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Old 08-03-2010, 01:59 PM   #35
C. David Henderson
Location: Santa Fe New Mexico
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 606
Re: Unhappy being pushed to test

It's great that you want to "empower exceptions."

But your examples of pernicious generalizations are all generalizations that rest on a clear logical fallacy, not on a statistical proposition that can be proven empirically true or false as a generalization. They are therefore not a sound basis to "generalize."

Even a valid generalization, as Mary points out, is subject to exceptions. Some, nonetheless have empirical truth content. E.g., "Women generally have smaller feet than men."

If you're making shoes for women, this is a generalization it pays to be aware of; if you're a women with big feet, its probably a drag. But the shoe makers stay in business making the sizes they do because the generalization is, generally, true.

Compare that to this statement -- "Many mentally ill people smoke cigarettes, therefore, most cigarette smokers are mentally ill."

This, like the examples you list as a "hippy's advocate," is logically fallacious -- its called "affirming the consequent." Whatever the statistics end up showing, the reasoning is flawed and provides no logical support for the conclusion.

This gets touchy, of course, when we talk about personality and gender, and its not always obvious whether a particular generalization falls in one category or another.

But that's a different kind of argument, and leads to a different conversation, than a falacious generalization about generalizations.

David Henderson
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