Let me get meta about analogies

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Sir Knight, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. Sir Knight

    Sir Knight Sir-ulean Dragon

    This is probably more meta-discussion than anyone wants to read, but you folks know I write "essays." They ain't all about Card Hunter. Here's a more general one.

    I think analogies get abused a lot. And I DON'T mean "abuse" in the sense of "people make bad analogies." I mean "people shoot down analogies without much understanding of what an analogy is."

    So there's tons of discussion on how this game should work. Sometimes you get analogies: "In Card Hunter, there is such-and-such situation. This is like in chess, where there is such-and-such situation." When this happens, someone inevitably dismisses it because "You can't say Card Hunter is like chess! That's a terrible analogy!"

    My issue with this dismissal is that it's like taking a quote out of context; taking one fraction of a sentence to represent the whole; latching onto a couple words you don't like in order to pretend that the rest don't exist. But the analogy was never just "Card Hunter is like chess": it was that there is a SITUATION IN Card Hunter that is like a SITUATION IN chess or some other game, and there's a lesson we can learn by analogy.

    In short, the dismissive reply here shoots down whomever made the analogy without DISCUSSING THE LESSON.

    Now, plenty of people would say "Sir Knight, you're missing the point. Obviously if the base terms being compared are dissimilar enough then the whole analogy falls apart."

    No it doesn't.

    This sort of thinking creates an inescapable trap. If this isn't obvious, here's a more blatant example. I saw this happen yesterday and it launched me into making this thread:

    Different online forum. People were talking about mental illness and the stigma often associated with it. One person made an analogy like "With mental illness, there is such-and-such discrimination. This is like with gender, where there is such-and-such discrimination."

    Care to guess the reaction?

    "You can't compare gender to mental illness!"

    Yay, pointless outrage. Because, of course, no one had ever "said gender is the same thing as mental illness": that would be like taking a quote out of context, taking one fraction of a sentence and ignoring everything else that was said. Again, it was REALLY comparing one situation to another situation.

    But suppose you think these complaints are justified ("you can't compare gender to mental illness"). Ask yourself: what is SIMILAR ENOUGH to "gender" that someone may be ALLOWED to make an analogy? Well?


    Still waiting.

    Maybe you can argue for a few ideas (like "race"), but there's almost nothing. And thus we see the problem: if this sort of abuse-of-people-who-make-analogies is acceptable, then ALMOST NO ANALOGIES ARE ACCEPTABLE.

    Obviously this is not how language or discourse work, because people have been making analogies and communicating just fine for ages. Thus I would like to remind people that they shouldn't shoot down an analogy because they don't like the "base terms" involved: it's doing a disservice to the other people in the discussion, and it silences what is otherwise an effective way of comparing situations.
    Andrew Talbot likes this.

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