What analogies does T. H. Huxley use in the first six paragraphs of his essay "The Method of Scientific Investigation"? How and why does he use those analogies?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In his essay “The Method of Scientific Investigation,” T. H. Huxley uses analogies to help explain his argument.  Among the analogies used in the first six paragraphs of the essay are the following:

  • Huxley compares scientific reasoning to regular, everyday reasoning, simply suggesting that the former is more exact and precise than the latter.
  • He compares the measurements made by scientists (such as chemists) to the measurements made by ordinary businessmen (such as bakers), simply suggesting that the former are more exact and precise than the latter.
  • He compares principles of induction and deduction to the common methods used in buying pieces of fruit, such as apples.
  • He compares the principles of scientific verification to the common methods by which people draw conclusions about such apparently simple matters as the ripeness of fruit.

By using analogies, Huxley makes the apparently difficult principles of scientific investigation much easier to comprehend and understand. He explains those principles in ways that almost anyone can follow, and he thereby helps reassure his readers that they can probably grasp other, perhaps even more complex, forms of reasoning. He excites their curiosity, calms their fears, and inspires them to want to learn more.

Huxley uses a very reasonable method of explaining the methods of reasoning. His examples are simple; his phrasing is clear; and his tone is inviting and reassuring. He demonstrates that science is not something remote from everyday life but is instead merely a more precise and exact way of using the kind of reasoning that makes everyday life possible.

Typical of the kind of simple phrasing and unintimidating reasoning that Huxley uses is the sentence in which he sums up his first argument while preparing to move on to the next argument:

So much, then, by way of proof that the method of establishing laws in science is exactly the same as that pursued in common life.

Throughout the essay, Huxley’s tone is familiar and direct, as when he constantly addresses his listeners as “you,” as if he is speaking to each listener directly, in a relaxed and friendly way.

 

 

 

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