"Differentiation and integration are fundamental to the dynamic maturation of the human organism." (Social Relations)

To check the operation of a vague generality under fire, take the typical example, "Hume brought empiricism to its logical extreme." The question is asked, "Did the philosophical beliefs of Hume represent the spirit of the age in which he lived?" Our hero replies by opening his essay with, "David Hume, the great Scottish philosopher, brought empiricism to its logical extreme. If these be the spirit of the age in which he lived, then he was representative of it." This generality expert has already taken his position for the essay. Actually he has not the vaguest idea of what Hume really said, or in fact what he said it in, or in fact if he ever said anything at all. But by never bothering to define empiricism, he may write indefinitely on the issue, virtually without contradiction.

Of course, some people are naturally conservative; they avoid taking a position whenever possible. They just don't want to have to go out on a limb when they don't know the genus of the tree. For these people, the vague generality must be partially junked and replaced by the artful equivocation, or the art of talking around the point.


The artful equivocation is an almost impossible concept to explain, but it is easy to demonstrate. Let us begin with the question, "Did the philosophical beliefs of Hume represent the spirit of the age in which he lived?"

The equivocator would answer it in this way: "Some people believe that David Hume was not necessarily a great philosopher because his thought was merely a reflection of the conditions around him, colored by his own personality.

"Others, however, strongly support Hume's greatness on the ground that the force of his personality definitely affected the age in which he lived. It is not a question of the cart before the horse in either case, merely a problem of which came first, the chicken or the egg. In any case, there is much to be said on both sides."

Just exactly what the equivocator's answer has to do with the actual question is hard to say. The equivocator writes an essay about the point, but never on it.

Consequently, the grader often mentally assumes that the right answer is known by the equivocator and marks the essay as an extension of the point rather than a complete irrelevance.

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