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Francis Garden - 1878 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy







Analogy. This term does not mean the resemblance of things but of ratios. The things may have no likeness to each other. When we say that as the brain is to the human body, so is the government to the body politic, we never suppose resemblance between a tissue in the skull, and the members of a government, or between the human frame and the organized population of a state, but we do assert resemblance in the relations which respectively subsist between them.

It is important to keep this distinction in mind, for otherwise we may fancy ourselves arguing from analogy when our reasoning is altogether futile. To infer that because two things are to each other as two other things are to each other, therefore these things are like or correspond in other particulars than those connected with this common ratio, is to infer without grounds. In order that what seems reasoning from analogy may be really such, the inference should be drawn from the ratio, and from nothing besides. In this case it will be, like all reasoning whatsoever, a syllogism, having for major that the results of a ratio may be expected in every case where such ratio subsists. In mathematics and arithmetic this syllogism leads of course to a necessary conclusion. In other matters it affords a probable one, but frequently so probable as to produce reasonable conviction.

The difference between real and seeming argument from analogy comes out very distinctly in men's applications of that which subsists between an individual man and a nation. These of course are many and various. One well known is to the effect that as in each man there is, after growth and the adult condition have had their turn, a law of decrepitude and decay which finally produces dissolution, we are to expect the like in a nation, and however great and noble it may at one time have been, it must in the course of ages succumb to an old age of feebleness, if it do not die and perish altogether.

Now let us see what are the limits of the analogy between individual men and nations, so far as it is known to us. We do find the same ratio between the childhood and youth and the adult condition of a man, and the beginnings, early growth, and then complete development of a nation. We may therefore count on the results of that ratio appearing in the one case as well as the other; and as childhood is feeble and acts within very narrow limits, and youth is bold and eager, but crude and inexperienced, and both are thus distinguished from the harmonized vigour of experienced manhood, the like distinctions will be found between the character of a nation during its first beginnings, its period of growth, and its ripened greatness. But while we know that there is this common ratio of growth and full growth in the man and the nation, we do not know that there is the like between the vital action of the one and the vital action of the other, a vital action which in the one case at a certain time begins to expend more force than can be repaired, and must therefore come at last to an end, and in the other is supplied by elements of truth, morality, and religion, which need not wear out, though they too generally have done so. If we therefore affirm the mortality of a nation because of the mortality of a man, we are going beyond the bounds of the analogy, we are not arguing from the only known common ratio.

The value of the argument from analogy consists in its power of repelling objections, and of suggestion; both of which characteristics are presented in unstinted abundance to the student of Butler.

A sense of fallacy arises from metaphor, which is easily turned into analogy. No doubt a metaphor is a short analogy, but its purpose is only immediate and pictorial, and we abuse it if we reason from it. But much of human language is of necessity metaphorical, and therefore this danger is of continual occurrence. When the Emperor Nicholas termed Turkey "the sick man," he used a natural metaphor; but if he inferred from it that interference on the part of other nations or arrangement between them was expedient, he turned his metaphor into an argument from analogy.


Analysis. See Method.



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