So you want to refute–i.e., prove to be false–someone else’s generalization. There’s only one way that I can think of: show that the generalization is false. That means your evidence of its falsity must be as general as the claim itself. Pointing out exceptions to a generalization only demonstrates your inability to grasp one foundational notion of informal reasoning. Two examples of this from our dear friend, George F. Will:
>Once America’s most industrialized city, Newark attracted the attentions of New York mobsters (the movie “On the Waterfront” was filmed on New Jersey docks) whose depredations contributed to the flight of industry just as blacks were arriving from the South. Partly because of the cost that organized crime added to many city contracts, Newark spent twice as much per citizen as did other midsize cities. And the riots came, (redundant) evidence of the problematic nature of attempts to spend one’s way to domestic tranquility.
The first part of this paragraph shows how the spending in Newark was uniquely corrupt. How that then can be evidence for the claim that spending does not equal domestic tranquility baffles: it wasn’t effective spending. Unless, of course, Mr.Will means to refute the view of the person who says: “all social spending–including the corrupt cosa nostra kind–ensures tranquility–and if you find one counterexample, I will be wrong.”
Here’s the second:
>Today, per-pupil spending tops $17,000, which is 75 percent above the national average and a (redundant) refutation of the public education lobby’s not disinterested judgment that in primary and secondary education, cognitive outputs correlate with financial inputs. Seventy percent of Newark’s 11th-graders flunk the state’s math test. Booker says that under the previous mayor’s administration, every elected official sent his or her children to private schools.
Again. That’s hardly a “refutation” of that rule. It’s a counter-example. And perhaps a reminder that not just any money counts. Money well spent counts. I think that’s probably what the rule means.
But in both cases, in order to show the falsity of the generalization being refuted, Mr.Will will have to come up with a more representative counter-example than the city awash in mob corruption (on account, in part, because of its place in global trade–the port of Newark). If he wants actually to say something true, then perhaps he ought to try to do a little non-Heritage foundation research.