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GRE Issue 61: Risky Action - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt “People should undertake risky action only after they have carefully considered its consequences. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.”
The statement claims that people should undertake risky action only after they have carefully considered its consequences. Under some circumstances, this recommendation is favorable and beneficial since careful consideration of consequences would help people steel themselves to manage any likely results. However, in some cases, people do not have enough time to think carefully. Also, cautious consideration may prevent people from doing long shots, causing them to lose great opportunities.
It goes without saying that having careful consideration before undertaking risky action is helpful to people. On the one hand, people are more likely to make right decisions after enough thinking. On the other hand, considering all anticipated consequences could assist people to prepare for any outcome. Take warfare for example. Before war, each side must consider carefully. One side must think what the other side’s action is likely to be and what consequences it might lead to. With the help of this reflection, commanders are likely to make right decisions under different consequences. Therefore, cautious consideration is helpful to people since risky action may cause serious consequences and people should have enough preparation for the sake of avoiding being at a loss what to do.
However, in some cases, there is not enough time for people to make careful consideration and thus this recommendation, though commendable, is sometimes unrealistic and infeasible. Any delay means opportunities are irredeemably lost. Take battlefield for example again. It is true that before battle each side should consider carefully its outcomes of every action. However, because the situation is changing fast and haphazardly, no one can have a thorough consideration of all consequences. In this case, when the war begins, some events occurring on a battlefield might require an army respond quickly and decisively. Otherwise, the opportunities to win the battle are likely to disappear. In addition, if the house is on fire and someone is trapped in the burning house, there is no time for a firefighter to think what consequence may be if he or she goes into the house to rescue this person simply because any delay would lead to death. Thus, in times of emergency, the statement mentioned above is unrealistic and impractical.
Moreover, careful consideration may have a negative influence on people, preventing them from doing any risky action. For instance, if people think most consequences of this action are desirable except a seriously bad one, they may become too timid to undertake this action even though the likelihood of success is great. Being afraid of doing any actions sometimes means losing a great number of opportunities.
In conclusion, in some cases, the recommendation is desirable for it can help people prepare for likely consequences. Nevertheless, sometimes, the recommendation becomes unrealistic. On the one hand, people have not enough time to consider carefully before doing something risky. On the other hand, careful consideration may prevent people from undertaking any risky action.
This is one of your stronger essays, so I will take advantage of that fact, and say little about it. It’s not that I’m getting tired of reviewing your essays, of which there have been, what, two hundred? It’s rather that I’m just getting tired. My comments, then, will be focussed on different ways of approaching the problem. You have been writing the same type of essay (in terms of the structure of your argument) repeatedly. It’s not a bad idea to develop a basic approach that you are familiar with in preparation for an exam, but the approach may not work well for every possible prompt. More importantly (from my point of view!), when you write the same essay, so to speak, repeatedly, your progress as a writer is perhaps impeded.
This original argument in the prompt is about what people should do, which means it is an ethical argument. The instructions ask you to consider circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous, and this is what you do, and you do it reasonably well. But one could also ask whether the recommendation would be ethical as opposed to merely advantageous. The instructions don’t prevent you from also doing this.
One of the things that you need to do, in any case, is “discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation.” Aside from basing your agreement or disagreement on whether the recommendation is advantageous in specific circumstances (which you must do), you can also examine the ethical problem in general of risk taking. It might be argued, for example, that people have a higher ethical obligation to consider the risks they expose others to than the risks they themselves take, so the extent to which one agrees with the recommendation might depend on the nature of the action in that respect. It also might depend on whether the action is important. If the action is not important, then one might more strongly agree that one should carefully consider the possible negative consequences. This of course is related to your argument that a firefighter needs sometimes to act decisively without carefully considering the consequences (presumably to himself) of rushing headlong into the fire to save a life. If he hesitates, you argue, the opportunity to save the life is lost. If the life in question were the life of a cat, however, and we agree that cats’ lives are less important than firefighters’ lives (infinitely less important, since cats, as I mentioned elsewhere, are evil), then it may be that the firefighter really ought to consider the consequences.