This article deals with one typical fallacy known as – post hoc reasoning, also called the faulty cause and effect. Cause and Effect problems are a type of Critical Reasoning problem and arise from logical fallacies that may prompt the reader to arrive at a false answer.
Fallacies of Presumption
The fallacy of false cause is committed when the reader concludes that the argument forms a causal connection, when the argument certainly does not establish such causality. The reader’s conclusion is driven, usually, by one of the following:
a. succession in time seems to establish the causal connection
b. an accidental generalization on part of the reader establishes the causal connection
c. reader makes a mistake of assigning of some cause to an effect
This will become more clear with the help of examples given below:
a. When succession in time seems to establish the causal connection
Malaria was for centuries a mysteriousdisease. It was observed that persons who went out at night often developed the sickness.
Post hoc reasoning suggests that —air at night is the cause of malaria (though it is not the correct cause of anyone getting the disease, science has established that the disease is caused due to mosquito (female anopheles) bite
Essentially, the line of reasoning that is evident above is:
after this, therefore because of this…this is also called post hoc ergo propter hoc(Latin)
b. When an accidental generalization on part of the reader establishes the causal connection
Every steep increase in ‘inflation’ follows XYZ party’s termas the Central Government; therefore, XYZ party is the cause of inflation.
It is important to note that such generalizations and sweeping statements are often not causal relations.
c. When a reader makes a mistake (unknowingly/accidentally) of assigning of some cause to an effect
This fallacy follows the line: non causa pro causa…meaning no cause for a cause
Format of Cause and Effect Questions
The typical format that a cause and effect problem follows is shown below, this is in no way an exhaustive list of the format.
There may be cause and effect relationship between the two statements. These two statements may be the effect of the same cause or independent causes. These statements may be independent causes without having any relationship. Read both the statements in each question and mark your answer as:
(A) If statement I is the cause and statement II is its effect;
(B) If statement II is the cause and statement I is its effect;
(C) If both the statements I and II are independent causes;
(D) If both the statements I and II are effects of independent causes; and
(E) If both the statements I and II are effects of some common cause