Last week, I announced in class that LSAT Demon is now a “contrapositive-free zone.” That’s because “contrapositive” is a five-syllable word that (1) appears only in LSAT classes—never on the actual test, (2) doesn’t really mean anything beyond common sense, and (3) perversely, has the unintended consequence of causing some people to commit the sufficient vs. necessary flaw—the avoidance of which is supposed to be the reason for bringing it up in the first place.
Going forward, we are eliminating the term “contrapositive” from our LSAT vocabulary. There are easier ways of dealing with conditional rules:
- On logic games, make worlds instead. For a rule like “if X is third, Y must be seventh,” don’t make a messy diagram of the rule and its “contrapositive.” Instead, just make a world where X is third and another world where it’s not. In the world where X is third, put Y seventh. In the world where X is not third, the rule doesn’t apply. It’s simpler this way. Not only will you never have to think about this rule again, but you’ll also have started worlds, which you want to do anyway.
- On logical reasoning, just understand the rule in your own words. There really isn’t any such thing as the “contrapositive”—it’s just another way of making the same statement. The statement, “If your house is made of brick, it is susceptible to earthquake damage” means the same thing as, “If your house isn’t susceptible to earthquake damage, it isn’t made of brick.” Yes, you must be able to transition fluidly between these two statements—but thinking of one as the “original rule” and the other as the “contrapositive” isn’t helpful. They mean the same damn thing. Diagramming them is an error-prone waste of time. Instead, read the statement carefully, and put it into your own words. Don’t diagram. Go for real understanding.
Ben and I both are guilty of having taught the “contrapositive” too dogmatically in our own LSAT classes. That’s because every LSAT book and class that preceded ours did the same thing. That’s what an LSAT class was “supposed” to do. Ben and I each did a solid decade of full-time LSAT teaching before we realized that talking about contrapositives is confusing and counterproductive. Fortunately, some old dogs can learn new tricks.
Henceforth, Ben and I will not utter the word “contrapositive” except to explain why you don’t need that word. Nor will our teachers. If any of us slip up, please call us on it. It may take a while to drum it out of our vocabulary.
Creating the first contrapositive-free zone on the LSAT landscape is just the beginning. Across the board, we’re aggressively eliminating jargon, dogma, and any other fancy bullshit that makes LSAT teachers sound smart at the expense of student understanding.
Recently, for example, we realized that there’s no such thing as a Principle question (Thinking LSAT episode 298, minute 1:01:36). These questions are intensely confusing when taught by Khan Academy and just about everyone else. They’re confusing because they are lumped into one category even though some of them are Must Be True questions while others are Strengthen questions—two precisely opposite question types. I can’t blame them for getting it wrong; I didn’t realize it myself until years after I had written an entire 600-page book about LSAT Logical Reasoning. Editing the “Principle” category out of that book was a pain. Thankfully, making similar changes in the Demon is easy.
We promise to show you how easy the LSAT really is.
Another example: LSAT Demon logic games guru Matt DuMont recently decided to stop saying “inference” in his classes. I wholeheartedly support this shift—I’ve always thought that the term sounded too magical and mystical and LSAT-jargony for what it really is. All we’re doing is learning things that must be true about the game. Matt started saying “realizations” instead. I’m fine with that. “Facts,” “truths,” or “must be trues” would work just as well. The point is that you don’t have to go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat or smoke peyote to discern magical “inferences” on an LSAT logic game. Just follow the breadcrumbs. If one rule says X is before Y, and another rule says Y is before Z, then it’s pretty obvious to “infer” that X is before Z. It ain’t rocket science. The term “inference” makes it sound more complicated than it actually is. So we’re dropping that term just like we’re dropping “contrapositive.”
If it doesn’t make the LSAT easier to understand, you won’t hear us say it. My to-do list for drumming out confusing, overly technical, jargony “LSAT teacher stuff” from the LSAT Demon currently includes the following items:
- Archive old lessons that dwell unnecessarily on jargon like “contrapositives” and “inferences.”
- Edit written explanations to eradicate these terms.
- Replace old logical reasoning videos that rely on diagramming.
- Replace old logic games videos that rely on writing down conditional rules.
- Replace old logic games videos that focus on diagramming every rule instead of eliminating those rules via worlds.
- De-emphasize or archive lessons that focus on lists of keywords or anything overly technical.
- Rewrite lesson titles using natural language
- Replace downvoted explanations
- Review and highlight upvoted explanations
What other LSAT dogma can we debunk?
If we ever say anything that makes the LSAT seem more complicated than it really is, please let us know. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org, and I read every one of your emails.
Demon users can also help tremendously by upvoting our best explanations and downvoting our worst. If you see me or Ben in an old video, doing convoluted, dogmatic things, smash that downvote! We’ll replace low-rated explanations with something fresh. Upvotes help, too—we’ll use those to identify and highlight the most helpful explanations.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to host and record multiple live LSAT classes seven days a week. We’ll keep writing new explanations for logical reasoning and reading comprehension. We’ll keep responding to Ask-button requests within 24 hours. We’ll add new videos across the board. We’ll provide six podcast episodes a week at Thinking LSAT and Demon Daily. We’ll post all the free clips we can on our two YouTube channels.
Alongside all this construction, you’ll see quite a bit of demolition. Without the dynamite, how do you make room for something new?