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Analogy is an important way of thinking. A person sees something new, and thinks 'what is it'? Then he might think, 'Ah, it's like something I have seen before...' So an analogy is a comparison between two things which we think are similar in some way. We compare two things, or two systems, and think they have something important in common.

"In general (but not always), such arguments belong in the category of inductive reasoning, since their conclusions do not follow with certainty but are only supported with varying degrees of strength".[1]

There is a difference between superficial analogies and profound analogies. Two things might look alike, but work quite differently, or they might look different, but work in ways like each other. Most effort is put into finding profound analogies which teach us something worth knowing. As another philospher puts is:

"The goal has been to find the formal criteria that distinguish good from bad analogical inference. These efforts have met with mixed success, at best".[2]

Mario Bunge sees analogy as a main way of getting new hypotheses which can be tested. He points out that analogies may be based on similarities in behaviour, or in structure.[3]

Famous examples


  1. Bartha, Paul 2013. Analogy and analogical reasoning. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [1]
  2. Norton J.D. 2011. Formal and material approaches to analogical inference. [2]
  3. Bunge, Mario 1967. Scientific research I: the search for system. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, p243/4.
  4. Mark 4:3–20
  5. Letter to Henslow, May 1860, in Darwin F. (ed) 1903. More letters of Charles Darwin. vol 1, London: Murray.

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