Whether generalization leads to specialization or whether specialization leads to generalization is an open question. In my case, specialization in U.S. Foreign Policy in my mid-20’s led to an approximately eight-year intellectual and spiritual journey that was exhaustive, interdisciplinary, and generalized. This intellectual and spiritual journey may in fact lead back to a particular specialty or specialization now that I am approaching my 33rd birthday in two days. Moreover, as of late, there is a growing cognizance of the importance of generalization and generalized knowledge, despite the fact that the global division of labor which shapes the international system requires specialization.
As David Epstein wrote in a book titled “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World,” the demand for specialization requires us to decide what to be before knowing who we are. Thus, generalization enables us to first know who we are, which in turn leads to informed and optimal choices when it comes to choosing what to be.
Epstein added that generalization leads to the development of skills that are necessary for specialization, and that a diverse group of specialists cannot replace the work of broad and generalized individuals. Epstein’s research showed that “mental meandering and personal experimentation are sources of power, and head starts are overrated.” Epstein ended his book with a quote from a former Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, regarding the free exchange of ideas which result from the mental meandering and personal experimentation that Epstein highlighted: “It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.”
Also, as mentioned in previous blog posts, generalization leads to a coherence and unification of knowledge that does not exist in a specialized form of knowledge that lacks generalized knowledge. In turn, there is also a social dimension to generalized and unitive knowledge, in the sense that knowledge is a vehicle for the pursuit of social justice. Accountability, transparency, truth, and justice are byproducts of the efforts of great individuals who wield generalized and unitive knowledge.
With the generalized and unitive knowledge that most people do not possess, one also has to get comfortable with having a minority view of domestic and international affairs. As Mark Twain said: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Also, with generalized and unitive knowledge, one can analyze events and information without being misled. As Mark Twain also said: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do, you’re misinformed.”
After wielding generalized and unitive knowledge through the employment of philosophy and religious knowledge over the course of more than eight years since acquiring a specialization in U.S. Foreign Policy in graduate school, an immersion into book writing, blogging, and essay writing has made me more and more comfortable with upholding a minority view of domestic and international affairs. Moreover, minority views tend to withstand the test of time more than majority views. As Bertrand Russell said: “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” As a result, the content of this blog – as well as my other pieces – has taken on an eccentric character which may take time for the mainstream to absorb and accept.