Wed, 20 Apr 1994 14:06:55 CST

Are analogies all we have to think with, as J. McCreery proposes? I do
not think so. Analogies help us "get a handle" on new topics; but as
our understanding advances, the limitations of analogies become more
apparent, and our need for them decreases. The scientific analysis of
electricity, at a very introductory level, was promoted by comparing it
to a fluid flow; but science outgrew that analogy, so that electrical
phenomena now are explained without use of the analogy. Similarly,
sociology and anthropology are beginning to outgrow the analogy between
a society and an organism. It was a great help at a time when people
were reluctant even to think of societies as natural phenomena, and
there are some interesting sub-analogies involving growth and
function-structural differentiation; but the value of the analogy,
except for introductory pedagogical purposes, has diminished
considerably. My view of analogies is that of Carl G. Hempel (*Aspects
of Scientific Explanation*, 1965). (This post is not intended to
support the arguments advanced by N. Bowles, to which J. McCreery was
responding.) --Bob Graber