In praise of analogy

Or, Something to warm Resty Odon’s rhetorical (he)art

In Aristotle’s generous estimate, metaphorical thinking is the highest art. An article I’ve been meaning to link to since last month makes for essential reading (especially in light of what I rashly called, at almost midnight last night, the substitution or fill-in-the-blanks argument). Even scientists think analogically.

In the lexicon of cognitive science, this process of transferring knowledge from a known to unknown is called "mapping" from the "source" to the "target." Keith Holyoak, a professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA, has dedicated much of his work to parsing this process. He discussed it in a recent essay, "Analogy," published last year in The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning.

"The source," Holyoak says, providing a synopsis, "is what you know already — familiar and well understood. The target is the new thing, the problem you’re working on or the new theory you are trying to develop. But the first big step in analogy is actually finding a source that is worth using at all. A lot of our research showed that that is the hard step. The big creative insight is figuring out what is it that’s analogous to this problem. Which of course depends on the person actually knowing such a thing, but also being able to find it in memory when it may not be that obviously related with any kind of superficial features."

2 Comments

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

2 responses to “In praise of analogy

  1. R.O.

    Hi, John, I’d appreciate the whole article. 🙂 Would you mind emailing me a link to that article? Will be much obliged.

    P.S. A John Nery-Sassy Lawyer death match on TV?!?! Yeeessss!

  2. R.O.

    oops, didn’t see the link. kindly erase my comment.

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