On the Worldliness of the General: Why Concepts Matter Ethically

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Empiricist ideas have influenced mainstream psychology’s view of the general. According to this view, the general is a mind-product; it is the outcome of individuals’ generalizing mind activities. However, such a view is problematic in terms of presupposing a dichotomy between the (individual) individual and the (outer) world, leaving the dynamic and historical character of the individual–environment relationship unexplored. Following the latter path (and in opposition to mainstream psychological ideas of the general), some theories suggest the general to be a worldly phenomenon which mirrors the specific historical character of the individual–environment relationship. Hence, there is a struggle in psychology between opposite views of the general—one might call it a “representationalist” view versus a “worldly” view. In part one and two, the present chapter will present these two views and problematize the representationalist view of the general. Further, in part three the chapter will argue that it is not solely of theoretical interest how psychology conceives the general. Rather, conceptions have ethical implications, which means that, with regard to its basic concepts, psychology does not stand on any neutral ethical ground. In continuation of the discussion of the two major views of the general, the chapter will problematize the probable ethical consequences of mainstream psychology’s view of the general.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeneralization in the Psychological Study of Everyday Life
EditorsCharlotte Højholt, Ernst Schraube
Number of pages14
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Publication date28 Nov 2019
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-29976-7
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-29977-4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2019
SeriesTheory and history in the human and social sciences


  • Generalization
  • Representationalism
  • Practice research
  • Person–environment relationship
  • Subject matter of psychology
  • Psychological epistemology

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