Walking down the streets I heard:

Measuring means comparing.

I was shocked. Why $A$ is better\bigger\higher\etc than $B$?

It becomes somehow obvious: that simple idea shapes part of our reality.

In what respect to scientific knowledge, it explains almost everything. There are few things not involving a measure in science. Maybe it was invented for communication purposes. Now we've created powerful measuring instruments, on a beginning it was enough to compare: why is $A$ taller than $B$?

But measuring is not all. We can get knowledge simply resuming observations. For example: all objects fall down to the earth. This doesn't involve a measure. Also we could say, if some wood produce heat, this wood should. This is an analogy. Analogy may come from old lands, and interestingly, at least in my perspective, it is related to metaphor, and may have a common root with poetry and language.

The question is related to the evolution of thought.

Is there something like caregories of thought which almost all we think and do depends on? Do we work mainly by analogy and comparison? Is there any study on it? Is it hereditary from monkeys?

In other words: Is the way we relate to the world, mainly by comparison and analogy, the only way? Or is something else out there?

There are many questions but they are like 'one question'.

You might notice I'm quite puzzled.

What I'm looking for is a recommendation of some author touching this issues; or maybe you can help directly.

  • 1
    Thomas Aquinas made an important use of analogy, and he was influenced by Aristotle (categories). So you may want to look at Aristotle first, then Aquinas; Frederick Copleston, History of Philosophy, v. 1, p. 2 (Aristotle), and v. 2, p.2 (Aquinas).
    – Gordon
    Jun 22, 2018 at 17:41
  • 1
    Also: "Propedeutica Filosofica: Curso de Introduccion General a la Filosofica" Mexico, (1943) by Oswaldo Robles; also in English as The Main Problems of Philosophy, Bruce Pub. (1945). Copleston goes more directly to the point, whereas Robles gives a more general treatment.
    – Gordon
    Jun 22, 2018 at 18:01
  • 1
    Other possible suggestions, books : "Metaphors we live by" by George Lakoff, Univ. Chicago Press (1980); Macroscopic Metaphysics by Paul Needham, Springer pub., 2017, subject: mereology, chemistry. A PDF seems to be available.
    – Gordon
    Jun 23, 2018 at 16:50
  • Talk with George Lakoff, edge.org/conversation/philosophy-in-the-flesh "The mind is inherently embodied. Thought is mostly unconscious. Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical." Very interesting talk.
    – Gordon
    Jun 24, 2018 at 7:58

1 Answer 1


I find the question a little muddled but have some relevant thoughts.

All thought depends on categories and categories are always in the form A/not-A (belonging or not-belonging to the category). I suppose this may be called a comparison of sorts.

Perhaps Kant is your man since he discusses the categories at length and reduces them for a prior phenomenon that is not an instance of a category. The space-time world-of-mind that he reduces is made out of categories and they are unavoidable. Hence it is often called the 'world of opposites'. This is same idea as that by which the manifest world is made out of sets.

All things that exist or not-exist are members of one of these two categories. The only way beyond the categories would be to go beyond the categorising mind and this would be to go beyond the world. The ordinary mind cannot do this since its functioning is dependent on the categories.

When Nicolas de Cusa describes his vision of God he speaks of going beyond the 'coincidence of contradictories', by which he means the categories of thought. His vision is not rare and if you look up 'non-duality' you'll find a well-discussed idea and a well-tried method for transcending ordinary mind and the categories. The final word is given to Nagarjuna who proves that all categories are mental productions and in this sense not truly real.

I'd be tempted to agree that all thought involves comparison and measurement but I'm still pondering. It may depend (as ever) on how we define the words.

Much of the literature of the Wisdom traditions deals with the issues you raise here, whether directly or by implication. You might like George Spencer Brown's Laws of Form, which describes the emergence of categories from the distinctionless state. Bradley's Appearance and Reality takes a series of categories and reduces them by revealing them as purely mental/conceptual. Hegel reduces the categories to his 'Absolute Idea' by way of a process of 'sublation'.

There's lots of literature since the topic is so important. I'm not sure that we always think by way of comparison and analogy, as you speculate, but our intellect seems to be wholly dependent on the categories of thought for its thinking processes. For a proof try thinking of something that is not in a category and thus comparable with or measurable against what is not in that category.

  • Wow, very very helpful, thanks (+1). I wonder why do you say 'this would've go beyond the world' as the world continues whatever our way of thought would be, isn't it? I wonder also if neuroscientists have some evidence on those respects...
    – user29573
    Jun 22, 2018 at 16:18
  • @santimirandarp - You raise a tricky issue. It may be better as a follow-up question since it would take us away from the issue here. The idea would be that consciousness is prior to the intellect and the world of opposites and that we can know this by transcending the categories and experiencing what de Cusa experienced. The issue of the categories you raise is well discussed in the Wisdom literature because it would be only by realising their purely conceptual nature that we see beyond them to their origin and to the Origin of All. This claim may be best left for another thread. .
    – user20253
    Jun 23, 2018 at 11:09

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