It is common for arguments to conclude that one thing causes another. But the
relation between cause and effect is a complex one. It is easy to make a mistake.
In general, we say that a cause C is the cause of an effect E if and only if:
We say "generally" because there are always exceptions. For example, we say that
striking the match causes the match to light, because:
- Generally, if C occurs, then E will occur, and
- Generally, if C does not occur, then E will not occur ether.
Many writers also require that a causal statement be supported with a natural law.
For example, the statement that "striking the match causes it to light" is supported
by the principle that "friction produces heat, and heat produces fire".
The following are causal fallacies:
- Generally, when the match is struck, it lights (except when the match
is dunked in water), and
- Generally, when the match is not struck, it does not light (except when
it is lit with a blowtorch).
06 October 1995
- Post Hoc (Because one thing follows another, it is held to cause the other)
- Joint Effect (A purpoted causeand effect are both the effects of a joint cause)
- Insignificant (The purported cause is insignificant compared to others)
- Wrong Direction (The direction between cause and effect is reversed)
- Complex Cause (The cause identified is only part of the entire cause)