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Friday, June 7, 2013

Why comparing?

My first answer is simple: because it is unavoidable. We learn by comparing the unknown to the known and avoiding comparisons only means avoiding explicit comparisons, while one keeps on comparing within oneself.
An additional reason is that comparing makes one's convictions less sure:

By the sheer fact of the accumulation of juxtapositions, this book makes both traditions more exposed, open to scrutiny, and freed for imaginative experimentation (Francis X. Clooney, Divine Mother, Blessed Mother: Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary, p. 24).
 The third reason is that at times one does learn something unexpected and yet true by seeing A through the lenses of B.

What are your reasons for comparing or not comparing?

For my personal campaign against implicit assumptions, see this post. On Clooney's approach to comparativism, see this post. For my first post on comparison (in Italian), see this one.


Marco Lauri said...

I agree. Comparing is not avoidable.
Arguably, it not just a cross- cultural process but something somehow inherent in our process of knowledge. Actually, there are context where "analogy" was and is an epistemic tool in its own right and methods to assess what analogies is legitimate are a significant portion of intellectual debate. This is the case of Islamic Law, but of course analogical thinking has a significant role in Greek philosophy as well.
Not to mention comparative schools of modern "Western" anthropology and such. Arguably, building from de Saussure, if language is basically about difference, knowledge is as well; and then comparison is necessary. I have no doubt that philosophers have been and are discussing this while I am not watching.


Hi Elisa!

I wrote a post in response:

As usually, criticisms most welcome!


elisa freschi said...

@Marco, I completely agree with you. Comparing is our way of knowing. Analogy, by the way, is listed among the instruments of knowledge in Indian epistemology (Ombhurbhuva dedicated a post to it, but I cannot find it now, so, Michael, if you read this and you can provide the link, please do it).

ombhurbhuva said...

Elisa, Marco,
I'm still working on upamana but I think

is going in the right direction

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