Reasoning By Analogy: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Reasoning by Analogy
  • 0:35 Definition
  • 2:08 Examples of Analogies
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Benjamin Truitt

I have worked in higher education since 2008 when I began teaching in remedial ed and teach classes in Humanities, Philosophy, and Sociology. I have a Bachelors Degree from the University of Colorado at Denver in Philosophy with a minor in Theater and a Masters Degree in Humanities.

Reasoning by analogy is a great way to help persuade, explain, and understand new ideas or concepts. The use of analogies in law is done through appeal to precedent, where old cases are applied to new ones in order to apply the law consistently.

Reasoning by Analogy

If you want to persuade a friend to watch a movie you enjoyed, the easiest way to persuade them may be to compare the movie to other movies you know that they've watched. Using a comparison between something new and something known is analogical reasoning, where we draw conclusions by comparing two things.

Reasoning by analogy is a way to help others understand, to persuade, and to reason. In law, the use of analogical reasoning is using precedent, where conclusions reached in one court case are applied to another.

Definition

Analogies are a tool in which two things are compared and conclusions are drawn based on their similarities. So if p and q are similar in several ways, an analogical argument might use p to explain q, or to reason about what's likely true about q based upon what's known about p.

An analogy is a way to understand something new by using what we know as a frame of reference. Using an analogy may be a great way to explain a new concept, to draw conclusions in a new case, or a way to convince someone to change their mind about a particular issue.

An analogy is evaluated using several criteria, like relevance, points of similarity, and points of difference, to determine how good or bad it is. An analogy works if the things compared, such as cases, are really similar structurally. In this way, comparing two species of cats or two cases of speech in public are structurally more similar than comparing deaths by terrorism and deaths by bathtub, where similarities are superficial. The more similar two concepts are to each other, the stronger the analogy will be. So if two court cases have a lot of factors in a crime in common, it's likely that the reasoning used in the old case will apply to the new case.

Finally, it's important to ask of an analogy how the two things are different. If someone said that drinking alcohol was like exercising in that they both make you stronger, you would point out that exercising and drinking are very dissimilar to challenge the analogy.

Let's look at some examples!

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