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Analogy - Definitive or Provocative?

I've seen much discussion about terrorism in the past couple of days. What starts as talking about the recent London transit attacks evolves into a discussion of "WHY?" and I find that people often resort to using analogies to explain terrorist motivations or details of US foreign policy.

In many cases these are not persuasive to the opposite side. Those arguing against the point of view can (and will) always argue that it is not a correct analogy - it does not correctly define the real situation. The Middle East is not a dark street in a bad part of town.

But this doesn't seem to stop analogists from presenting analogies. Why?

I think the reason is that those presenting analogies intend them to be provocative - to provoke thought or examination of the issue. Those arguing against them do not want to be provoked. They consider the analogy to be definitive and if it does not match the specifics of the situation it is to be rejected, or at least that is the strategy they employ in their argument.

As I was writing this another use of analogy came to mind. That is the use of analogy to deceive. In this use they are employed to magnify one aspect and remove or hide the other important aspects. They serve as a proxy for the real situation with all of the messy parts trimmed away, leaving no room for objection... well except the old standby - "that is not a correct analogy".



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