I Hate Analogies

I really do. Analogies are horrible, worthless, despicable. Analogies are like Hitler and the Nazis, in that any time someone brings them into a (-n unrelated) discussion, any worthwhile gain to be made in that discussion is finished.

(I do, on the other hand, love irony.)

My issue with analogies is that they’re a distraction from actual debate. For the speaker, they’re a means of re-framing the issue in terms more immediately advantageous to themselves. For an example of this, see the previous paragraph where I related the use of analogies to invoking Godwin’s Law. Nobody (reasonable) thinks that comparing someone to a Nazi for supporting a different tax policy to yourself is conducive to a healthy debate. Therefore I tie my own personal dislike for something (analogies), which may not be a widely-held dislike, to something for which hatred and loathing is widespread. I also infer that if you like analogies, you think indiscriminately labeling people as genocidal maniacs is a good thing.

I don’t think I’m too far off the mark though. At the very least, analogies lead to ambiguous conclusions which are not desirable in debate. That’s just what happens when you apply a reductive technique to the truth. It becomes murky. In a subjective medium like film or religious texts this is fine. When you’re trying to establish a truth, analogies are utterly worthless. You’d be more honest by stating:

“Think of something good, and now associate it with this thing that I want you to think of as good also.”

At least then we wouldn’t be subjected to the only thing worse than analogies: the counter-analogy. At this point the argument is well and truly over, and we’ve entered the domain of the meta-argument. The original point no longer matters, now the consequences of the analogy are what matters.

Don’t use analogies. They aren’t worth the trouble.

This is a repost of an old post I wrote expressing my intense displeasure with the argumentative device ‘the analogy’