Metaphor, The Fallacy of

Metaphor is part of communication, and it can have a useful function in communicating all forms of truth, but it is easily open to abuse. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, the simple solution is to slip into metaphor:

The ‘easy oil’ will run out in about 15 years’ time. Companies will then have to mine some trickier and costlier waters. M13

The thinking is as mixed as the metaphor itself, and yet it still sounds reassuring. The fact that the writer does not have a clue what those trickier and costlier waters are can be overlooked when the mind’s eye is taken up with image of wave-lashed oil workers faithfully carrying out their task. The reader is reassured by their dedication. It is usually harder to free an argument from entanglement in a bad metaphor or false analogy than to argue the case itself.


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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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