Why generalising is needed

Nasir Khan, December 22, 2015

“An idea is always a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize means to think.”

— German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
—————–

Hegel is spot-on the interrelationship of thinking and generalising. We all think about various things in our daily lives. Out from our observations and experiences we also draw some general conclusions, or generalise that is more of an evaluative process.

We also meet people who hold an opinion or view to be only a ‘generalisation’; therefore, by calling it a generalisation what they imply is that it should be cast aside as ‘non-factual’ or ‘illusory’.

However, that’s a simplistic view. On the contrary, in the hands of thinkers and mature observers their views are based on empirical data and a rational analysis of such data. As a result, for them to offer generalisations is  an essential part of communicating some facts that are part of a cognitive process.

No wonder, all thinkers and mentally mature people generalise; that helps many of us to see their views as empirically verifiable. But all generalisations do not meet this criterion. By adducing evidence, we can show the erroneous assumptions on which such generalised views may be based.

 

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