Analogical Arguments: Inferential Structures and Defeasibility Conditions

Fabrizio Macagno, Douglas Walton, Christopher Tindale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to analyze the structure and the defeasibility conditions of argument from analogy, addressing the issues of determining the nature of the comparison underlying the analogy and the types of inferences justifying the conclusion. In the dialectical tradition, different forms of similarity were distinguished and related to the possible inferences that can be drawn from them. The kinds of similarity can be divided into four categories, depending on whether they represent fundamental semantic features of the terms of the comparison (essential similarities) or non-semantic ones, indicating possible characteristics of the referents (accidental similarities). Such distinct types of similarity characterize different kinds of analogical arguments, all based on a similar general structure, in which a common genus (or rather a generic feature) is abstracted. Depending on the nature of the abstracted common feature, different rules of inference will apply, guaranteeing the attribution of the analogical predicate to the genus and to the primary subject. This analysis of similarity and the relationship thereof with the rules of inference allows a deeper investigation of the defeasibility conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-243
Number of pages23
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Analogy
  • Argumentation
  • Argumentation schemes
  • Defeasibility
  • Inferences
  • Interpretation
  • Rhetoric


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