Shortcut Book Review

Alexander cuts the Gordian KnotShortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell our Greatest Ideas
by John Pollack
Gotham Books, 2014
$27.00; 256 pages
ISBN 978-1-592-40849-8

I received this book for free as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

This was a fun little book. Pollack is a skilled writer, and since he chose to focus on the use of analogy in persuasion, as a political speechwriter, he also knows the field well.

I could quibble with some of the examples, or the conclusions Pollack reaches from them, but that isn't really as interesting as analogy itself.

Pollack is right, analogy is widely used by almost everyone all the time, not least for decision-making. Stated more simply, analogy is what allows us to learn from experience. Without analogy, you wouldn't be able to apply past experience in novel situations.

Analogy also has a central place in the intellectual life of the West. Aristotle mentioned analogy in passing, but it was really his scholastic followers who developed the concept more fully. Without analogy, Western philosophy would have developed in a very different way.

To analogize is to think, to compare, to weigh, and to judge. Thus, to analogize well is to think well, and to analogize poorly is to think poorly. Understanding analogy is an important intellectual discipline, and this short little book points you to lots of interesting material to help you understand it better.

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