Firmitas

Sweeping Generalization

Revision 1
© 2011-2019 by Zack Smith. All rights reserved.

Sweeping Generalization

An argument is constructed in which a simplistic general rule is assumed to be more widely true, therefore an exception is ignored.

Its form
  • Some X are Y.
  • Therefore all X are Y.

Example

Some cats are orange. Therefore all cats are orange.

Some people who own guns are murderers, therefore all gun-owners are murderers.

Some people who drive pick-up trucks are rednecks, therefore all people who drive pick-up trucks are rednecks.

Some rich people are parasitic, swindler greed-heads. Therefore they all are thus.

Weaknesses

This fallacy combines two mistakes:

 * Ignoring evidence
 * Insisting on a simple rule (the sweeping generalization)
 when the situation calls for a more complex understanding.

Counterexamples are usually easy to find that disprove the simple rule.

One motivation for sweeping generalization may be a fear of more of the bad kind. So if some people of type X are bad, the arguer fears that more of the bad kind will take hold.

Sweeping generalizations are always and everywhere wrong: Including this one.

Nonsensical form

If it is already established that all X are Y, then a Sweeping Generalization is redundant. For instance, some men are taller than 3 inches, therefore all men are taller than 3 inches.