Corresponding in some respects, especially in function or
position, between things otherwise dissimilar.
A form of logical inference, or an instance of it, based
on the assumption that if two things are known to be alike in some respects,
then they must be alike in other respects.
"Differences are more important than similarities."
-- Paul Niquette
parallels can become intellectual traps. At the least, a person who
resorts to them must accept the solemn responsibility for validating all
aspects of the comparison: technical factors, economic issues, and human
considerations. Otherwise, the analogy is meaningless or worse, misleading.
Here's why: Differences are more important than similarities.
That might not be an inviolate law of nature, but just
try to find exceptions to it. Consider the word pairs:
interest versus curiosity,
innocence versus naivete,
depth versus brilliance,
distinguished versus conspicuous,
liberal versus libertarian,
conservative versus conservationist,
distinction versus differentiation,
values versus beliefs,
intellect versus intelligence,
intelligence versus knowledge,
knowledge versus intellect,
rationality versus rationalization (the mind's best hope
versus the ego's worst mischief).
Ah! you ask: What then is "experience"?
Is it not in some sense the accumulation of analogous cases? For
many, the answer must be yes. And for them, experience is surely
not the best teacher. What Samuel Taylor Coleridge said more than
150 years ago may well apply (even though he drew upon an analogy):
"If men could learn from history, what lessons
it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the
light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only
on the waves behind us!"
Consider the matter of cause-and-effect (treated elsewhere).
Suffice it to note that bringing an analogy into a controversy necessitates
the controverting of the analogy too:
Hey, Coleridge. Why not hang the "lantern"
on the bow?
What, you ask, do we learn from history? For the thinking
adult, the answer is principles:
Watch out for "passion and party" there, Sam.
If Coleridge has anything to say, it's "Make sure your party
has not lost its way." Time is the great innovator. Judge the
merits of the case at hand, and listen to your conscience.
As for me, I will not invoke an analogy except
to illustrate an agreed-upon point.
Even then, I prefer to create a metaphor ("painting
the walls while the plaster is still wet") or a simile ("as fickle
as a day-trader in pork-belly futures").