This is one of those "paired passages" on a past SAT. I would like answers and explanations to two of the questions. (Of course, one question involves Passage 1 and the other passage involves Passage 2.) Both questions involve interpreting a word or phrase - including in the choices. For example, what is the difference between "set of circumstances" and "situation under investigation"? These are two of the choices for the first question, which is asking for the proper interpretation of "case" as used in the context of the first paragraph of Passage 1.

The following adaptations from late-twentieth-century works offer perspectives on the work of botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), who taught at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Passage 1

Linnaeus' enormous and essential contribution to natural history was to devise a system of classification whereby any plant or animal could be identified and slotted into an overall plan. In creating this system, Linnaeus also introduced a method of naming biological species that is still used today. These two innovations may sound unexciting until one tries to imagine a scientific world without these fundamental tools - as was indeed the case with natural history before the Linnaean system.

Previous naturalists (and Linnaeus himself in his youth) had tried to name species by enumerating all of a species' distinguishing features. Often these multi-word names had to be expanded when similar related species were discovered, and the names differed from author to author and language to language. Naturalists therefore had difficulty understanding and building on one another's work. It became crucial that every species have the same name in all languages. In using Latin for naming species, Linnaeus followed the custom of his time, but in reducing the name of each species to two words - the genus, common to every species within the genus, and the species name itself - he made an invaluable break with the past. For instance, a shell with earlier names such as "Marbled Jamaica Murex with Knotty Twirls (Petiver)" became simply Strombus gigas L. ("L" for Linnaeus.)

Yet the invention of a system of nomenclature, vital as it has come to seem, was trivial by comparison with Linnaeus' main achievement: devising a classification system for all organisms, so that scientists no longer had to list every species individually. Linnaeus' universally understood classification of species also enabled scientists to retrieve information, make predictions, and understand traits by association. Linnaeus divided each kingdom (animal, vegetable, and mineral) into hierarchies that are still, with some additions, followed today. His classifications reflect an eighteenth-century concept of nature in which all organisms, graded from lower to higher, formed a ladder or "great chain of being," with the human species at the summit.

Linnaeus himself would probably have been the first to admit that classification is only a tool, and not the ultimate purpose, of biological inquiry. Unfortunately, this truth was not apparent to his immediate successors, and for the next hundred years biologists were to concern themselves almost exclusively with classification. All facts, however trivial, were revered; all theories, however stimulating were shunned. And the facts with which these naturalists were most concerned were those bearing on the description and classification of species.

Passage 2

A few years ago I stood in a historic place - a neat little eighteenth-century garden, formally divided by gravel walks, with a small wooden house in one corner where the garden's owner had once lived. This garden, which lies in the old Swedish university town of Uppsala, was owned by the warehouse clerk and great indexer of nature, Linnaeus, who between 1730 and 1760 docketed, or attempted to docket, most of the biological world. Perhaps nothing is more moving at Uppsala than the actual smallness and ordered simplicity of that garden, as compared to the immense consequences that sprang from it in terms of the way humans see and think about the external world. For all its air of gentle peace, this garden is closer to an explosion whose reverberations continue to resonate inside the human brain; it is the place where an intellectual seed landed and has now grown to a tree that shadows the entire globe.

I am a heretic about Linnaeus. I do not dispute the value of the tool he gave natural science, but am wary about the change it has effected in humans' relationship to the world. From Linnaeus on, much of science has been devoted to providing specific labels, to explaining specific mechanisms - to sorting masses into individual entities and arranging the entities neatly. The cost of having so successfully itemized and pigeonholed nature, of being able to name names and explain behaviors, is to limit certain possibilities of seeing and apprehending. For example, the modern human thinks that he or she can best understand a tree (or a species of tree) by examining a single tree. But trees are not intended to grow in isolation. They are social creatures, and their society in turn creates or supports other societies of plants, insects, birds, mammals, and microorganisms, all of which make up the whole experience of the woods. The true woods is the sum of all its phenomena.

Modern humans have come to adopt the scientific view of the external world as a way of understanding their everyday experience in it. Yet that experience is better understood as a synthesis, a complex interweaving of strands, past memories and present perceptions, times and places, private and public history, that is hopelessly beyond science's powers to analyze. It is quintessentially "wild": irrational, uncontrollable, incalculable. Despite modern humans' Linnaeus-like attempts to "garden" everyday experience, to invent disciplining social and intellectual systems for it, in truth it resembles wild nature, the green chaos of the woods.

2.) The word "case" as it is used in the last sentence of the first paragraph most nearly means

a.) example

b.) lawsuit

c.) convincing argument

d.) set of circumstances

e.) situation under investigation

7.) The author of Passage 2 characterizes "much of science" as

a.) reductive

b.) innovative

c.) controversial

d.) idealistic

e.) obscure

  • 1
    I’m kind of new here but I think you will get downvotes or closed and told this site is for specific answerable questions about English usage and not long discussion and do my homework. Since you asked, IMO 2.d and 7.a. But I did a lot better on math SAT than English SAT (>30 years ago) and was a chem major FWIW.
    – Damila
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 3:46
  • 1
    As "meaning" is a tag, I am thinking that my post is fair and would be of use to other members of this site. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 12:49
  • I've flagged this as off-topic ("no research"), as the question fails to demonstrate what research has been done - e.g. by including a definition for case. It seems the OP has the "official answers", but fails to identify what they are and fails to identify the specific issues with those two answers. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 22:54
  • @Chappo I clearly stated in the post that two of the choices offered for 2.) seemed synonymous to me. Instead of making a drama out of this, maybe you could simply tell me why one choice is better than another choice. Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 1:50
  • "I clearly stated in the post that two of the choices offered for 2.) seemed synonymous to me" - no you didn't, your question says "For example, what is the difference between "set of circumstances" and "situation under investigation"? These are two of the choices for the first question." That's quite different to "synonymous to me". You might like to reacquaint yourself with the actual wording of your own question. Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 3:39

1 Answer 1


The answer for 2 I would say is D.

This one I'm not as confident as E also has some merit to it (A, B, and C are right out). The sentence refers to a world where there was no unified system of classification. Since it's a hypothetical and involves some specific conditions (i.e. no system), D seems the like the correct fit.

The answer for 7 is A

The paragraph goes on about how science is making great strides towards categorizing individuals and their traits. Because of this great focus on putting everything into neat labels, the author feels scientists are missing out on the bigger picture where individual differences among species along with the environment they're in combine into a much more complex system than the scientists' model could ever emulate. This lines up nicely with the definition of Reductive which is:

Reductive: employing an analysis of a complex subject into a simplified, less detailed form; of, pertaining to, or employing reductionism; reductionistic. From Dictionary.com

  • Despite my comment on the OP, this is a good answer. If you want more or a cite for 1, look at the various definitions of “case”. Actually that is what the choices are.
    – Damila
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 3:53
  • 1
    For 2.) two of the choices - d.) and e.) - look synonymous. What is the difference between "a set of circumstances" and "the situation"? Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 17:57
  • The official answer is d.). Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 17:57
  • For 7.) choices a.) and d.) "looked" good. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 18:04
  • I referred to the American Heritage Dictionary for the definition of "reductive" - of or relating to reduction. The definition it gave for "reduction" is 1.) the act or process of reducing, 2.) the result of reducing; 3.) a sauce that has been thickened or concentrated by boiling. Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 18:04

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