Analogies for Critical Thinking

Analogies are used to prove a point. You can use analogies to strengthen your view when you want to get your argument across to others. You compare two valid (but similar) points in hopes of people seeing your point in a new light.

Understanding Analogies

Analogies help to explain your arguments cogently by using simple comparisons that get people thinking.

  • Example 1: Driving five minutes to the local store is as stupid as dancing there. Both ways are wasteful, and you look silly in the process.

In this example, the analogy focuses on dancing and driving. While both are quite different, the argument points to how wasteful and silly it is to drive short distances. Immediately, your mind wonders how ridiculous you’d look dancing in the shops. Then you reflect on how silly it is to drive such a short distance. The point is made, and you begin to think about walking for 5 minutes rather than driving.

Of course, this point can work for and against you. Some would say dancing burns energy and is good for your health so that it wouldn’t be so bad. The real point you’re trying to make, however, is it’s crazy to burn fuel for such a short distance. The point will hit home if you’re dealing with a sensible person. You must use a good analogy to get people to think outside the box.

  • Example 2: Leaving the lights on all day costs as much as keeping the fridge open all night. Both practices waste energy and cost you more money.

Here, you’re making the comparison between the fridge and lights. The argument is to keep your lights off during the day to prevent wasting energy. Your point is you wouldn’t keep your fridge open all night, so why keep your lights on during the daytime?

Analogies Must Encourage Others to Think Outside the Box

While you want to prove a point with your analogy, you must encourage others to think beyond what they know. It’s about expanding the mind and letting their imaginations flow to consider new things. It’s the same when you are faced with an analogy; you want to explore it with an unbiased mind.

Analogies are there to help people consider things more openly and concisely. So, while some of your comparisons are unusual, they aren’t easy to dismiss entirely. You need to ensure the argument is balanced and puts across a valid point. If you’re faced with analogies, think clearly and listen to all parts because that lets you think more.

The Checklist of Analogies

An analogy should be approached with a clear mind. You need to understand what arguments or points it is being used to support. It’s important to look at the similarities and dissimilarities or view them in a wider context. You could also find there are counterarguments for the points made.

So, here are a few things to add to your analogy checklist.

  • What’s the Point of the Analogy?
  • Is There Any Relevance to the Points Made?
  • What Similarities Does It Have?
  • What Dissimilarities Does the Argument Have?
  • Are the Comparisons Correct or Just Pointless Assumption?
  • Should Dissimilarities be Considered in the Argument?

Poor Analogy Examples Based on Assumptions

Here are a few examples of analogies based on assumptions, not facts.

  • Example 1: British politicians are all corrupt like African dictators. They are only interested in partying and hiding money in tax havens. There are no good politicians in Britain.

This analogy is full of assumptions and opinions rather than facts. It’s a weak argument about politicians in Britain. While there have been some examples of corruption in politics, the analogy implies every politician is corrupt. It’s the same with African leaders. There have been well-documented and corrupt African dictators, but this argument is not true for every leader on the continent. So again, the argument is weak and factually untrue.

  • Example 2: Amanda and her mother wear glasses and love to learn about history. Amanda will likely become a history teacher like her mother.

The comparison is between Amanda and her mother. The point of them wearing glasses is irrelevant to Amanda becoming a history teacher. It is irrelevant to the story. A passion for history is relevant but insufficient to support the conclusion. Many history buffs don’t go into teaching. So, your argument must support the conclusion.

Analogical Examples to Teach Students

Analogies aren’t difficult to grasp, but putting them into context can become a barrier for some. So, here are a few examples to help teach students – or just help you understand them better.

  • Arranged Marriages

In Islamic and Asian cultures, arranged marriages match young men and women. This, however, is often seen as skeptical in other cultures. In Western culture, people use dating services to find love. So, those who use dating agencies and services to find love are hypocrites. They have no right to criticize arranged marriages since they are paired similarly.

  • Recreational Drugs

Each year, there are more deaths from horse-riding accidents than ecstasy-related deaths. Ecstasy is banned even though it’s statistically safer than riding a horse. So, banning ecstasy while allowing horse riding to remain legal makes no sense.

  • Dangerous Drivers

Drivers who act recklessly and kill someone should receive a life sentence just as a convicted murderer would. Both have taken a life with no just cause, but the punishment is very different.

  • Restrictions on Cars and Guns

Guns are lethal weapons that can be used to kill or injure someone. Cars are also lethal weapons as they can injure and kill. Cars should have the same restrictions as guns.

Final Thoughts

Analogies are comparisons between two points, yet they are often misunderstood and interpreted. So, it’s crucial to understand how analogies should be used and how to use them properly. For instance, an analogy contains facts rather than opinions or inaccuracies. Fortunately, it is easy to learn and use analogies properly.

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