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The utility of analogy in systems sciences

Robinson, Sionade Ann (1990). The utility of analogy in systems sciences. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University)


The structure of the thesis reflects the three main areas of investigation. The legitimacy of analogy as a systems concept, the derivation of a model of analogy for systems thinkers and the description of a framework for practice. In the first section we are concerned with establishing an appreciation and understanding of the potential utility in the concept of analogy for systems thinkers. Having briefly surveyed the history of analogy in systems thinking and acknowledging the CUITent methodological interest in metaphor we note that our interest in analogy has been a target for our critics and led to a loss of credibility.

The thesis calls for a re-evaluation of this situation and we hence describe a system thinker's view of science as the grounds on which the utility of analogy is normally dismissed. The first three chapters show that the basis on which science attacks analogy as invalid and inappropriate is itself contentious and that identified 'weaknesses' in the scientific framework can become strengths in the re-conceptualisation of a model of analogy. We consider and distinguish the dynamic relationships between analogy, model and metaphor.

In the second section having established the potential value of analogy as a concept, the thesis develops an explanation of how a model of analogy for systems thinkers can be conceptualised. In the development of the model we will consider particular implications of three types of analogy, 'positive', 'negative' and 'neutral' analogy and discuss the suggestion that they reveal possibilities for exploring different and contrasting rationalities; these issues will be discussed looking at the relationship between analogy and rationality and in this context the validity of the argument from analogy. In the final section the thesis asserts that that systems thinking should not shy away from explicit use of analogy and shows how can use the framework of analogy to reconceptualise systems concepts.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Science & Technology
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