Strong vs. Weak Generalization
- A strong, or universal, generalization is one that is true of all members of a class, such as the statement "All humans are mammals."
- A weak, or particular, generalization is one that is true of certain members of class.
Pyramid of General Principle
— fewer more general and abstract principles
|The key elements|
— common to both the original situation and the principle one wishes to apply
|The specific situations|
— variable; more numerous, specific, detailed and concrete applications;
General principles underlie the specific situations or arguments under investigation.
The levels of application of general principles are like pyramid with fewer more general and abstract principles near the top, and more numerous, specific, detailed and concrete applications of those general principles at the bottom.
In order to find general principle in the specific situation, one must identify the key elements which are common to both the original situation and the principle one wishes to apply. After identifying the key elements, one may move up a level in the pyramid and find the general principle applied in the original situation or argument under investigation. When one is examining two situations whether the same general principle is applied, one only needs to be concerned about the key elements, not the superficial resemblance — or lack of resemblance — between them.
The original situation and the contemporary situation are comparable only in the sense that they both contain key elements found in general principle. Beyond that, the two situations may be very different. The elements which are not key ones are variables which change from one situation to another. General principles behind the specific situation can be applied to a wide variety of circumstances. Most of the applications of some general principle are comparable, rather than identical, to the original situation.