Journal for Peace and Justice Studies

Volume 19, Issue 1, 2009

Coalitions Across Difference

Gaile Pohlhaus, Jr.
Pages 37-49

Understanding Across Difference And Analogical Reasoning In Simpson’s The Unfinished Project

In his book The Unfinished Project, Lorenzo Simpson articulates a hermeneutical model for understanding across difference that stresses the importance of analogies. While noting much that is helpful in his account, in this paper I question Simpson’s emphasis on analogical reasoning. After detailing Simpson’s approach, I explore some problems with analogies as a route to understanding. I examine some assumptions behind the idea that one must analogize from what one already understands in order to expand that understanding. In particular I argue that, while in some cases it can be helpful, it is not necessary to use analogies in order to understand another who does not share one’s social position, culture, or worldview, and, perhaps more importantly, it is never sufficient. Moreover, attempting to locate correspondences between oneself and another may in some cases undermine the ability to form the kind of practical relationship that understanding across difference requires. Understanding another is best described, not as requiring analogies between self and other, but rather as requiring a practical relation, a type of relation that I will detail further in the second half of this paper.