, without particularly meaning to. The language used is a social object, and using language is a social act. It requires cunning (or, if you prefer, consideration), attention to the other minds present when one speaks.
The paying of attention to one’s audience is called “rhetoric,” a word that I later exercise hard. One uses rhetoric, of course, to warn of a fire in a theatre or to arouse the xenophobia of the electorate. This sort of yelling is the vulgar meaning of the word, like the president’s “heated rhetoric” in a press conference or the “mere rhetoric” to which our enemies stoop. Since the Greek flame was lit, though, the word has been used also in a broader and more amiable sense, to mean the study of all the ways of accomplishing things with language: inciting a mob to lynch the accused, to be sure, but also persuading readers of a novel that its characters breathe, or bringing scholars to accept the better argument and reject the worse.
The question is whether the scholar- who usually fancies himself an announcer of “results” or a stater of “conclusions” free of rhetoric — speaks rhetorically. Does he try to persuade? It would seem so. Language, I just said, is not a solitary accomplishment. The scholar doesn’t speak into the void, or to himself. He speaks to a community of voices. He desires to be heeded, praised, published, imitated, honored, en-Nobeled. These are the desires. The devices of language are the means.
Rhetoric is the proportioning of means to desires in speech. Rhetoric is an economics of language, the study of how scarce means are allocated to the insatiable desires of people to be heard. It seems on the face of it a reasonable hypothesis that economists are like other people in being talkers, who desire listeners whey they go to the library or the laboratory as much as when they go to the office on the polls. The purpose here is to see if this is true, and to see if it is useful: to study the rhetoric of economic scholarship.
The subject is scholarship. It is not the economy, or the adequacy of economic theory as a description of the economy, or even mainly the economist’s role in the economy. The subject is the conversation economists have among themselves, for purposes of persuading each other that the interest elasticity of demand for investment is zero or that the money supply is controlled by the Federal Reserve.
Unfortunately, though, the conclusions are of more than academic interest. The conversations of classicists or of astronomers rarely affect the lives of other people. Those of economists do so on a large scale. A well known joke describes a May Day parade through Red Square with the usual mass of soldiers, guided missiles, rocket launchers. At last come rank upon rank of people in gray business suits. A bystander asks, “Who are those?” “Aha!” comes the reply, “those are economists: you have no idea what damage they can do!” Their conversations do it.

  1. According to the passage, which of the following is the best set of reasons for which one needs to “look hard” at an economist’s language?
    (a) Economists accomplish a great deal through their language.
    (b) Economics is an opinion-based subject.
    (c) Economics has a great impact on other’s lives.
    (d) Economics damaging.

(1) a and b
(2) c and d
(3) a and c
(4) b and d

2. In the light of the definition of rhetoric given in the passage, which of the following will have the least element of rhetoric?
(1) An election speech.
(2) An advertisement jingle.
(3) Dialogues of a play.
(4) Commands given by army officers.

3. As used in the passage, which of the following is the closest meaning to the statement “The culture of the conversation makes the words arcane”?
(1) Economists belong to a different culture.
(2) Only mathematicians can understand economists.
(3) Economists tend to use terms unfamiliar to the lay person, but depend on familiar linguistic forms.
(4) Economists use similes and adjectives in their analysis.

4. As used in the passage, which of the following is the closest alternative to the word “arcane”
(1) Mysterious
(2) Secret
(3) Covert
(4) Perfidious

Solving :-

  1. Ans:- Option (3). The author states in the last paragraph that – “Unfortunately, though, the conclusions are of more than academic interest. The conversations of classicists or of astronomers rarely affect the lives of other people. Those of economists do so, on a large scale.” Because the conversation affects lives of other people and are of more than academic interest, statements (a) and (c) hold true. In the third paragraph, the author states that economics is not just a matter of opinion as stated in statement (b). With that, options 1 and 4 can be eliminated. Economics is not damaging (last line of last paragraph), economists and their conversations are, and therefore (d) can be ruled out and with that, option 2 is eliminated. Hence, the correct answer is option 3.
  2. Ans:- Option (4). According to the author rhetoric can arouse feelings in an electorate. Hence, option (1) can be ruled out. An advertisement jingle or the dialogues or a play are prepared to attract the audience and keep the audience attentive. Therefore, both (2) and (3) can be ruled out. An army officer’s command to his subordinate will have to be obeyed whether the command made the use of rhetoric or not. Hence, it will have the least element of rhetoric. Hence, the correct answer is option (4).
  3. Ans:- Option (3). In the first paragraph, the author says, “the talk is hard to follow when one has not made a habit of listening to it for a while.” He/she also says, “Underneath it all (the economist’s favorite phrase) conversational habits are similar.” Option (3) expresses this the best by stating that unfamiliar terms make it arcane whereas the conversational part is similar. Options (1), (2) and (4) do not follow from the passage. Hence, the correct answer is option (3).
  4. Ans:- Option (1). The author states in the first paragraph, “the talk is hard to follow when one has not made a habit of listening to it for a while. The culture of the conversation makes the words arcane.” Here, it means ‘difficult to understand’. Therefore, mysterious (baffling, puzzling, inexplicable) fits the meaning best. Hence, the correct answer is option (1). Secret and covert, both mean ‘not opening acknowledged or displayed’, hence both can be eliminated. Perfidy, most commonly used to mean disloyal, also means ‘treacherous’. But, here there is no negative connotation.

Set analysis:-
Level of difficulty:- Moderate to Difficult  
Expected time to solve:- 8 to 10 minutes.

Hope you learnt!
See you with the next one tomorrow!
Happy learning!
Rita Ma’am
CAT Coach

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