chapter  1
12 Pages

Why compare?

The biological, cognitive, and social functions of comparison for the human
WithKirk W. Junker

Comparison is such a natural act for the human being that it would seem to require no investigation, no reflection, and no discussion. The human experience of vision, for example, makes considerable use of comparison. Stereoscopic vision is possible because as the human animal evolved, our eyes moved further and further to the front of our heads, thus creating an overlapping field of vision. A master of language, the 1980 Nobel Prize winner in literature Octavio Paz, provocatively demonstrates that abstract concepts can be compared. His skill in comparison from outside of the law helps a reader to focus upon comparison. Literary critic Kenneth Burke insisted that all human comparison results in the creation of hierarchy. Humans are “goaded by a sense of hierarchy” says Burke. A lesson learned from the study of comparison is that although presumptions of similarity or difference are capable of identifying material to compare, they are just the beginning of the comparison process.