Are two concepts metaphor/analogy equivalent to generalization/abstraction. If yes how? Give me some examples

  • Can you clarify what -you- mean by those four words?
    – Mitch
    Aug 28, 2023 at 20:56

1 Answer 1


Excellent question. These are all part of the process and language of categorization and therefore highly relevant to definition.

No, they are not equivalent, but they are similar. There is a common conceptual element to metaphor, analogy, and generalization and abstraction: they are all forms of comparison. It is possible in each to see similarities or structural and functional correspondences. Yet each is different. Metaphors and abstractions are both types of analogies, and generalization is a type of abstraction. That makes analogies the broadest hypernym, and generalization the narrowest hyponym. From WP:

Hyponymy and hypernymy are semantic relations between a term belonging in a set that is defined by another term and the latter. In other words, the relationship of a subtype (hyponym) and the supertype (also called umbrella term, blanket term, or hypernym).

Let's start at the top of the hierarchy and work our way down:

Analogy is a comparison or correspondence between two things (or two groups of things) because of a third element that they are considered to share.

Analogies are the broadest categories, and are applied when comparison shows correspondence. For instance, a bat in flight can be seen as analogous to a bird in flight. Both have wings. Both rely on aerodynamic principles to achieve flight. Both have similar energy efficiency ratings when measuring caloric inputs to achieve a distance. Both animals respire in the same way. But the comparison also leads to differences. Bats and birds rely on different mechanisms to guide their flight, with bats using echolocation. There may be differences in diets. Birds rely on feathers whereas bats have none.

From WP on metaphor:

A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide (or obscure) clarity or identify hidden similarities between two different ideas.

A metaphor is an analogy in which there is a figurative rather than literal comparison. It is a comparison with something real to something abstract. For instance, if we talk about life as a bird in flight, then we might cast time as the motion of the bird in flight, the path the bird takes as choices a person makes, bird seed as the nourishment that meaning in life brings, and so on. To the degree that such a metaphor agrees with our intuition, it is a good metaphor; to the degree we struggle to see the similarity, then it isn't. Picking a good metaphor is certainly an art.

Abstraction per WP:

Abstraction is a conceptual process wherein general rules and concepts are derived from the usage and classification of specific examples, literal (real or concrete) signifiers, first principles, or other methods.

That is, an abstraction is a simplification that relies on relevancy as the guiding principle of simplification. When drawing a model of a car, for instance, one may draw the wheels and chassis, one may include the hood and lights, but leave out door handles and the antenna. Thus, abstraction is highly teleological in nature.

Lastly, generalization is a type of abstraction. From WP:

A generalization is a form of abstraction whereby common properties of specific instances are formulated as general concepts or claims. Generalizations posit the existence of a domain or set of elements, as well as one or more common characteristics shared by those elements (thus creating a conceptual model).

Here, a generalization occurs when a set of instances are abstracted. For instance, as the WP article shows, if one is confronted with a set of trees, one abstracts based, not on the teleological aims so much, but as an expression of the similarities involved in the set of instances. Thus, the process is a little more reflective of the features of the instances involved.

  • Are two concepts metaphor/analogy equivalent to categorization/classification. If yes how? Give me some examples
    – quanity
    Aug 20, 2023 at 18:22
  • any comment on philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/101955/…
    – quanity
    Aug 22, 2023 at 8:29
  • @quanity I'd say, they're not equivalent.
    – J D
    Aug 22, 2023 at 14:15
  • when u say abstraction is highly teleological in nature are u talking about Kant or Aristotle
    – quanity
    Nov 21, 2023 at 17:37
  • @quanity I'm saying that an abstraction is necessarily goal-oriented. No one builds an abstraction randomly. Abstractions serve a purpose, and that has nothing to do with Kant or Aristotle.
    – J D
    Nov 21, 2023 at 18:05

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