Yes, I know, my title is hardly an original thought - you don't get a lot of that here! - but as I intimated in my previous post, there is a genuine difficulty in differentiating between the particular and the general. My example from yesterday based on so-called 'national characteristics' was, I think, a very good one. There is excellent evidence to support the idea and I can provide one very good example - the Prussian way of war. The geography of the north German plain is best summed up in the memorable phrase - 'it's as flat as a witch's tit'! From the earliest of times that meant the German tribes who existed there were under constant threat from their neighbours because there were simply no natural defences like large rivers or mountains. Consequently, those early tribesmen learned that the best form of defence was attack. This became deeply engrained in the national psyche and was re-enforced over the ages by the unchanging geography of the place, such that, at the beginning of the 19th century Gen. von Scharnhorst spelled it out in exact words:
Prussia should never conduct a defensive war, her geographical position and her lack of natural and artificial means of defence do not allow that option.
A century later, Gen von Schlieffen, operating under the same zeitgeist, worked out his (in)famous plan in which he intended to attack the French and destroy their entire army in six weeks despite the fact that it was becoming increasingly clear that modern weapons made fighting a defensive war much easier than an aggressive one. But all of that is, so to speak, looking down on matters from a great historical height. Go down to ground level and pay a visit to Germany and you tend to find polite, friendly and civil people who would hesitate to say 'boo' to a goose. Apparently, even their demonstrators obey traffic regulations!
And all this disparity between the general and the particular takes me to another 'German' (well, actually, he was Austrian but what the hell!), Ludwig Boltzmann. He was the major swot who realised that in order to understand the nature of gases it was impossible to follow the trajectories and behaviours of each and every molecule or atom. Instead, you had to average them out in order to draw certain conclusions. Thus the question is left hanging, what, exactly and precisely, is the true nature of a gas, its individual atoms or the average of their behaviours?
It is around about this time in my occasional ponderings on the matter that my head begins to hurt and I require some 'Scottish medicine' - and, oh my God, what will that cost in the future if the Jocks walk? Now that's what I call a real problem! Mind you, thanks to 'JK' there's always the product of Barney Magroo's still to fall back on - and I do mean 'fall'!