Nothing we know is as clear and precise as our knowledge of it – we inevitably cut reality down to our mind’s size so we can deal with it. The problem is not our limitation but the point at which it is inadequate. We need to know when our knowledge is so much less than the realities we investigate that it does not serve our purpose.

When it is working, simplification is a short cut, eliminating uninteresting and uncritical detail. We say it is enough to have the big picture. Often, however, it is not enough for successful exploration, diagnosis, and accomplishment.

On the other hand, the wider perspective is necessary, and corrective to detail not coordinated with larger reality. It is a matter of scale. For example, good ideas come from focus and study of Athens County, but that ignores understanding of the Appalachian region, the state of Ohio, and the whole of the U.S.A.

Generalization is not simplification when we do the work necessary to make generalizations that do not oversimplify. That’s tricky because it necessitates clarity regarding the use and value of the wider perspective. We need both specifics and context.

One example is the difference between the physician and the patient regarding health. The latter should not second-guess the former regarding data, diagnosis, and its meaning. But the former should try to understand the total life experience of the patient and the role various remedies have in total life.

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