A person might say on one day:

It is hot outside - let's go out for a picnic! It is healthy.

Another person might say on the same day in the same place:

It is hot outside - stay inside where it is safe from extreme weather! It is unhealthy.

The weather and health together is our internal model of what is happening at a physical and biochemical level. It is not actually what happens - simply an analogy we can use to communicate an idea.

Let me give another example:

One teacher might say

This group of students are so quiet. It's unhealthy. We need to break up the group.

Another teacher might say for the same students on the same day:

This group of students are so quiet. It's so healthy. We need to encourage more students to be like this.

In this example health is a metaphor for something that is assumed - but not defined. It is used both ways. The analogy of 'healthy group behaviour' is ambiguous in this conversational context.

One possible answer to this might be metaphysical conceit - but that seems like a poetic term, and possibly limited to spiritual poetry.

My question is: What is a word for when an analogy could be used for both sides of an argument?

  • 3
    What do you mean by analogy here? I don’t see any analogies. Nov 19 at 23:49
  • Do you mean when the two bosses say the same thing in the same economic state? Or when the two bosses say those different things because they're in different economic circumstances?
    – alphabet
    Nov 20 at 0:35
  • 2
    So you mean different people have different ideas of what is healthy?
    – Stuart F
    Nov 20 at 12:33
  • 1
    Metaphors with the same vehicles but opposite associations are not uncommon. In the Bible, water is associated with cleansing and salvation, and with difficulties encountered in life. Nov 20 at 16:08
  • 1
    radical dispersion of results: Radical dispersion in empirical results when independent analysts operationalize and test the same hypothesis sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749597821000200
    – Lambie
    Nov 20 at 17:01

1 Answer 1


Rather than in terms of analogy and metaphor, I would formulate your question in terms of a single observation’s being offered in support of both of a pair of mutually contradictory conclusions.

From this reformulation a perfectly valid way to characterize the observation is “inconclusive evidence.”

  • The question sought a word for something that could be used by both sides. If the evidence is really inconclusive than neither side can rationally use it by itself to support its position, although it could so use it with different additional evidence. It is unclear whether such additional evidence is at work in the OP's examples.
    – jsw29
    Nov 24 at 16:51

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