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Monday, June 20, 2011

The Limitations of Analogy

Once I had a professor that bristled on the use by students of analogy.  I have to confess I sometimes get tired of it as well.  While analogy may show a grasp of a problem—one sees how this situation is like another—it too often can close off further analysis of the new situation.  While some things may be similar in part, the differences can be decisive and determinative.  While I enjoy reading the devotional guide The Upper Room, I sometimes find myself wishing they would reject any devotional submission that begins with an analogy.  Too many of them begin in this formulaic fashion.  I do not want the conclusive contentment and even apathy that can come with a presumptive analogy; I want a cold look at the facts pertaining to this particular situation.  Analogy can be a cheap substitute for the extensive work required in investigating the particular interplay of facts unique to a given situation.  This is almost the definition of a professional—the ability to see the exceptional lurking beyond surface commonality.  Analogies too often present the temptation to slovenly jump to easy conclusions in which we become prematurely satisfied and content.

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