The UVic Writer's Guide: Logic and Argument


Analogies


While an analogy is a useful means of explanation, it does not constitute proof. Argument by analogy tends to evoke a predictable emotional response because it is usually based on accepted symbolism; for example, during the Gulf War Saddam Hussein was routinely compared to Hitler, as if doing so automatically provided a justification for war.

Remember, what is true of one thing in one set of circumstances is not necessarily true of another thing in another set of circumstances. By drawing analogies, you are manipulating the reader into thinking about the comparison rather than the original subject. Use analogy to clarify or enhance your argument but do not deceive yourself into thinking that you are proving it.

A false analogy makes an inadequate comparison:

"Deciphering a poem is like doing a crossword puzzle."

This analogy demeans the process of reading by comparing it to something mechanical; the comparison may be partially appropriate, but it does not suggest the complexity of the response one has to a poem.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 24, 1995