The Switched Analogy Fallacy

Hey there boys and girls! I’d like to tell you all about a new and exciting fallacy that you can use when you need to apply a healthy dose of incredulity and demagoguery into your rebuttal because you have no substantive refutation. Since this one is new (and exciting!) it is sure to confound your opponent and impress all your supporters, at least for a short while until people figure out what you’ve done. But by that point, the argument will probably be over and you will have probably appeared to have prevailed, so yay!

The name I’ve given to this fallacy is the “Switched Analogy Fallacy”.

Analogies are frequently used in academic and intellectual discourse in order to demonstrate the application of an abstract principle by attaching it to concretes. It’s an effective method, because abstractions, by their very nature, only contain cognitive value when applied to concretes. (Imagine trying to teach a child what the number “Two” means without pointing to two things. It would indeed be difficult, and unnecessarily so.)

So we use analogies to attached abstracts concepts and principles to concrete existents. This is normal, It’s practical. It’s useful. It makes sense. Just about everyone does it.

But analogies aren’t used only to compare concretes. You can use analogies to compare concepts, abstractions, concretes, and relationships (among other things).

To use an analogy to compare a relationship, one must use two existents that relate to each other in some way. Then, one must use two other existents that relate to each other in the same way. For the analogy to be effective, the relationship between the first pair of existents must be similar in principle to the relationship between the second pair.

As it is the relationships that are being compared to each other, the existents used in the analogy are not relevant to the analogy. They are relevant to the particular relationship being described, but not to the analogy between the two relationships being compared.

For example, if a mother were explaining the concept of maternal protection to her young child, she might use an animal as an example. “Dear, did you see how that mama-hen got aggressive when we came near her eggs? That’s exactly how I would get if anyone tried to hurt you.”

Notice that the mother was comparing the relation ship between hen and eggs to the relationship between herself and her child. Would anyone question that this is a useful and appropriate analogy? Would anyone suggest that a mother was comparing her child to eggs? I doubt any honest person would.

But some feminists would. I can show you example after example.

So, here’s the tactic… If you are discussing, say… feminism, with these types, and you find a situation in which an analogy is perfectly appropriate and very useful in order to compare one relationship to another, what they will do is to very incredulously accuse you of comparing the existents.

Here’s an example from an actual conversation I had with a group of feminists at a now-defunct blog a few years back. We were discussing Hugh Hefner. Their position was that he is a sexist misogynist who looks down on women. The specific argument I was addressing went along the lines of “He clearly looks on women contemptuously because he surrounds himself with them.”

I made an off-the-cuff reply that the argument was a non-sequiter. After all, surrounding yourself with something doesn’t mean you hate it. Does a shepherd hate sheep?

Cue the outrage. I was hit by a howling cacophony of flame-voices accusing me of comparing women to sheep.

They were all proud of each other, with not one of them picking up on the fact that they’d switched the ideas being compared. I was comparing the relationship between one being surrounded by another type of being to the relationship between another being surrounded by another type of being.

I was comparing relationships; not the specific objects that were relating to each other, but the relationships themselves. The beings I used were irrelevant – it was the relationship that needed to be comparable.

But it’s a fantastic tactic for feminists, because any time you attempt to compare a man’s relationship to a woman with another relationship (using any existent at all), they can accuse you, using all the outrage they are able to muster, of comparing women to <whatever>. How dare you!

They switch the concepts being compared. You’re comparing relationships. They accuse you of comparing existents.

To put this fallacy in plain language:

Takes two existents A and B, and label the relationship between A and B as R(1).

Then, take two other existents X and Y, and label the relationship between X and Y as R(2).

Finally, demonstrate that R(1) and R(2) are similar in principle.

Enter the fallacy: Feminist “F” scolds you loudly for comparing B to Y. But you didn’t do that. You were actually comparing R(1) to R(2).

See how nicely that works? It invokes OUTRAGE and INCREDULITY! WOO HOO!!!!

But most importantly, it avoids the actual argument. And that’s critical, particularly when you realize how weak yours is.

So boys, girls, and feminists all over the world… remember your good old uncle Kacy the next time someone tries to make a valid point using a practical, useful, and completely valid analogy. Make the Switched Analogy Fallacy part of your rhetorical repertoire. It will save you all kinds of embarrassment, and score a copious amount of rhetorical points among your feminist friends!

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3 responses to “The Switched Analogy Fallacy

  1. I’ve seen this used many times. It wasn’t until i took a course on argumentation that I was actually able to identify what was actually being done to my analogy. Thanks for writing this, hopefully it helps others understand what is happening when they do this.

  2. Thanks. Yeah, they caught me off guard with it too. I had to actually sit down and parse it all out to figure out exactly what it was they were doing, but once I put my mind to it it was obvious enough.

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