What to do with comparisons? They are always risky, insofar as one risks to style oneself as an impartial observer while being in fact part of the discussion. Hence, should not one avoid them altogether?
As tempting as this suggestion might be, I do not think it is viable. As I see them, comparisons are hardly avoidable. In fact, learning and understanding are —in my eyes— not different from reducing the unknown to the known, and therefore necessarily involve the comparison of what we know already with what we come to encounter, so as to make place for the latter within the former. This is also the reason which makes it extremely difficult to learn something altogether new, for instance a sentence in a language completely unknown or the way a certain technical procedure works within an engine one knows nothing about. In other words, we learn by means of (implicit) comparisons. However, implicit assumptions are dangerous, exactly because we are not aware of them. Would it not be better to be straightforwardly aware of what we are doing when learning about, e.g. a new theological approach to the problem of theodicy?
If I am right and comparisons are not really avoidable, should one not rather become aware of the risks involved in them? What can these risks be? The main problem regards the asymmetry of comparisons. If I compare language A with language B while being myself a native speaker of language C and knowing A and B equally well, I might be in the ideal situation for making a comparison. However, this ideal situation is hardly the case. Usually, we compare something we know less with something we know better or, even worse, with something we identify with. That is, the tertium comparationis collapses with one of the two comparanda. This risk is even bigger in case of the process of learning through implicit comparisons. Explicit comparisons force one to at least be explicit as for the two (or more) comparanda and the tertium comparationis.
What do readers think? Can you avoid comparisons?