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 Home Features Curriculum and the Dream Paradigm
• # Curriculum and the Dream Paradigm

[09.29.06]
- Stephen Schafer
•

Analogy

Analogy is a particularly valuable metaphorical type.  Analogy is a comparison between two things because of a third element that they share.  In the sentence, "Time is like a river," time and river share "flow."  A river sometimes flows from higher to lower ground, and time sometimes flows from the past into the future.  Once the time/river analogy has been established, we can talk about the flow of time and the currents of history."[4]

Remember we have defined the term metaphor as a proportion established between two dissimilar things (that have something in common) for the purpose of discovering an "unknown."  Analogical thinking has always been a measure of intelligence in tests.  An analogy is a type of metaphor that has nearly mathematical characteristics.  In the mathematical formula:

A/B = C/D (A divided by B equals C divided by D)

A/B is being compared to C/D as a proportion.  The "equals" sign tells us that proportion is what the two figures have in common. Because we know that a proportion exists, we can use certain mathematical rule.  If three of the values in the formula are known, we can discover/calculate the fourth unknown value.  The proportion of A to B is the same as the proportion of C to D.  Therefore, If A = 2, B = 6, and C = 10 we can calculate that the unknown D has a value of 30.  Of course, we all know this.

In Aristotle's formulation A is to B as X is to Y a similar proportion exists.  But does the term "similar" mean the same thing in rhetoric as in trigonometry?  Is there a significant consonance as to the meaning of the word in the differing contexts?  If so, this may be of interest to navigators of the dream.  Using grammatical rules, Aristotle's analogy might be stated thus:  Life is to old age, as day is to evening.  If any three of the values (concepts represented by words) are known, we can calculate the fourth value.  So, if we have some experience with the nature and qualities of day, night, and old age, we can discover the nature and qualities of life.  Using the above ratio, we can calculate that life is to evening, as day is to old age.  Manipulating the formula further, we may also create (or reveal) concepts like: "the evening of life" or "day's old age."

With this tool of analogy (just as with the tool of mathematics) we can communicate with a high degree of accuracy about very abstract and qualitative aspects of the unknown-aspects that would be vague or incomprehensible without metaphorical proportion.  Using metaphorical proportion to communicate about life has much greater potential than using only the word life to communicate about life.   Using complex and subtle mathematics, humans can discover natural laws that alter their reality.  Similarly, using complex and subtle language humans can discover natural laws and alter their reality.  We all know this too, but in a more obscure way.

Ironically, for purposes of communication, metaphor is more useful to most people than math.  Metaphor comes naturally to them. The following example employs metaphor to communicate clearly what, to most minds, numbers cannot communicate effectively:

Planet Earth is 4600 million years old.  If we condense this inconceivable time-span into an understandable concept, we can liken Earth to a person of 46 years age.  Nothing is known about the first 7 years of the person's life, and while only scattered information exists about the middle span, we know that only at the age 42 did the Earth begin to flower.  Dinosaurs and great reptiles did not appear until one year ago, when the planet was 45.  Mammals arrived only 8 months ago; in the middle of last week man-like apes evolved into ape-like men, and at the weekend the last ice age enveloped the Earth.  Modern man has been around for four hours.  During the last hour, Man discovered agriculture.  The industrial revolution began a minute ago.  During those sixty seconds of biological time Modern Man has made a rubbish heap of Paradise (From Greenpeace pamphlet, 1989).