What a logical analogy is


Continuing the discussion from TOM THE DANCING BUG: When Gun Proponents Go Ballistic:

Yes, that is exactly what a logical analogy is. Suppose you made an argument for exterminating mosquitos because of West Nile, then someone pointed out that if you substituted “fruit flies” for mosquitos then your argument would still work. That shouldn’t work. In this case, presumably part of your argument for exterminating mosquitos would be that they carry West Nile. Thus, we can’t just substitute “fruit flies” in, because that would make the statement about carrying West Nile false. If we could actually substitute fruit flies without invalidating any premises, then the argument would certainly be stupid.

The comic took the exact arguments, substituted missiles for guns, and showed the arguments would be equally valid. For example, the argument from the second amendment:

The second amendment gives the right to bear arms, guns are arms, therefore we have the right to guns.

The second amendment gives the right to bear arms, missiles are arms, therefore we have the right to missiles.

If the former works without any additional reasoning or premises then so does the latter. They are exactly parallel logical constructions, and the only premises (second amendment gives right to arms, and guns/missiles are arms) are true in both cases. The logical analogy is not dependent on guns and missiles being the same thing, it is dependent on both satisfying the premises of the argument, that is, on both being arms.

Clearly, having missiles in your yard is totally unreasonable and we agree about that. The point of the analogy, then, is that it demonstrates that the argument can’t be made without additional premises or stipulations. There is some kind of reasonability test, or a test that balances the rights of the individual against the rights of society that has to be applied as well. That test is what makes the argument “work” for guns, but not for missiles. But if such a test exists, then it also has to be applied to guns. The conclusion is that argument from the second amendment is not absolute, it requires additional reasoning.

If it seems inflammatory to suggest that each of the arguments presented in the comic is logically invalid when used to support guns and/or each imports hidden premises that need to be examined, then you have a very different idea of inflammatory than I do. If the choice of missiles seems unfair, the you misunderstand the point of a logical analogy, it is to pick an example that demonstrates the argument is clearly false so the flaw can be seen. The point is not to say that people who are against gun control are against missile control, it relies on the fact that the vast majority of people who are against gun control for missile control.


You are correct, but I have a quick observation. There always appears to be an unspoken bias when contrasting say guns to missles that is analogous to your west Nile example. It is, “I support the right to bear arms… Unless that arm can be used for job $xyz”.

And it is the omission of that last requirement that puts the debate in a real pickle. Cause enthusiasts don’t want to draw clear lines, lest they (snicker) shoot themselves in the foot.


To me, that’s the point. I mean, if you want to read that comic and say, “Ha ha, those gun nuts probably do want ballistic missiles, they are so stupid.” then that’s fine. But the point of the analogy is to ask, “What’s the difference that makes the argument work for guns and not for missiles?”

I mean, with missiles we might say that they are just too destructive for individual ownership. What if an angry, violent person got their hands on a missile and decided to use it to blow up a school or a theatre? But if that’s the reason missiles are different than guns, then that means we have to apply that test to guns, too. We know what happens when an angry, violent person gets their hands on guns and decides to use them against a school or a theatre. Many people don’t find that acceptable.

Of course the argument you hear back from that is often that we can’t keep the guns out of the hands of criminals or angry people anyway. Obviously we can keep missiles out of their hands, that’s a real difference between guns as missiles. The simplified, “If guns are criminal then only criminals will have guns” works fine if you put “missiles” in, but “A determined person will be able to get a gun anyway” doesn’t work for missiles - missiles are larger and harder to make in your basement.

But that’s not an argument that we ought to be allowed to have guns, it’s an argument that there is nothing we can do about it even if we want to. Falling back to that argument is virtually agreeing that it’s okay to ban (or at least heavily restrict) guns, but that we need to work on the practicalities. So usually I find that argument disingenuous, because I don’t think that’s what people who are against gun control actually think (and, funny enough, it is what I think, and I think any gun control policy should look at things like the war on drugs and make sure it doesn’t do anything even remotely like that).

Any serious discussion requires moving away from sloganeering and towards actual consideration of the issues. I think that the usability of the arguments for missiles shows that they fall into the former category. So the question becomes, “What are the issues?” I think the facts are in that gun control does reduce gun deaths, and that laws like Stand Your Ground do increase gun deaths. The fundamental issue is balancing individual rights against collective rights. I think in America things swing way too far to the former, and that it is actually inadvertently (or maybe intentionally on the part of some) destructive to individual rights.


Yes, yes, and yes.

Can I give you another yes?

That gets a hearty Yup!

The one point I disagree with is sloganeering: I am exceptionally dubious that anything will change for the better based on facts. This is an emotionally charged issue, and marketing + image will win the day over studies + logic.


Hey, I said that if you want to have a reasonable discussion then you have to get past sloganeering. That’s a big if.

I’m not very fond of serious discussions in terms of changing the world, but I don’t think sloganeering works that well either. Nothing you say to people who are currently old enough to understand it really matters that much, If change does occur, it will be intergenerational change, and the generation that brings change will be looking right through old people’s sloganeering. If you want to society to be a certain way, first figure out if you are on the right or the wrong side of history. If you are on the right side, shout about it every chance you get, if you are on the wrong side, try to keep the whole issue quiet. The world is generally a progressive place because everyone thinks they are right.


That’s not a big If. This…

Is a big If :smile:
Now back to the serious discussion with less Crocodile Dundee allusions.



I seem to be on some sort of grammar crusade today!


Ah, can’t I retcon and claim I was speaking volumetricly?


Dogdammit, why do you both have to be right like that?


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