Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 7

“Correlation does not equal causation.”  — many people, including me (‘cuz it makes me sound smart)

We’re baaaaaaack, and we have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

Cause-and-EffectClear thinking & reasoning require at least a basic understanding of causal relationships. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to make logical mistakes in this area. As you may have gathered from the header, our current group of fallacies primarily deals with causes (and effects), while the last one is about making comparisons to give rhetorical (if not logical) force to an argument. And, yes, we have a healthy dose of Latin to make it all sound properly intellectual. We will start with the three main types of “false cause” fallacy, the first being…

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

This phrase translates to “after this, therefore because of this”. It refers to when one too quickly assumes that ‘A’ is the cause of ‘B’ just because ‘A’ occurred before ‘B’. Or, as Anthony Weston puts it in A Rulebook for Arguments, “assuming causation too readily on the basis of mere succession in time.” Yeah, that’s what I said.

Obviously, succession in time is, on its own, insufficient proof of cause & effect….

Read the rest: Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 7