Real Life Logic: The Hasty Generalization

I thought I’d switch gears and talk a little bit about informal logic. Logic has never been my Area of Specialization, but it came to mind today and I did happen to teach sessions on informal logic to undergraduates and, when I graded those thousands of essays, I checked for informal fallacies.

Don’t anyone get their feathers rumpled! These reflections are based on a conversation I had several–and I mean, several–days ago. I wanted to write, however, about the hasty generalization.

Now, in philosophy, they try to help you reason clearly. In CBT, too, they try to eliminate fallacies and biases. So, this post does fit with my current theme of philosophy and mental health posts.

The hasty generalization is a fallacy in which one draws a conclusion that is not supported by the evidence or by unbiased evidence.

We don’t expect everyone to be a scientist, but scientists try to gather enough and the right sorts of evidence and draw the proper conclusions from such evidence. This is what makes science great and a great source of knowledge gathering.

In our everyday, lives, however, we often–and I mean, often–draw conclusions about things and people based on very limited and often biased evidence.

For example, people post certain things on social media. Quite often, they filter their lives, intentionally or not. When one does not have evidence beyond what is on social media, one may get the wrong impression of a person. So, your quirky uncle that you haven’t seen in eons may actually be a pretty normal guy who happens to post quirky memes.

We draw conclusions like this all the time.

There’s ramifications to this, however. You may decide your uncle is just too quirky for you and never see him. Worse, you may think all Black people are violent based on media portrayals and call the cops on an innocent Black person.

In short, there’s real life consequences to biased and fallacious thinking. That is why we try–emphasis on try–to avoid it.

As with any fallacy, critical thinking is key. One must look for evidence that does not support an already-held belief. One must look for unbiased sources in the media–or gather media information from several different sources. One must also gather enough evidence to even draw a conclusion.

Now, I’m certainly not the most perfect thinker, but I can appreciate, most of the time, clear and reasoned thinking. I hope you can, too, and, together, that we can try (as much as that is possible) to avoid fallacies like the hasty generalization.


Author: Jennifer Lawson

Philosopher. That is all.

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