(On the Importance of Quantifying Adjectives in Avoiding Hasty Generalization)
“Canadians are friendly.” Do you agree? What about the snobbish or hostile Canadian lady you encountered at Walmart one weekend?
Okay, “Canadians are snobbish.” Not quite also, because what about the countless friendly Canadians whom you meet at work or at the same shopping center on any given day?
What then is the problem with the statements I quoted above?
What else, but the lack of quantifying adjectives such as ‘many,’ ‘some,’ and ‘most’—words that may seem trivial and insignificant but serve an important purpose—that is, to avoid hasty generalization, or generalized statements, that accuse everyone—including the innocent ones—as guilty of such claims.
Not because you encountered some hostile or snobbish Canadians that you will automatically generalize that Canadians are hostile or snobbish. This is unfair to those Canadians who are not like them. In the same manner that not because many Canadians are friendly that you will generalize that all Canadians are like this, letting those who are not get away with their bad behavior.
‘Many’ pertains to “an indefinite number.” ‘The majority of’ or ‘most’ is the one that really needs verifiable statistics, because while ‘many’ may be used independently of the whole where it comes from, ‘most’ or ‘the majority of’ should be relative to the entirety—it means at least more than 50% of the sample. To leave a claim without a quantifying adjective, however, (e.g. Canadians are snobbish) is tantamount to using ‘all’ (All Canadians are snobbish); therefore, the quantifying adjective ‘all’ is a delicate word to use—utmost consideration must be taken into before deciding to use it in a claiming statement.
Many Filipinos Live in Metro Manila
For instance, when I say “Many Filipinos live in Metro Manila,” I don’t need to prove the exact numbers in relation to the entire population of Filipinos who live in that region—the fact that there are at least more than five Filipinos living in Metro Manila is enough to support the claim that “Many Filipinos live in Metro Manila.” However, the moment the claim is “Most Filipinos live in Metro Manila,” that’s when the flaw or problem arises; because the claimer then has the burden to prove if more than 50% of the entire number of Filipinos are indeed living in Metro Manila (not only that, the sample should be also identified—is the claimer referring to the Filipinos living in the Philippines or the Filipinos all over the world?)
Most of My School Class Advisers Were Females
That is the reason I don’t use the quantifier ‘most,’ because this should be really verifiable and should depend on its relation to the entire sample where it comes from; unless I’m really sure—like, for instance, I could claim that “Most of my class advisers in elementary and high school were females,” because I am sure of this fact—that of my 12 class advisers in elementary and high school combined—Miss Palomique (kindergarten), Miss Magpoc (Gr. 1), Miss Almaden (Gr. 2), Miss Matutilla (Gr. 3), Miss Ignacio (Gr. 4), Miss Manuel (Gr. 4 repeat), Miss Lising (Gr. 5), Miss Manguera (Gr. 6), Miss Fantastico (1st year), Mr. Mercado (2nd year), Mr. Jarder (3rd year), and Miss Agbay (4th year)—only two were males.
That’s the reason I liberally use ‘many’ but am particularly careful in using ‘most’ and definitely conscious not to leave a claim without a quantifier because this is tantamount to falling into the sweeping trap of the shotgun ‘all.’
‘All’ unfairly puts every single entity in a guilty position, including those who are innocent—in case the claim is something negative (To claim that “Canadians are snobbish” is being unfair to Canadians who are not snobbish); in the same manner that its use lets the guilty ones get away with their bad behavior in case the claim is something positive (To claim that “Canadians are friendly” lets those Canadians who are not friendly get away with such behavior, enabling them to hide behind the generalization that all Canadians are friendly). That’s why trivial and superfluous they may be, quantifying adjectives are serving a crucial purpose in avoiding generalization and promoting fair judgment and respect for individuality.
The Last Leaf
I use the following guideline in using such quantifiers; there is subjectivity in most of these quantifiers, but the key is consistency in their use in one given article, publication, or literary project:
a couple = exactly two
a few = three, rarely four
several = at least three but not exceeding five
many = more than five
most or the majority of = more than 50% of the sample being referred to
all = as in all! 100%! No one is spared! No one is excused!