Is, Like And As
What is the meaning of life? Now, that’s a big question, perhaps the biggest question of them all. ‘tis nobler wants to address another question, one that is equally perplexing:
Is there an analogy for analogous reasoning?
In one sense, analogous reasoning – thinking about the things you know less well in terms of the things that you know more fully – is a cornerstone of thinking and an excellent exemplar for experiential learning. After all, experiential learning can be thought of as building a bridge from the things you’ve done in order to ‘reach’ the new things you’re about to do.
Can you see more similarities in the learning and change process beginning to emerge? Perhaps we can use some of these as analogies to increase our understanding. Perhaps there are analogies for analogous reasoning!
First, let’s think about patterns, a recurring and fundamental theme in experiential learning. Patterns are built through experience; they are created as you make the move from all the little bits to just the bigger picture. These patterns or mental models support more effective and much more efficient performance. Both within and between models, progress involves the extension of the known or experienced to include the less known and/or just experienced. Incorporation requires the relationships to be understood so that the models grow validly rather than just grow. Bigger is not always better but, in learning terms, better is always bigger!
You start with ‘this’, incorporate ‘that’ and then deal with the ‘other’. As all learners realise, without effortful experience, ‘this, that and the other’ can be quite confusing:
Secondly, there is the issue of depth. ‘tis nobler has previously talked about the effect, both positive and negative, of metaphors but metaphors and similes are generally shallow. Thinking something IS something else uses metaphors (he is as fast as a cheetah); thinking something is LIKE something else uses similes (he has the courage of a lion). Both can be useful descriptive aids but analogies must go deeper.
When you use analogies, you think of something AS something else; for it to be really helpful, though, you need to go beyond the obvious surface features and discover the deeper connections. It’s easy to use ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’; it’s far harder to unpack all of the ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’ descriptions to construct a valid ‘AS’ understanding. ‘AS’ helps reduce errors, ‘AS’ inspires creativity and ‘AS’ strengthens understanding.
Analogous reasoning focuses on ‘AS’ relationships, the deep patterns rather than the shallow descriptions. Isn’t that a sufficient reason to embrace ‘AS’ over ‘IS’ and ‘LIKE’?