form of abstraction whereby common properties of specific instances are formulated as general concepts or claims
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Generalization is a form of abstraction whereby common properties of specific instances are formulated as general concepts or claims.

Only the great generalizations survive. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links


Sorted alphabetically by author or source

A - F

  • An aphorism is a generalization of sorts, and our present-day writers seem more at home with the particular.
  • In generalizing lies the difficulty of scientific map-making, for it no longer allows the cartographer to rely merely on objective facts but requires him to interpret them subjectively. To be sure the selection of the subject matter is controlled by considerations regarding its suitability and value, but the manner in which this material is to be rendered graphically depends on personal and subjective feeling. But the latter must not predominate: the dictates of science will prevent any erratic flight of the imagination and impart to the map a fundamentally objective character in spite of all subjective impulses. It is in this respect that maps are distinguished from fine products of art. Generalized maps and, in fact, all abstract maps should, therefore, be products of art clarified by science.
  • Crime seems to change character when it crosses a bridge or a tunnel. In the city, crime is taken as emblematic of class and race. In the suburbs, though, it's intimate and psychological / resistant to generalization, a mystery of the individual soul.
  • Only the great generalizations survive. The sharp words of the Declaration of Independence, lampooned then and since as "glittering generalities," have turned out blazing ubiquities that will burn forever and ever.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, in a lecture "Books" (1864); the quoted phrase "glittering generalities" had been used by Rufus Choate to describe the declaration of the rights of man in the Preamble to the Constitution, in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903-4) Vol. 10, p. 88, note 1
  • A poet once said, "The whole universe is in a glass of wine." We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the Earth's rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe's age, and the evolution of stars. What strange arrays of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation.
    • Richard Feynman, in The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964), Vol. I; Lecture 3, "The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences"; section 3-7, "How did it get that way?"; p. 3-10
  • The word generalization in literature usually means covering too much territory too thinly to be persuasive, let alone convincing. In science, however, a generalization means a principle that has been found to hold true in every special case. … The principle of leverage is a scientific generalization.

G - L

  • People who like quotations love meaningless generalizations.
    • Graham Greene, in The Portable Graham Greene (1973), edited by Philip Stratford, p. 133; cited in Oxford Essential Quotations (2012), Susan Ratcliffe
  • A single observation that is inconsistent with some generalization points to the falsehood of the generalization, and thereby 'points to itself'.
    • Ian Hacking, The Emergence Of Probability Chapter 4, Evidence, p. 34
  • All sweeping assertions are erroneous.
    • Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Romance and Reality (1831) Vol I, Chapter 22; the author understood the irony and felt no necessity to explain it. She also wrote the following:
    • General assertions, like general truths, are not always applicable to individual cases; though Fortune's wheel is generally on the turn, sometimes when it gets into the mud, it sticks there.
A diagram illustrating graphically the generalization process, using trees.

M - R

  • Law is the continuous manifestation of God's presence — not reason for believing him absent.
    Great confusion arises from our using the same word law in two totally distinct senses … as the cause and the effect. It is said that to "explain away" everything by law is to enable us to do without God.
    But law is no explanation of anything; law is simply a generalization, a category of facts. Law is neither a cause, nor a reason, nor a power, nor a coercive force. It is nothing but a general formula, a statistical table. Law brings us continually back to God instead of carrying us away from him.
    • Florence Nightingale, as quoted in Suggestions for Thought : Selections and Commentaries (1994), edited by Michael D. Calabria and Janet A. MacRae, p. 41
  • An extra-terrestrial philosopher, who had watched a single youth up to the age of twenty-one and had never come across any other human being, might conclude that it is the nature of human beings to grow continually taller and wiser in an indefinite progress towards perfection; and this generalization would be just as well founded as the generalization which evolutionists base upon the previous history of this planet.

S - Z

  • We generalize from one situation to another not because we cannot tell the difference between the two situations but because we judge that they are likely to belong to a set of situations having the same consequence.
    • Roger N. Shepard, "Toward a Universal Law of Generalization for Psychological Science", Science 237.4820 (1987) p. 1322

See also

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