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Generalities vs. Conceptual Analysis

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10/5/2012 11:05:03 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
I've been seeing this a lot lately. In an argument, someone will draw upon a generality or a trend (say the fact that most children are "too" immature for sex to borrow from a thread with Inferno) and try to apply that trend to a conceptual entity or thing (for instance, concluding that children qua children shouldn't have sex). The same thing has happened to me in my homosexuality debate going on at current. My opponent simply replaced the conceptual entity (homosexuals) and the trend (the higher frequency of HIV rates among homosexuals) and argued that this was a valid moral criticism against homosexuality qua homosexuality.

The same argument can be found in a number of debates. For instance, on the issue of animal rights. Most theories of natural rights as applied only to humans draw a clear cut species distinction wherein rights are afforded to all members within that species and kept from all members outside. But the argument doesn't state it outright. Some standard like reason or language is used. But outliers (i.e., people who don't possess those characteristics) are still included under the umbrella of rights affordability. The fact that reason or language capability exists as a general trend among humans is used to justify a conclusion regarding the conceptual human.

It sort of reminds me of the whole induction problem in epistemology. We see the sun rise everyday of our lives so we grow to expect it to do the same tomorrow and the next day and so on. In this instance we're drawing upon a general trend (the sun just happens to rise every day) and using it to draw a conceptual conclusion (that the sun will or must rise everyday). Well maybe not a conceptual conclusion, but a universal conclusion.

So is the argument valid? Can we argue that children shouldn't have sex because there's a non-conceptual trend of immaturity among children and likewise can we argue that homosexual acts are conceptually immoral because there's a non-conceptual trend of higher frequency HIV transmission?