Reasoning from specific cases

Where do these generalisations come from? Do we just make them up? No, in most cases they have been established via reasoning—in this instance, from specific cases to a generalisation. The difference in reasoning from specific cases is that, although a general statement is involved, it is not used as a premise but as the conclusion. We routinely find such reasoning in, for example, opinion polls, statistical analyses, or any other surveys in which the reasoning supports conclusions that generalise beyond the specific scope of those premises. For example, 1 might argue from specific cases in this manner:

I have surveyed 1000 Australians, from all social classes and ethnic backgrounds, and 70 per cent of them tell me that they favour changing from a monarchy to a republic. Hence, I would conclude that most Australians also support this change. Ninety per cent of the respondents who were born overseas or whose parents were born overseas were positive about Australia becoming a republic. Hence, I further conclude that republican sentiment will be strongest among the newer members of the Australian community.

There are two conclusions here; each is a general statement about what all Australians think, based on a sample of 1000 specific cases. The premises provide a summary of the many specific cases. Nevertheless, relative to the premises, the conclusions are much broader assertions ('most Australians' and 'newer members'). The general form of such arguments is as follows:

Specific cases (x) of the general category X show the common property A; hence, generally speaking, we can expect all members of the category X to have the common property A.

Reasoning from specific cases depends on the same sorts of judgments about the underlying relationship between the cases and the general category that we encountered in the previous section on reasoning from generalisations. If, for

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