Passage: p 154, Mastering the National Admissions Test for Law by Mark Shepherd
= Consider only 'The civil society puzzle' & only the 1st para under 'Civil society – gaining some clarity'.

Question 41, p.155: Which of the following aims could be inferred to be the least controversial inclusion in a defi nition of civil society? (a) Reducing state intervention in politics (b) Reducing conflict
(c) Improving the quality of a particular society (d) Promoting democracy (e) Increasing individual freedom

From the answer key, p.242: (a) INCORRECT. Although Cato appears to support this view, other defi nitions are put forward which state the opposite, suggesting that this would be a controversial inclusion.
(b) INCORRECT. Reducing conflict is implicit in some, but not all, defi nitions, as is the idea of promoting democracy. These are, however, relatively specifi c ideas and are not consistent with an all- encompassing defi nition.
(c) CORRECT. The majority of conceptions of civil society are implied to promote various ideals or benefits for that society, and few would suggest that improving the quality of society was not a widely accepted aim.
(d) INCORRECT. See (b).
(e) INCORRECT. Increasing individual freedom will again be an aim championed by the followers of some ideologies, but will be opposed by others and is likely to be controversial at least to some extent.

  1. Why are the wrong answers wrong? The answer key doesn't quote from the passages, to show which definition(s) helps and opposes a choice. Since this is a hard passage for me, I'm struggling to find them myself. For example, what definition(s) oppose(s) (a), (b), (d), (e)?

  2. Are choices (d) and (e) the same? If so, then a cheap trick is to eliminate them both instantly?

  • This question is about logic, not English learning, so it should be closed. (But see @JohnFeminella's answer for the answer.)
    – Drew
    Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 17:01
  • 4
    This question, in its current form, is more about politics than English. You might be able to modify it into a question about English. Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 22:26

1 Answer 1


The reason it's the least controversial is because different groups of people will disagree about the best way to form a civil society -- whether that's by reducing state intervention, reducing conflict, promoting democracy, or increasing individual freedom. But it's very hard to imagine a reasonable person who would want to, on balance, decrease the quality of the society they live in.

For example:

  • Some people think that the state should intervene more, not less. If you believe that government is, on balance, a force for good, you might support this goal. So (a) is not correct.

  • Some people think that periodic conflict is healthy, even necessary. For example, many legal systems are adversarial -- they pit the plaintiff and defendant's lawyers against each other. So (b) is not correct.

  • Reasonable people can disagree about whether representative democracy is the best structure for government (e.g. socialist democracy, constitutional monarchy, etc.). So (d) is not correct.

  • Some people might think that increasing individual freedom reduces the freedom of the state to act for the good of the society as a whole. So it could be controversial. So (e) is not correct.

But almost no one would want to decrease the quality of the society they live in. It is therefore the least controversial definition, so (c) is correct.

  • +1. Thank you very much! Would you mind quoting from the passage itself for your explanations on why (a, b, d, e) are wrong? I'm still confused as to whether they're external knowledge, which musn't be used, or truly from the passage?
    – user8712
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 5:15
  • Will you please to respond in your answer, and not as a comment?
    – user8712
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 5:15