Producing an Analogic Parable of the Self

What are Analogies?

Produce a simile for the “self” by completing the sentence “A ‘self’ is like ________.” Vocabulary Note: Metaphors use one thing to mean another (and usually use “is”) while similes make a comparison (and usually use “as” or “like”).

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This week you will experiment with the type of knowing and communication used by Borges. Borges uses parables, which are short (usually one page long or less) works of fiction designed to illustrate philosophic insights. Borges’ parables tend to be analogic in structure. Analogies use metaphors or similes and take the structure A is to B as C is to D (formally represented as A:B :: C:D).

Some example of analogies:

1.       “I can’t make Thanksgiving dinner, I’m a fish out of water!”

I : cooking :: fish : being outside of water

2.       “Don’t worry, there are plenty of fish in the sea.”

The likelihood of finding a potential mate : this environment :: the likelihood of finding a fish : the sea

Many well-known philosophic arguments use analogies to draw their conclusions. For example,

The Argument from Design

Simile: The world is like a beautiful and well-built house.

Analogy: Beautiful and well-built houses : Designers and Builders :: The world : God

Conclusion: God exists.

Questions to ask when evaluating arguments that use analogies:

1.       Is the relationship implied by A : B true? (e.g., Are beautiful and well-built houses caused by designers and builders?)

2.       Are A and C similar, in relevant respects? (e.g., How are beautiful and well-built houses and the world similar?)

3.       Are there relevant differences between A and C? (e.g., How are beautiful and well-built houses and the world different?)

Instructions for Producing an Analogic Parable of the Self

Your assignment is to take your simile for the “self” and turn it into an analogic parable. Some of you already started to do this in your explanation of your simile. For example, family is to the self as roots are to a tree. The final product should be a short (about one page long) work of fiction, like those produced by Borges, that communicates some insight into the “self” by using a simile to make an analogy, and an analogy to make an argument. For example, the tree analogy could be used to make the argument that just as a tree dies when its roots are cut, a “self” cannot flourish without the support of its family. 

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