## Introduction to Logic: False Cause

Abstract: The fallacy of false cause or non causa pro causa, and its various forms including post hoc ergo propter hoc, cum hoc ergo propter hoc, common cause, and others are defined and explained with examples.

 FALLACY NAVIGATOR         Fallacies of Presumption Complex Question False Cause Petitio Principii Accident Converse Accident

1. #### Overview of False Cause with Concise Examples:

False Cause: the fallacy committed when an argument mistakenly attempts to show that some state of affairs produces the effect of another state of affairs. The mistake made is reasoning to a conclusion that depends on a supposed causal connection which does not actually exist, cannot be proved to exist, or probably does not exist.

A commission of this fallacy does not necessarily mean the conclusion is false, but only that adequate proof or sufficient reason has not been given. So a valid argument with a false causal premise and an invalid causal argument are both traditionally designated as false cause.[1]

1. The succession or coexistence of two states of affairs is often the beginning stage for seeking to establish a causal connection, but taken by itself, no causal determination can be made from mere succession or correlation.[2]

For example, in 1906 H.W.B. Joseph relates this association of events:
“Facts show that the excision of the thyroid gland dulls the intelligence: could anyone see that this must be so?”[3]
Without any other information, the correlation of these two states of affairs cannot be known to be causal — all that can be safely stated is that one state of affairs has been observed to follow the other. It is only when this correlation is seen and tested with respect to some background knowledge in endocrinology as to the thyroid's regulation of heart function and brain development that an acceptable causal determination can be made.

2. Understanding causality is essential for the study of scientific methods and scientific explanation; however, often in argumentative discourse there is simply not enough information presented to determine whether or not a false cause fallacy has been committed. John Woods and Douglas Walton write:
“Common experience attests that the fallacy of post hoc is one of the most insidious and pervasive systematic misdemeanors of everyday argumentation,”[4]
Nevertheless, in most everyday argumentation, justification for correct identification of the fallacy can usually be established through inquiry, analysis, or research.

E.g., consider this false cause argument:
“It's easy to see why parents would believe baby walkers help their infants learn to walk. The infants are, after all, getting around while upright and moving their feet, because the infants do end up walking, parents attribute the new skill to the walker.[5]
The implicit causal argument that baby walkers facilitate learning to walk because (ceteris paribus) babies using walkers learn to walk after using them. Many parents testify that their babies learned to walk without delay with walkers, but observations such as these can be due to confirmation bias since for these parents there are no strict controlsi.e., a careful comparison of babies learning to walk with and without walkers. The reasoning seems plausible until the claim is investigated.

On the basis of a number of studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes:
“There are no benefits to baby walkers … walkers can actually delay when a child starts to walk.”[6]
Additionally, of course, walkers cause serious injuries for children every year.

3. False cause often occurs as one of three loosely related general types:

1. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is any faulty argument that concludes solely on the basis that some specific state of affairs precedes another state of affairs the first is the cause of the second.[7]
Example: “[The] Shintō religion ordained … the lighting of fires … will dispel an eclipse, and so will the crowing of cocks, as they are the usual heralds of the sun's return.”[8]
Implicit faulty argument: Since the lighting of fires or the crowing of cocks invariably precede the eclipse's end for Shinto practitioners, these events are thought to cause the eclipse to terminate.[9]

2. Cum hoc ergo propter hoc is an erroneous argument concluding one state of affairs causes another since the two different states of affairs occurred together.

For example, John Stossel quotes a statistician's overemphasis of the correlation of the burning of dried dung in many countries around the world with global pollution in this causal ascription:
“[S]tatistician Bjorn Lomborg points out that ‘air pollution kills 4.3 million people each year … We need to get a sense of priority.’ [Stossel's ellipsis] That deadly air pollution happens because, to keep warm, poor people burn dung in their huts.”[10]
Explanation: Although burning dung is a serious factor in household air pollution, it results in less environmental pollution than the burning of many other kinds of fuels. The fallacy occurs by concluding that burning dung is the whole of a complex cause of global air pollution which includes as well any harmful substance released into the air such as chemical emissions from factories, combustions of fossil fuels, spraying of fumigating chemicals, uses of aerosol propellants and refrigerants, and occurrences of natural processes such as volcanic eruptions and swamp gases.

3. Non causa pro causa is any fallacious argument which concludes by means of insufficient evidence that one state of affairs is the cause of another state of affairs.

The mistaken causal ascription can occur in many different ways. Hence, this “catch-all” causal fallacy includes the first two kinds just enumerated, as well as other less typical kinds described below in Section III: Some Varieties of False Cause Described with Excerpted Examples.[11]

An example of a type of non causa pro causa not characterized below is this comparative false cause taken from Orson Welles' “The Clock Speech” in the movie The Third Man:
“[I]n Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace — and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”[12]
The implication is warfare and murder cause humanistic effects, whereas brotherly love, peace, and democracy cause the prosaic cuckoo clock. (In the context of the motion picture, however, the suggestion is that these two examples illustrate the fact that “best laid plans oft go awry.”)

FIG. 1. Historical Frequency of Use of “false cause,” “post hoc ergo propter hoc,” “non causa pro causa,” and “cum hoc ergo propter hoc” in Google Books 1700-2008.
2. #### Some Informal Structures of False Cause with Concise Examples

The informal structure of the Fallacy of False Cause is usually similar to one of the three following descriptions:

1. The Singularist or Single Instance View of false cause is a mistaken or argument of insufficient evidence that a particular event was caused by (the power of) a previous particular event or state of affairs.

John Locke argues frequent observation of the customary uniform association of [individual] observed changes leads us to recognize the relation of cause as “that which makes any other thing”[13] in the manner in which we as persons have the “powers”to cause changes in the world “without knowing the manner of that operation.”[14] Specifically, he writes, “[B]odies … do not afford us so clear and distinct an idea of active power as we have from reflection on the operations of our minds.[15]

Nevertheless, on the singularist view, as C. J. Ducasse points out:
“[T]he cause of a particular event … in no way involves the supposition that it, or one like it, ever has occurred before or ever will again. The supposition of recurrence is thus wholly irrelevant to the meaning of cause; that suppostion is relevant only the the meaning of law.”[16]
Individual causes are “raw material for generalization.” Ducasse remarks that this view of causation is in accordance with the manner in which everyone uses the word.

Moreover, G.E.M. Anscombe writes:
“[W]e often know a cause without knowing whether there is an exceptionless generalization of the kind envisaged, or whether there is a necessity.[17]
So singular causal connections can be thought of independently from over-arching causal laws. Singular causation is also termed “actual causation,” as it is relation between specific events or states of affairs in a specific situation and is distinguished from type causation which relates one specified kind events to another specified kind of events. The predominate form of the singularist view is the non-Humean active model of understanding claiming the causal relation as natural necessity of an irreducible power between particular states of affairs or events involving both intrinsic and extrinsic factors.[18]

On this view, the causal efficacy of events can be of varying degrees of causal powers. Taking x and y to denote specific events or states of affairs, the singularist causal connection fallacy can be usually described as follows:

 Singularist non causa pro causa: Event x is related to event y simply. Event x causes event y. or Singularist post hoc ergo propter hoc: Event x precedes y simply. Event x causes event y.

1. Examples of a singular causal claims are often given in case law. The fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc occurs in the following early English trial where the initial charge of presupposing a cause of death by dangerous driving proved false:
“Dalloway, driving a horse and cart, was not holding the reins of his horse. A child, running across the road was was struck down and killed. Dalloway was charged with manslaughter. … C.J. Erle, the judge,‘directed the jury not to convict if they thought [the] prisoner could not have prevented the death, if he had been holding the reins.’ The evidence showed that even if Dalloway had been holding the reins, he could not have stopped the cart in time.” (Regina v. Dalloway (1847) 2 Cox CC 273)[19]
Since the driver could not have saved the child by having the reins in hand, he was judged not culpable and so did not have the power to prevent the death. Dalloway was acquitted.

2. Consider this singular example of an implicit post hoc claim on a patient's medical chart who appears to have an infection:

“Open a chart, and you may find a statement like this in the progress notes: ‘The fever has responded well to antibiotics. Cultures are still negative.’”

“First of all, antibiotics are not hypothermic. Infections may respond to antibiotics but fevers do not. At this point, we are not sure that the antibiotics chosen are appropriate for the organism or even that the patient has an infection.”[20]

Having negative cultures indicates that the suspected microorganisms are probably not manifest. Thus, there is no evidence that the “power” of antibiotics reduced the patient's temperature, so one cannot properly conclude that the “the fever responded well to antibiotics.”

3. Occasionally, post hoc ergo propter hoc is used to call attention to a fallacy linking two independent events non-causally. E.g., translator Edward Sullivan argues that when Shakespeare uses the phrase “golden world” in the opening scene of As You Like It the reference is to the “Golden Age” of the classical poets since he noticed George Pettie, a translator, had used the phrase in this sense in 1581.[21] J. Leon Lievsay points out, the reasoning for supposing that Shakespeare was following Pettie's usage is post hoc ergo propter hoc since …
“Sir Edward neglects to observe that, before and down to Shakespere's day, the phrase [“golden world”] enjoyed a currency rivaling that if its better-remembered cousin, “golden age.”[22]
In other words, there's no good reason to suppose Shakespeare was not simply following ordinary usage in his choice of the term “golden world.” Pettie's usage was not the cause of Shakespeare's use of the term.

2. Universalist or Nomological View of false cause is the fallacy wherein accidental or coincidental generalizations are taken to be universal causal laws because particular events are claimed to be the cause of other events based on their association in past observations.[23]

 Universalist non causa pro causa: Events of kind x are related to events of kind y. Events of kind x cause events of kind y. or Universalist post hoc ergo propter hoc: Events of kind x precede events of kind y. Events of kind x cause events of kind y.

1. If all A's are followed by B's then it's possible A's cause B's.

But the evidence for this generalization could just be due to a coincidence, could be due to related to prior causes for each of the events, could be due to intermediate causes between them, or could be due to a complexity of circuits or inhibitions. Hence, the maxim “Correlation does not imply causation” is often mentioned in science and statistics.

So, how do false causes differ from actual causes? Few critical reasoning textbooks deal with this issue. For example, one current account of false cause cites a medical study with a likely confounding variable (i.e. an overlooked common cause) and concludes:
“This is not to say, however, that consistent correlation between two events can never be indicative of causation … The way to avoid committing the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, therefore, is to study correlative relationships more carefully in order to decipher if an actual causal relationship exists rather than assuming the latter follow from the former.”[24]
Yes, of course, the advice to study correlations carefully is good advice but does not provide much help for methods of distinguishing causes from non-causes. (Some rules of thumb for determining plausible causal connections are suggested below in Section VI.)

2. By way of example, consider the sometime-used accusation by persons in the Democratic party in the U.S.:
Since a recession often happens during a Republican Presidency; Republican administrations are the cause of most recessions. (The structure of this type of cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy is discussed below.)
This accusation is often countered by Republicans with something like the following:
Since Democratic administrations often are followed by recessions it follows that Democrats are the cause of those recessions. (The structure of this type of post ergo propter hoc fallacy is also discussed below.)[25]
Such arguments offered in the absence of submitted evidence are considered fallacious.

3. Or to take a facetious and somewhat didactic example:
“[Gail Collins] repeatedly observes the correlation between competence and dog ownership. … Thus, her reporting the revelation in Ivana Trump's new memoir that Donald Trump has apparently never had his own dog … explains a great deal about the predicament in which our country finds itself.[26]
The author reports a correlation between competence and dog ownership and interprets this correlation as a causal rule to conclude someone who does not own a dog would not be competent. Of course, again, mere correlation is not causation. This is the implicit argument:
All competent persons are dog owners.
Donald Trump is not a dog owner.
Donald Trump is not a competent person.
The syllogism is valid; however, since the major premise is not without exception (presumably, some competent persons are not dog owners), the argument is not sound.

Since the fallacy is not due to the structure of the argument itself (it is, after all, valid), it is not a formal fallacy. The erroneous reasoning is due to “what is said” (its meaning or content) rather than how it is said (its sentence structure or grammar). False cause viewed in this manner is an informal fallacy or in historical terms a fallacy extra dictionem (the fallacy lies outside of language or linguistic expression, i.e., a fallacy not due to the words or forms of verbal expression used but due to the characteristics of events in the world).[27]

3. Contributing Condition View of false cause is the mistake of taking one factor of a complex cause for the whole cause.

Mistaking a contributing condition for a complex cause has two main forms:

 Contributing Condition non causa pro causa: Events of kind v, w, and x are related to event y. Event x causes event y. or Contributing Condition post hoc ergo propter hoc: Events of kind v, w, and x precede event y.. Event x causes event y.

1. Even if a condition is necessary for the occurrence of an event, it is not on that account sufficient to the occurrence of a effect. The presence of an event sufficient to the occurrence of another event, i.e., the cause, need not be necessary for the effect. In cases of “alternative causation” the effect might have occurred due to a different sufficient event.

1. In compensatory law, the question of alternative necessary conditions can be quite complex in assessing liability.

2. For example, Hart and Honoré cite a straightforward case from Roman law where a merchant's goods were placed on the wrong ship and were lost at sea. However, since the right ship was also lost at sea, the owner of the wrong ship is not liable since he has not lost anything which would have not been lost otherwise.[27a]

2. Edward Lorenz's example of the butterfly effect in modeling weather patterns, described in chaos theory, is often misused in secondary sources to describe how one seemingly trivial initial condition can become “the cause” of a later complex state of affairs. A more accurate brief characterization is the theory highlights the recognition that vastly different outcomes of a process can result from immeasurably small changes in initial conditions of a natural process:
“The butterfly effect is the idea that some systems, like the weather on Earth, are so chaotic that very tiny changes can cause a cascade hat ultimately causes a huge effect. In theory, a butterfly flapping its wings could cause a storm on the other side of the world a year later. ”[28]
To say that deterministic processes can have unpredictable results since the exact initial conditions of those processes cannot be known with certainty does not at all imply that an imperceptible change in initial conditions is itself the cause of the results of a complex event — except, of course, in a Pickwickian sense.

If we accept Henri Poincaré's notion of determinism: “The laws of nature link the antecedent and the consequent in such a way that the antecedent is determined by the consequent just as much as the consequent is determined by the antecedent,”[29] then we must concede that the difference of the wing flap of the butterfly would have caused many other cascading differences as well — each of which could, as well, be isolated as the cause. But, of course, this would be an odd manner of speaking.

We would be then left with the inconceivable problem that, as John Stuart Mill wrote, the total state of the universe must be taken into account for the causal explanation of any event:
“The cause, then, philosophically speaking, is the sum total of the conditions, positive and negative taken together; the whole of the contingencies of every description, which being realized, the consequent invariably follows.” [30]
There are several difficulties with causal argument like this one, not the least is the problem of event description. With Mill's definition, we are left also with the impracticable computation alluded to in Pierre Laplace's definition of determinism:
“We ought then to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its anterior state and as the cause of the one which is to follow. Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings who compose it — an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis — it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atom; for it, nothing would be uncertain and the future, as the past would be present to its eyes. … ”[31]
Instead, as John Woods and Douglas Walton state, “[A]ttributions of causality are bound by an understanding of ceteris paribus, in which reference is made to background information which is often empirical, yet not always explicitly statistical, and yet which plays an essential role.”[32]

3. In the following example of a contributing condition being used as a false causal ascription, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee conversationally implies that the restriction of religious practices from schools (an effect of federal and Supreme Court decisions) is the cause of the Sandy Hook tragedy:
“[Former Arkansas Governor Mike] Huckabee was unsurprised when a lunatic murdered 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook [Connecticut] elementary school in 2012. ‘We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?’”[33]
In this example, of course, the rhetorical question is taken as a statement, so the argument becomes essentially that violence in public schools should not be surprising since such violence is a consequence of federal and Supreme Court decisions restricting religious practices in public schools.
3. #### Some Varieties of False Cause Described with Examples

1. Post hoc ergo propter hoc: (literally “after this, therefore because of this”) is a specific type of the fallacy of false cause whereby it is argued that one event or state of affairs was caused, wholly or partly, by another event or state of affairs merely because it occurred after that event.[34]

An oft-cited illustration of this fallacy is Aristotle's example:
“Demades said that the policy of Demosthenes was the cause of all the mischief, ‘for after it the war occurred.’‘ [Rhet. II.24.32-33, trans. Roberts]
Demades supported Macedonian aggression against Athens and, apparently, accused Demosthenes, the great Athenian orator, of causing the Battle of Chæronea merely because Demosthenes' speeches against Macedonia occurred prior to the war.

1. Observation of mere succession in time of states of affairs or events is not enough evidence to establish the existence of a causal connection. E.g., consider the absurdity of the argument:
“Since the presence of hair always invariably precedes the growth of teeth in infants, the presence of hair in infants is the cause of the growth of teeth.” [35]
Sometimes, however, in the analysis of the succession of events, those events are found to be indirectly causally related by means of additional or other previous or intermediate events — and so committing a version of the common cause fallacy. E.g. thunder is not caused by a flash of lightning even though the two events are constantly conjoined; the discharge of high voltage is the cause of both.

2. Often premising mere succession is an oversimplification as is shown in this economic example:
“Real sufferings, for example, have manifested themselves in England. … The protectionists exclaim: It is this accursed free trade which does all the harm. It has promised us wonderful things; we accepted it; and here are our manufactures at a standstill and the people suffering.”[36]
Here the fallacy lies in citing one aspect of a number of different states of affairs which might have contributed to the effects of an economic downturn.

3. The following sardonic post hoc fallacy is attributed to Diogenes the Cynic's observation of the (false) cause of many lost in the north Aegean sea:
“When some one expressed astonishment at the votive offerings in Samothrace [Sanctuary of the Great Gods], his [i.e., Diogenes'] comment was, ‘There would have been far more, if those who were not saved had set up offerings.’”[37]
Since votive offerings in ancient Greece are presented as recompense after a beneficial action of the gods, Diogenes is maintaining had the gods saved the lost sailors, the gods would have had more donated votive objects.

The witty response to this argument is reflected in an account of a similar incident by Cicero:
“Diagoras, named the Atheist, once came to Samothrace, and a certain friend said to him, ‘You who think that the gods disregard men's affairs, do you not remark all the votive pictures that prove how many persons have escaped the violence of the storm, and come safe to port, by dint of vows to the gods?’ ‘That is so,’ replied Diagoras; ‘It is because there are nowhere any pictures of those who have been shipwrecked and drowned at sea.’”[38]
The fallacy here is the conclusion drawn without evidence that sailors not offering vows caused the gods to forsake them.

4. Intuition or observation alone is insufficient for recognizing false cause — often hidden connections are discoverable through scientific investigation into observed correlations. E.g., consider the following economic argument by Stanley and Harriet Ann Taylor Jevons:
“Merchants and bankers are continually influenced in their dealings by accounts of the success of harvests, … and when we know that there is a cause, the variation of the solar activity … which does vary in the same period, it becomes almost certain that the two series of phenomena, credit cycles and solar variations, are connected as effect and cause.”[39]
The claim is that variation in sunspot activity almost certainty cause variations in merchant and banker dealings — a claim that seems irrational.
“The positive correlation between sunspot activity and the stock market are numerous. Astronomers J.V. Wall and C.R. Jenkins state “[T]here is a well-known correlation between stock market indices and the sunspot cycle” and invite the reader to speculate on a third variable.”[40]
The suggestion here by Wall and Jenkins is the supposition of other lurking variables. E.g., increased sunspot activity leads to an increase in solar radiation which increases agricultural returns and so lower commodity and raw material prices which consequently increase business profits, which, in turn, correlate with stock market gains — thus, in effect, such supporting reasoning produces a non-fallacious probabilistic argument with a slippery-slope structure.

2. FIG. 2. Historical Frequency of Use of “non causa pro causa” and “false cause” in Google Books 1775-2008
1. Cum hoc ergo propter hoc is the fallacy of reasoning solely from a correlation of events or conditions to the conclusion that those events or conditions are causally related when actually those events or conditions are only accidentally correlated.

(Some philosophers make no distinction between cum hoc ergo propter hoc and post hoc ergo propter hoc since, in many instances of these fallacies, the question of whether or not the supposed cause is prior to or is concurrent with its supposed effect is uncertain.[41]

1. Samuel Taylor Coleridge succinctly defines cum hoc ergo propter hoc as “the assumption of causation from mere co-existence.”[42]

E.g., from the coexistence of persons who are ill and persons in the waiting room of a doctor's office, the following inference can be erroneously drawn:
Example: Since most persons at a physician's offices are ill, people should avoid going to the doctor.[43]
Implicit argument: Since most persons at a physician's office are persons who are ill, one's presence at the office is the cause of illness.

2. The main difficulty with a cum hoc ergo propter hoc is that any supposed effect from a coexistence of factors could be due to a variety of causes including, of course, causes not yet discovered.

3. Cum hoc ergo propter hoc is a fallacy which occurs often in economic and health statistics. From the mere fact that two different sets of data vary proportionally, the conclusion of a causal relation between them cannot be known without further information.

4. Rousseau asserts, for example, the argument that human souls become corrupted as a direct result of progress in the arts and sciences:
“Where there is no effect, there is no cause to seek, but here the effect is certain, the actual deprivation, and our souls have become corrupted in relation as our Sciences and our Arts have advanced toward perfection. … The daily rise and lowering of the ocean have not been more regularly subjected to the [moon] than has the fate of manners and integrity has been to the progress of the sciences and the arts.”[44]
According to Rousseau, the cause of this corruption results from the improvement of the arts and sciences motivating persons to seek recognition from others, praise from the herd, rather than to pursue the natural virtues of individual character.

5. In medical theory and practice, the search for the causes of human illness often initiates from systematic correlations of specific states of affairs or health conditions of the patient. The following study from an Elsevier medical journal illustrates the bizarre conclusions that can result from trusting culling multiple related vague correlations in the attempt to establish a causal relation between increases in the wearing of heeled shoes and the incidence of schizophrenia:
A selective literature review and synthesis is used to present a hypothesis that finds support in all facts and is contradicted by none. Footwear began to be used more than a 1000 years ago, and led to the occurrence of the first cases of schizophrenia. Industrialization of shoe production increased schizophrenia prevalence. Mechanization of the production started in Massachusetts, spread from there to England and Germany, and then to the rest of Western Europe. A remarkable increase in schizophrenia prevalence followed the same pattern. … [The] rapidly rising epidemic in the United States in the 1830s … of schizophrenia could probably only have been caused by one and the same etiologic factor [i.e., heeled shoes]. [45]
This medical-journal study abounds in vague associations drawn from historical literature. Additional methods of induction using precise and accurate data would be necessary as the first steps in establishing any degree of confidence in this extraordinary causal assertion.

6. Similar difficulties with false cause occur in the search for causal relations in economics. Nate Silver explains:
“Although economists have a reasonably sound understanding of the basic systems that govern the economy the cause and effect are all blurred together, especially during bubbles and panics when the system is flushed with feedback loops contingent on human behavior.”[46]
Difficulties of identification and analysis of causal relations arise from problems of event description when the relevant events or states of affairs are not discrete and are not analyzed in terms of a relevant contextual background or structural pattern.[47]

7. Many surprising accidental correlations of unrelated data illustrating the cum hoc fallacy are illustrated on Tyler Vigen's website Spurious Correlations. The following graph is a typical example:[48]
1. Post hoc ergo propter hoc and Cum hoc ergo propter hoc are often considered as variants of the same fallacy when correlated data include both precedence and concurrency.

1. The difference between “cum hoc” and “post hoc” depends in large measure on the description of the factors in the causal relation. Entities or processes described in causal accounts include events, states (of affairs), (standing) conditions, processes, changes, and so forth. Mill points out:
”There is … a tendency … to associate the idea of causation with the proximate antecedent event, rather than with any of the antecedent states or permanent facts, which may happen also to be conditions of the phenomenon; the reason being that the event not only exists, but begins to exist immediately previous: while the other conditions may have preexisted for an indefinite time.[49]
So the mistakes in reasoning Mill points out can be a result of errors in identifying a particular antecedent of interest as “the” cause, while neglecting other necessary antecedent circumstances, inasmuch as they are more or less often assumed as usual standard conditions.

2. The Port-Royal Logic, a 17th century influential logic text, was one of the first books to interpret non causa pro causa as an empirical fallacy rather than as what had been understood since the time of Aristotle as formal fallacy. In that work, Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole analyze the fallacy in this fashion:
”It is a very common defect amongst men to judge rashly of the actions and intentions of others; and they almost always fall into it by a bad reasoning, through which, in not recognizing with sufficient clearness all the causes which might produce any effect, they attribute that defect definitely to one cause, when it may have been produced by many others; or, again, suppose that a cause, which has accidentally, when united with many circumstances, produced an effect on one occasion, must do so on all occasions.”[50]
Very often, different selective descriptions of background states of affairs of an event can determine the type of false cause identified. Often, a cause is determined and isolated from other necessary conditions solely on the basis of the pragmatic factor of practical manipulation.[51]

3. E. g., the presence of standing conditions, such as nations having a policy of free trade or a silver standard in the next two examples, illustrates how some false cause fallacies can be classified as either post hoc ergo propter hoc or as cum hoc ergo propter hoc.
“The wind blew a gale yesterday since the barometer was so low.”[52]
In this passage, the fallacy is not a case of ignoratio elenchi since there is a causal connection between a low pressure weather front causing the barometer to dip and also thereby, on occasion causing gale winds.Thus, the fallacy can be described as either post hoc or cum hoc.

4. The next example also is obscure in the description of events:
“Mexico is prosperous. Mexico has the silver standard; therefore the silver standard produces prosperity. Q.E.D.”[53]
Again, here, the adoption of the silver standard as an event preceding the prosperity of the country, but the operation of the silver standard also occurs contemporaneously with the prosperity. Thus, either the cum hoc or the post hoc variety of false cause can be said to occur.

5. John Stuart Mill provides an additional instance of false cause which can be described as either post hoc ergo propter hoc or as cum hoc ergo propter hoc. He offers the argument that England owed her industrial preeminence and national prosperity to its restrictions on commerce and its the national debt. His analysis of the fallacy in this argument points out that “a hundred other antecedents could show an equally strong title of that kind to be considered as the cause.”[54]

2. Non Causa Pro Causa is the same fallacy as “false cause.” The fallacy results either from the assertion of a nonexistent causal relation or from the assertion of insufficient evidence for a purported causal relation.

The influential publication of the Port-Royal Logic in 1662, first introduced the term non causa pro causa and explained the fallacy literally as “no cause for a cause.”[55]

Varieties of false cause (or non causa pro causa), other than those of post hoc and cum hoc discussed above, include the following:

1. Confusion of accidental generalizations with nomological (universal or lawlike) generalizations: Accidental generalizations describing the constant conjunction of, or a sequence of, events do not entail causality. Instead, many philosophers believe something like D. M. Armstrong's “contingent necessitation”[56] is required in order to distinguish the two.

The presence of causal connections is difficult to establish with certainty. (Hence, the nature of causality, a topic not pursued here, is an active area of inquiry in the philosophy of science).

2. A misidentified cause by way of converse accident: This fallacy occurs whenever a sampling of accidentally correlated instances is in general assumed to be causal for all or most instances.

For example, the early chemist and biologist Antoine Lavoisier concluded in 1789 that vinegar as an acid (i.e. acetic acid) must contain oxygen:

“[T]he three examples above cited may suffice for giving a clear and accurate conception of the manner in which acids are formed. By these it may be clearly seen, that oxygen is an element common to them all, which constitutes their acidity; and that they differ from each other, according to the nature of the oxygenated or acidified substance. We must therefore, in every acid, carefully distinguish between the acidifiable base … and the acidifying principle or oxygen. …

… the acids are shown to be composed of oxygen, as an acidifying principle common to all …

… As vinegar is an acid, we might conclude from analogy that it contains oxygen … ”[57]

In his argument, Lavoisier notices that all acids with known composition at the time contained oxygen and thereby concludes that oxygen is the acidifying principle. His proposed argument is as follows:
All acids are chemicals containing oxygen.
Vinegar is an acid.
Vinegar is a chemical containing oxygen.
The argument is formally valid; however, the (first) major premise is false. So although the one chemical in the conclusion is in keeping with the generalization that acids contain oxygen, it is not a representation of acids in general since some acids do not contain oxygen.[58]

3. Oversight of a Common Cause or Confounding Factor: This fallacy occurs whenever a correlation of states of affairs is actually due to the effects of a common relationship, factor, or cause. E.g.,, the two supposedly causally related states of affairs might be actually effects of the same cause or causes. Or, of course, both states of affairs might have resulted from of a chain of remote causes.

An example of the first type is the historically well-known counter-example to the view that causality is defined by the constant conjunction of states of affairs: viz., days cause nights since nights always follow days:
“It follows from this definition of a cause, that night is the cause of day, and day the cause of night. for no two things have more constantly followed each other since the beginning of the world.”[59]
And so John Stuart Mill explains:
“Day (for example) is always in our experience followed by night; but day is not the cause of night; both are successive effects of a common cause, the periodical passage of the spectator into and out of the earth's shadow, consequent on the earth's rotation, and on the illuminating property of the sun. If, therefore, day is ever produced by a different cause or set of causes from this, day will not, or at least may not, be followed by night.”[60]
Consider this example of the second type of the common cause fallacy, where various sequences of other states of affairs are the cause of related events:
“[T]he vocabulary averages of various cities are roughly proportional to the volumes in their respective libraries. The low-vocabulary individual in any locality should add books to his own library; for there are quiet evenings and rainy weekends when he will reach for a book from his own shelves if just at hand.”[61]
In this passage, the author, Mr. O'Connor, concludes that buying books by any low-vocabulary individual will cause an increase in that individual's vocabulary because residents in cities with larger libraries generally have larger vocabularies.[62]

The reported correlation between residents' vocabulary size and city library size is most likely due to a common third state of affairs which includes a variety of remote causes including quality of public education, community economic well-being, residential educational levels, number of universities in the city, and so forth.

4. Lack of a Causal Chain: the compression of a number of states of affairs into a few general terms thereby oversimplifies a complex chain of interrelated events.

Consider this example from the U.S. debate on firearm safety and violence:
”For decades, the National Rifle Association has been the only game in town. Its grassroots strength is real; its members care, and they vote, and the group rewards and punished candidates with financial support. Without an effective counterbalance, members Congress who want to do the right thing know they face the wrath — and the money — of the NRA, perhaps the toughest special interest around. So they avoid the issue. And, as a result, the United States has a gun murder rate up to 20 times higher than the average rate of other wealthy nations.“[63]
The causal factors are not so straightforward. The author concludes that the NRA lobby is the cause of the murder rate in the U.S. being much greater than other nations. Although the lobby influences firearm legislation and firearm legislation affects how firearms are sold and which in turn is a major factor in firearm availability, it does not follow that the murder rate is directly caused by the gun lobby. Other factors include U.S. cultural factors, its constitutional protection of the right to bear arms, gang violence, religious beliefs, income inequality, extensive weapon ownership, U.S. legislative policies, “stand-your-ground” legislation, open handgun carry laws, lack of universal background checks, waiting periods, and so forth.

As an example of a lack of causal chain in literature, George Puttenham in 1589 provides this form of metonymy from Medea which he describes as “leaping ouer the heads of a great many words, we take one that is furdhest off, to vtter our matter by” [original spelling]:

”[A]s Medea cursing hir first acquaintance with prince Iason, who had very vnkindly forsaken her, said:

‘Woe worth the mountaine that the mas t bare Which was the first causer of all my care.’

Where she might aswell haue said, woe worth our first meeting, or woe worth the time that Iason arriued with his ship at my fathers cittie in Colchos, when he tooke me away with him, and not so farre off as to curse the mountaine that bare the pinetree, that made the mast, that bare the sailes, that the ship sailed with, which caried her away.” [original spelling][64]

In the metonymy used in quoted passage from Medea, the mountain that bestows the ship's mast substitutes for the causal process outlined by Puttenham.

5. Causal Slippery Slope Fallacy: an argument that mistakenly claims that an initial occurrent circumstance or state of affairs leads by degrees in a causal series of events to an unfortunate result.[65]

(The logical version of the slippery slope argument is a mistaken claim of a series of events which would seem to follow logically from a given action.)

The causal version of the fallacy occurs due to the proposed false cause connections listed the series of effects.

The following causal slippery slope example is an outburst by a schoolmaster chastising a student for failing to learn his lines in the rehearsal of a Greek-play;:
“Miserable trifler! A boy who construes δ ε and, instead of δ ε but, at sixteen years of age is guilty not merely of folly, and ignorance, and dullness inconceivable, but of crime, of deadly crime, of filial ingratitude, which I tremble to contemplate. A boy, sir, who does not learn his Greek play cheats the parent who spends money for his education. A boy who cheats his parent is not very far from robbing or forging upon his neighbour. A man who forges on his neighbour pays the penalty of his crime at the gallows. And it is not such a one that I pity (for he will be deservedly cut off), but his maddened and heart-broken parents, who are driven to a premature grave by his crimes, or, if they live, drag on a wretched and dishonoured old age.”[66]
The chain of supposed and dubious causes of a boy failing to learn the difference between “and vice versa” and “but not” in Greek is claimed to eventually result in his hanging at the gallows.

The following example of a causal slippery slope fallacy is composed by book-reviewer who failed to receive a hard-copy of his assigned publication.
“In response [to a request for a review copy of a book from a major academic publisher], a pdf of the book was sent.… The reason given was spiralling costs … [T]here's an infinite regression here: fewer reviews lead to fewer sales, which lead to shorter print runs, which lead to higher retail prices, which lead to fewer review copies …”[67]
Among a number of difficulties with this argument, obviously there cannot be an infinite regression of causes when the number of publisher review copies sent to reviewers are limited.

An important final point about the causal slippery slope fallacy involves the assignments of successive causal probabilities at each stage of the argument. The calculation of the final probability of the truth of a conclusion resulting from a series of probabilistic causal statements, can result in an unlikely conclusion.

Consider the following example:

“[T]he dearth [of acorns] this year [2011] will probably have a cascade of effects on the forest ecosystem, culling the populations of squirrels, field mice and ground-nesting birds. And because the now-overgrown field mouse population will crash, legions of ticks — some infected with Lyme disease — will be aggressively pursuing new hosts, like humans. …

‘We expect 2012 to be the worst year for Lyme disease risk ever,"said Richard S. Ostfel, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.’”[68]

Suppose the following causal probabilities hold:

Acorn dearth −80%→ field mouse decrease.

Field mouse decrease −80%→ rapacious tick increase.

Rapacious tick increase −95%→ lime-disease tick increase.

Lyme-disease tick increase −80%→ lyme-tick-bit human increase.

Lyme-tick-bit human increase −80%→ lyme-diseased human increase.

The calculation of the final probability of the truth of the conclusion resulting from this series of probabilistic causal statements is only 39%. The expected outcome of the possible causal sequence outlined above is even more doubtful in light of entangled complex factors not included in the predictive causal sequence. For example, factors such as the previous mammal and bird populations, the ratios among of those populations (especially relating to the kinds of predators), spring and winter weather conditions, the amount of forest cover, as well as other abiotic environmental factors have all been shown to be relevant.[69] As indicated by the accompanying Lyme Disease Cases bar chart above, the confirmed cases of lyme disease in 2012 actually turned out to be quite low — nevertheless, of course, one particular actual outcome is not justification for the original plausibility of the argument.

6. The Causal Genetic Fallacy: An irrelevant attempt to refute or establish a claim or argument on the basis of its origin or history. In this variant of the fallacy, a false cause is used in the attempt to justify a doctrine or a belief by means of a particular interpretation of historical circumstances.

1. One such version of this fallacy can be unravelled from an implicit argument encapsulated in this phrase from Friedrich Schiller's poem, “Resignation”:
“World-history is the world's court of judgment”[70]
I.e., understanding the facts of history cannot but cause the recognition of trends of moral intention.

Another example of this fallacy occurs in the following passage; John Smyth attempts to prove the necessity of God in world history:
“[W]ith any belief of Religion [its] presence and universality prove that there are facts to be expressed, and a certain necessity to interpret them in a particular way. The change in belief [over time] neither removes the facts nor the necessity. To be a fair comparison, Religion should be compared with Natural Science … then it would easily be seen that, however the individual beliefs change, the manifestation of the Spirit remains. … Professor Max Müller insists that the history of Religion, impartially considered, can lead to no other conclusion than it is founded in the necessity of the Spirit …”[71]
In this argument, Smyth argues that religion “must be a universal manifestation of the Spirit” as a result of the fact that different religions have necessarily progressed, just as science has necessarily progressed: “In every age of Progress it has grasped its Ideal in the form best suited for that age.”[72]

2. The following example illustrates the use of a causal genetic fallacy used by some archaeologists for political manipulation. Ethnically interpreted archaeological evidence is proffered in support of the false causal claim that exclusively indigenous factors such as these are causes for their distinct culture, language and right to nationhood:
“[A]rchaeologists in the service of the state frequently have manipulated archaeological remains to justify the ownership of land claimed to have been held ‘from time immemorial’ or to support policies of domination and control over neighboring peoples.” … Archaeologists … distort the past to the likening of nationalists intent on demonstrating the uniqueness of their people.[73]
The claim is that the archaeological evidence for the identification of a people is the cause of their claim for a national tradition and a nation-state. The false cause here described is crafted from “[t]he inherent ambiguity of archaeological, especially prehistoric, data for the identification of a people.”[74]

7. Concomitance for identity or cum hoc ergo ipsum hoc: the mistaken claim that two different states of affairs would function identically in a given causal sequence; a correlation of some kind is confused with an identity.

In the following argument James Ward argues that the philosophy of naturalism is monistic: “the psychical and the physical are correlated as aspects of one and the same fact”:
“It is therefore simplest and sufficient to assume an underlying, albeit unknown, unity connecting the two. A monism — so far neutral, neither materialistic nor spiritualistic — is thus a characteristic of the prevailing naturalism. But when the question arises, how best to systematize experience as a whole, it is contended that we must begin from the physical side. Here we have precise conceptions, quantitative exactness and thoroughgoing continuity; every thought that has ever stirred the hearts of men, not less than every breeze that has ever rippled the face of the deep, has meant a perfectly definite redistribution of matter and motion.”[75]
The fallacy here is not the assumption of a monism of mind and matter per se but instead taking that assumption because of their “constant concomitance,” while still relying on the development of knowledge only from the physical nature of matter. The problem is similar to the following fallacy which arose in social philosopher Marie Swabey's summary discussion of realism:
[T]he mere inseparability of an object from the experiencing of it can not be taken as establishing its identity with the experiencing. The absurdity of mistaking concomitance for identity becomes patent the moment one tries to universalize the presumption. to argue, for instance, that, since motion is always motion of an object, the motion is reducible to the object or vice versa; or that, since the functions of organism can not be divorced from their structure, functions are nothing but structure; etc.””[76]
The fallacy of cum hoc ipsum hoc also occurs in J. B. Watson's behavioristic argument:
[T]hought is in short nothing but talking to ourselves. … the muscular habits learned in overt speech are responsible for implicit or internal speech (thought). [original emphasis]”
Here both speech and thought which often occur together causally result from, and are identified with, bodily responses: “[A]ny and every bodily response may become a word substitute.”[77]

Finally, the fallacy is said to occur one judges the ethics or mores of an institution by the laws or morals of a different era. E.g., the judgment that the implementation of the principles of the U.S. constitution in France or Spain would cause their prosperity would render this fallacy.[78]

8. Confusion of Descriptive Causal Laws with Prescriptive Laws: a statement of law in the legal or moral (prescriptive sense) differs from a statement of law in the scientific or causal (descriptive) sense. A legal or moral law prescribes what ought to be the case, and a scientific law describes what is the case. As Hans Kelsen explains:
“A metaphysical theory of law believes it possible … to discover a system of ‘natural’ in nature. But in the context of a scientific world-outlook … having positive law as its sole subject-matter, the distinction between a law of nature and a law in the legal sense must be most emphatically insisted on.[79]
In the following passage Henry Summer Maine exposes the the fallacy in the historical tangle among the precepts of natural law, laws of nature, and state of nature:
The Law of nature confused the Past and the Present. Logically, it implied a state of Nature which had once been regulated by natural law … The test which separated the ordinances of Nature from the gross ingredients with which they were mingled was …the source of their descent from the aboriginal reign of Nature.[80]
Maine states the confusion results from the “hopeless ambiguity of language” among logical sequence of using laws of science to inform might have been a supposed natural state of human beings for the sake of a law of nature as a legal theory of right and wrong derivable causally from that state of nature.

9. Confusing Causes for Conditions: When only attendant or prior circumstances are linked to an effect without an attempt to eliminate irrelevant circumstances by means of inductive methods, a causal fallacy can occur in the sense that a causal connection has not been proved.

When only positive instances of correlated successive events are culled from observations, with no consideration or awareness of possible contrary instances, this selection is termed by scholastics to be a weak form of induction called inductio per simplicem enumerationemi.e., the data is not systematically selected in accordance with standardized guidelines.

The distinction between cause and condition lacks an objective observational basis since the difference is a matter of contrast between non-explanatory and explanatory causes — so, generally speaking, the difference is in terms of what is extraneous and what is necessary in different circumstances:
“ [A] cause marks a difference between the situation where an effect occurs and a contrasting situation where it does not.”[81]
In order to light a match, the presence of sufficient heat and the presence oxygen are both necessary, but since the presence of oxygen is normally taken for granted. as are the parts of the match itself, the event of heating to the ignition point is taken to be the (explanatory) cause and the oxygen is taken as a condition of the ignition of the match.

H. L. A. Hart and T. Honore mark the distinction between causes and conditions as the difference between factors necessary for an effect (the effect would not have occurred without it) and factors not necessary for an effect (the effect might have occurred without it). [82] In more complex causal instances, the criteria for distinguishing causes from conditions include the following:

(1) A cause is an abnormal, accidental, or controlled necessary condition not part of the known background or usual conditions present.

(2) A cause is a factor of interest from the perspective of an experimenter or investigator as to what is the exception to the normal background conditions.

(3) In a causal sequence, the cause of an effect is the most recent abnormal or controlled necessary condition.

E.g., Samuel Taylor Coleridge identifies this version of the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc with this illustrative example:
“ … the fallacy that the soil, rain, air, and sunshine, make the wheat-stalk and its ear of corn, because they are the conditions under which alone the seed can develop itself.”[83]
The cause of an effect on this view, pragmatically speaking, is that if the cause had not occurred then the effect would not have occurred. Thus, under under normal farming conditions, the cause in Coleridge's example would be the presence of the seed since if that were not present then the ear of corn would not have developed.[84]

And in this example from Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, Helen blames herself for causing Bertram's indignation of her, subsequently leading to his leaving for war. There is a confusion of condition for cause in her reasoning.
“… Poor lord! is't I
That chase thee from thy country and expose
Those tender limbs of thine to the event
Of the non-sparing war? … to be the mark
Of smoky muskets? …
Whoever shoots at him, I set him there;
Whoever charges on his forward breast,
I am the caitiff that do hold him to 't,
And though I kill him not, I am the cause
His death was so effected. [All's Well That Ends Well 3.2.105-119]
Helen reasons if Bertram dies, it is her fault, as she thinks she is the cause of driving him off. Thus, the fault in reasoning is to confuse a condition for a cause.

10. Confusing Causes for Effects (or Causal Reversal, Cyclic Causality): With data correlations alone, often the priority of one state of affairs as the cause of the other cannot be determined. Even so, one-way causal relations are sometimes inferred from these data. Also, a confusion of a logical ground for assessing causality and a determination of a causal relation, itself, can confuse a causes with an effects especially in examples of cum hoc ergo propter hoc as discussed above.

E.g., R.N. Salaman and K.H. Connell argue that in Irish history, the introduction of the potato augmented the food supply causing an increase in population; whereas, L.M. Cullen argues the reverse:
“[The] adoption of the potato was a response to population increase, not a cause of it … [since] the widespread adoption of the potato post-dated the beginning of the rapid population growth.”[85]
But Cullen's “population-push” post hoc ergo propter hoc observation that a rise in population “pushed” increased potato consumption is not conclusive since an “invention pull” argument indicates the technological change of potato production made the the population increase possible.[86]

The causal relation between the adoption of the potato and the increase in population in Ireland may well prove to be an example of nonlinear or feedback causality.

In another example of causal confusion, many sociological studies conclude that since active social interaction among persons is strongly correlated with their well-being, it follows that active social interaction promotes well-being. Yet, from a causal point of view, the reverse is just as likely.
“[S]upportive relationships with friends, family and neighbours are beneficial to the mental health of individuals and the population. Other forms of social interaction such as volunteering are also known to boost wellbeing.”[87]
To claim, for example, from the correlation of the wellbeing of older adults with their volunteering for social work, that older adults volunteering boosts their wellbeing, is to overlook the likelihood that it is the older adults who feel well who are more likely to volunteer for social work. Also, it is noteworthy that the relationship between volunteering and wellbeing has been shown not to exist among the women in a large multigenerational families, middle-aged working persons, and unemployed persons.[88]

As another example of inferring cause from effects when both states of affairs occur over time, consider the argument from the Book of Job when Job's friends argue that Job's uncommon adversity and distress must have been caused by his past iniquities:
“Job's friends argued wisely enough that the penalty of sin must be suffering. … It is plainly illogical to argue that all suffering is penalty, because all penalty is suffering.[89]
If sin always caused suffering, then few immoral persons would likely succeed and prosper.

The mistake of reasoning from the effect to its presumed cause is a result of the supposition that supposed effects have a common property of their causes. Bacon provides this facetious example:
“A physician advised his patient that had sore eyes, that he should abstain from wine; but the patient said, “I think, rather, sir, from wine and water; for I have often marked it in bleary eyes, and I have seen water come forth, but never wine.’”[90]
The patient argues that the imbibing of water rather than wine is the more likely cause of his sore eyes since watery eyes results.

And in this example from Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, Troilus infers the cause of the Trojan war from its effects:
“… Helen must needs be fair
When with your blood you daily paint her thus!” [Troilus and Cressida 1.1.93-94]
The claimed causal sequence is derivable from this plot: When the beautiful Helen, Queen of Sparta, is abducted by the Trojan Prince Paris, her husband Menelaus convinces his brother Agamemnon of Mycenae to lay siege to Troy and recover Helen. Hence, contrary to Troilus' intimation, Helen's beauty was not the cause of the Trojan War.[91]

The reversal of cause and effect is shown in this further example by Richard Whately:
“[M]en are prone to confound cause and effect. It is not that pearls fetch a high price because men have dived for them; but on the contrary, men dive for them because they fetch a high price.”[92]
Whately argues although things of value are obtained by labor, they do not thereby get their value from from that labor.

11. The Confusion of a Logical Ground with a Physical Cause can lead to an apparent causal reversal.

The schoolmen of medieval universities explained Aristotle's notion of cause in terms of causa cognoscendi: the cause of, or the logical ground of, a person knowing something is the case.[93] E.g., if a physician knows a patient is anemic, then that physician thereby concludes the patient is deficient in hemoglobin (since that is the logical ground of anemia). So, likewise, the observation of a person deficient in hemoglobin is taken to be the cause of concluding that the person is anemic.

However, a hemoglobin deficiency is, of course, a cause of anemia whether or not the physician is aware of the condition. So in scholastic terms, a “cause” as “causa essendi” is that state of affairs which invariably leads to the existence of some other state of affairs — a fact which can be independent of anyone's awareness or knowledge of it. (A causa cognoscendi is the cause of our understanding the causal connection, not the causal connection considered by itself — it is the logical ground or reason determining the judgement.)

12. Causal ad Superstitionem fallacy can occur in an argument whose conclusion depends upon an unjustified belief of a supposed causal connection which does not actually exist or is not known to exist. E.g.:
“Thou seest how the Deity strikes with thunderbolt those beasts that tower above their fellows, but the little one worry him not; and thou seest also how his missiles always smite the largest buildings and trees of such kind; for God loves to truncate all those things that rise too high. Thus, too, a large army may be ruined by a small one, when God in his jealously hurls a panic or a thunderbolt. …” [Herodotus 7.10].
Herodotus here provides the Persian Artabanus' argument that thunderbolts are missiles of divine anger.

In another example of this type of false cause, the English King James I introduced the superstitious ceremony of curing diseases by means of the regal touch — which Shakespeare mentions in Macbeth:
“…Strangely visited people,
All swollen and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
The mere despair of surgery, he cures,
Hanging a golden stamp upon their necks,
Put on with holy prayers.” [Shakespeare, Macbeth, IV.3.150-154.]
In a related example, James Boswell recounts Samuel Johnson as a boy suffering from scrofula was taken for the cure of the “regal touch”:
“His mother, yielding to the superstitious notion … as to the virtues of the regal touch; carried him to London, where he was actually touched by Queen Anne. Mrs. Johnson … acted on the advice of the celebrated Sir John Floyer, then a physician in Lichfield.” [94]
The golden stamp was presumed to have healing powers. The ceremonial “regal” or “royal touch” for the disease called “the King's Evil” (i.e., scrofula or tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis) was introduced as a way of restoring faith in the divine right of kings, i.e., a ploy to convince the populace of the monarch's right to rule directly from the will of God[95]

13. False Teleological Cause or False Functional Causes can arise from mistaken underlying efficient causal suppositions. The error can arise from attributing goals to non-purposive processes or states of affairs. Causal events or occurrences can be misidentified by reference to some future unrelated condition as the probable cause of that event or by reference to the “cause” as underlying some functional property of an entity.[96]

E.g., individuals who exhibit norm-violating behavior, upon questioning, often interpret their behavior as consistent with some previous or imagined goal. They misattribute the causes of their action to some goal in accordance with a faulty explanation using a “post hoc causal theory similar to what would expect from an outside observer.” Clinical psychology describes the behavior occurring within an “explanatory vacuum” as one type of provoked or spontaneous confabulation.[97]
Nisbett and Wilson demonstrated that even when people are unaware of an experimentally manipulated cause of their behavior, they easily provide an alternative explanation (rather than saying that they do not know). For example, the authors presented participants with an array of stockings as if they were in a consumer study and asked them to select their preference. Participants overwhelmingly chose the rightmost pair despite all pairs being identical. When asked the reason for their choice, participants did not mention the position of the stockings and some even refuted this as a possibility. … Participants appear to easily answer questions about how they made their selection and fail to appeal to factors that systematically affect behavior. Critically, participants do not say that they do not know.”[98]
Self-deceptions are honest, confident narrative justifications of causal actions in terms of imagined “reasonable” goals of behavior.”

14. Predictions From a Presumed Cause: From a false conception of causality, predictions of effects cannot justifiably be presaged. Fiery Cushman provides this example of self-deception:
“[R]esearch shows that people tend to cheat just as much as they can without realizing that they are cheating. This is a remarkable phenomenon: Part of you is deciding how much to cheat, calibrated at just the level that keeps another part of you from realizing it. One of the ways that people pull off this trick is with innocent confabulations: When self-grading an exam, students think, ‘Oh, I was going to circle e, I really knew that answer!’ This isn't a lie …”[99]
Having had considered answer e in the process of ultimately choosing a different answer, is thought sufficient to cause that individual to (re)think that e was the answer truly selected.

E.g., medieval astrologers believed that an individual's life and destiny are predictable from the positions of celestial bodies at the date and hour of their birth. (Interestingly enough, 2013 Harris Poll reports that 29% of Americans believe in astrology, and another 21% are unsure of its validity.) [100]

By way of example, some historical evidence supports the following account of an astrological false cause prediction by Tycho Brahe (the astronomer who provided accurate and thorough astronomical data used by Nicholas Copernicus):
“Tycho Brahe from his fifteenth year devoted to astrology … had carefully studied the comet of 1577 as an astronomer. … [W]e find him in his character of astrologer drawing a singular prediction for the appearance of this comet. It announced, he tells us, that in the north, in Finland there should be born a prince who should lay waste Germany and vanish in 1632. Gustavus Adolphus, it is well known was born in Finland, overran Germany, and died in 1632. The fulfilment of the details of this prophecy was, of course, nothing but a lucky hit, but we may convince ourselves that Tycho Brahe has some basis of reason for his prediction.[101]
(This incident is reported differently by different commentators and in part might be coincidental and in part might be embroidered in the retelling.)

Finally, false cause is sometimes utilized in predictions, foreshadowing, or signs of future events as in this example from the time of Caesar's death:
“[O]f all the sun will give you signs. Who dare say the sun is false? Nay, he oft warns us that dark uprisings threaten, that treachery and hidden wars are upswelling. Nay, he had pity for Rome, when, after Caesar sank from sight, he vieled his shining face in dusky gloom and a godless age feared everlasting night.” (Virgil, Georg. I.461-468.[102]
What follows is a simple example of the assertion of foreshadowing in the history of rhetoric based simply on the interpretation of a common similarity:
“Gorgias of Leontini (485-380 B.C.) … carried the study of rhetoric to Hellas proper … So far as any evidences remain of the teaching of Gorgias, it seems plain that his rules looked to a highly artificial and meretricious style or oratory. … Studied antitheses, a profusion of simile and metaphor, apostrophe, and other figures … [were], in fact, a foreshadowing in Greece of the so-called Asiatic style of eloquence adopted in later times by some of the Roman orators.[103]
Foreshadowing in historical narrative often imposes an interpretation of causality between or among events having some kind of similarity without adducing evidence or suggestion of the existence of actual causal relationships among them.

15. Confusion of Partial Cause and Total Cause: A partial cause combines with other states of affairs or factors to cause a state of affairs to result but is not itself enough to cause the occurrence of that state of affairs. The false cause fallacy in this case is due to attributing the partial cause to be necessary or sufficient for the production of an effect when it is neither. For example, the following inference asserts that since two philosophy student protesters studied at Middlesex University in London, the philosophy department there was closed.
”[Nina] Power herself seemed to lose interest in vintage feminism, writing instead about kettling and hyperkettling and the brain injuries sustained — after last year's anti-tuition-fees demo in London — by the philosophy student Alfie Meadows. ‘Lecturers, Defend Your Students!’ she bolshily entitled her contributions to a collection called Springtime: The New Student Rebellions. It must be relevant that the first university department to close as a result of government cuts was philosophy at Middlesex, where both Power and Meadows studied.”[104]
In point of fact the the university was restructured in order to emphasize educational preparation for industry.

In the following example of the confusion of a partial cause for a total cause, the writer concludes that since only jurors open to the death penalty were accepted in the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, that express jury selection caused him to be sentenced to death:
“Why was 21-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentenced to die in a state so generally opposed to capital punishment? … That sentence happened because national politics took the matter out of local hands. The federal government forced a death penalty trial. Only those open to a death sentence were allowed to serve on the jury. That made the jury members unrepresentative of the local population and the outcome preordained.”[105]
Ms Harrop argues that jury selection of persons not opposing the death penalty in the federal-death-penalty trial of Tsarnaev caused a guilty decision with the death penalty imposed. The jury process could have resulted in several other outcomes depending upon the jury's evaluation of the facts presented in court proceedings.

16. Confusion of Reason for Cause: The reasons for an event or a state of affairs provide an explanation and make the phenomena described understandable. However, the reasons for an event, need not always be ascriptions of the causes of those events. Causes can provide reasons for the occurrence of events or states of affairs, so, in a sense, causes can be reasons, but not all reasons can be understood as causes. The fallacy of non causa pro causa can occur whenever a non-causal reason is cited as a cause of an event.

Stating the causes of a state of affairs sometimes provides evidence for how those states of affairs came about but does not always provide a reason why that state of affairs occurred. Laws, theories, and principles, which are not causes, can provide reasons for the occurrences of events. Reasons, in this case, are statements in support of a conclusion; causes, are events or circumstances in the world. Reasons usually involve reasoning and logic; causes usually involve events or states of affairs in nature. Reasons can prove mathematical theorems or syllogisms and can provide explanations of events; causes per se do not prove their effects and do not per se provide explanation for their connection or occurrence.

Use of the terms “cause” and “reason” are often interchangeable in everyday usage. Instances of the identification of cause and reason occur in the history of philosophy, especially with the rationalists, and some philosophers equate the principle of sufficient reason[106] with the principle of causality.[107] For instance, philosopher of science Émile Meverson writes,
“[C]ause and Effect must be [reciprocally] entailed, mutually implied. … In other words, we must be able, by the cause or reason, through pure reasoning alone to infer the phenomenon. This is what is termed deduction.”[108]
If natural science were deductive science, cause would be reason. But blurring the distinction between reason and cause in this manner can lead to category mistakes and ambiguities. The statement “No carrion crows are hooded crows” implies, but does not cause, the statement “No hooded crows are carrion crows.” Causes produce effects. Reasons can provide understanding why those causes produce those effects, but causes, alone, do not provide understanding.

In the following example, note that the “law of harmony” said to be a cause can only be a purported reason for a change change in physical matter:
”[T]he atomic substance or first matter uniting into molecules constitutes physical matter; this change in substance is caused by the law of harmony yielding or relaxing to what we term equilibrium, lessening the energy of the atoms as well as the light manifested by that energy, and thus changing it from an imponderable substance into a ponderable matter, and with it the forces become secondary.”[109]
The distinction between reason and cause, however, isn't drawn so precisely in everyday discourse and in law. Consider, for example the “Conclusion of Law” #9 from Judge Thad Balkman's ruling in the case of the Oklahoma opioid trial decision against Johnson and Johnson. Judge Balkman states:
“9. Based upon my finding that the Defendant's false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns have caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths, and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, I concluded these are unlawful acts which ‘annoys, injures, or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of others.’”[110]
In arriving at this conclusion, Judge Balkman reasons that Johnson & Johnson's marketing caused the addiction and deaths of many Oklahoma persons. But, strictly speaking, from a philosophical point of view, Johnson & Johnson's marketing is neither the proximate nor the physical cause of the deaths.[111]

Johnson & Johnson's false and/or misleading marketing is one reason Judge Balkman cited for his determination of Johnson and Johnson's violation of Oklahoma's public nuisance law. The marketing did not cause addiction and death in the same sense that the opioid drugs cause addiction and death. Both the marketing and the opioids are reasons for the opioid crisis occurring; however, only opioids per se are a cause of the addictions and deaths, not the marketing. The marketing is a reason rather than a cause since the misleading advertising is intentional and is motivated by the profits of selling opioids.[112] I.e.,increasing sales is the reason for the misleading advertising. This motive is the reason why J&J issued the advertising.

So, in this part of the argument, conclusion #9 also reflects what was discussed in the section above Confusion of a Logical Ground with a Physical Cause.

Also as discussed above in the section Confusion of Descriptive Causal Laws with Prescriptive Laws, medieval scholastics distinguish between the causa essendi, i.e., causal connection in nature, and causa cognoscendi, the reason or logical ground for the causal statement — how the natural cause comes to be known. In Judge Balkman's ruling, the “finding” of a connection between J&J's opioid marketing and increasing rates of opioid addiction and death is the causa cognoscendi or the means by which he came to know the causa essendi or the conclusion that J&J's marketing was the natural cause of public harm, the latter state of affairs being described by a tenuous interpretation of the Oklahoma unique public nuisance statute .[113]

(Nevertheless, the inherent ambiguities in the legal uses of the term “cause” most likely would not make this argument a fallacy within the context of legal reasoning.)

17. False or Insufficient Causal Premises: The fallacy of false cause occurs also if a false or a weakly supporting causal premise is offered in support of a conclusion.[114]

E.g., arguably Plato commits the fallacy of false cause in his discussion of the quarrel between philosophy and poetry where he assumes since poets stir the passions, they cause the loss of reason in others:
“[The imitative poet is] concerned with an inferior part of the soul; and therefore we shall be right in refusing to admit him into a well-ordered State, because he awakens and nourishes and strengthens the feelings and impairs the reason. [Plato, The Republic, X.605b, trans. Jowlett.]
Plato is condemning the imitative poet on the basis that the poet appeals to the “part of the soul” that “feels grief and indignation” rather than that of “sage and tranquil character” and so, therefore, causes irrationality and corrupts goodness. He further states, “If we foster the pathetic element towards extraneous sorrows, we cannot easily restrain it in our own.”[115]

The former example from Plato's writings is similar to John Veitch's example of false cause resulting from an insufficient premise:
“Orators are apt to mislead; therefore banish them from the State.”[116]
An example of arguing from false causal premises can be illustrated by these defamations made by Hitler prior to World War II:
“Ideologies call on history … Every event is fitted into the grand account … For Hitler, of course, that meant the Jews. They had started World War I and created the Bolshevik Revolution, and they had ensured that Germany suffered under the Treaty of Versailles. He had warned them, Hitler said repeatedly, that if they dared to start another war, he would destroy them, ‘the vermin of Europe.’ World War II was the fault of the Jews, and the time had come to deal with them once and for all.”[117]
Hitler's ideological argument is premised by a series of false causal anti-Semitic presumptions.

18. Misappropriation of Causal Events for Religious or Pseudoscience Support: Religious and pseudoscience proponents sometimes misinterpret or interpret scientific findings or natural occurrences to support their belief.

E.g., when the nebular hypothesis was first proposed, the origin of the solar system was thought to have been from a mist one hundred-thousandth less dense than hydrogen. The physicist John Stallo writes in 1881:
“The enthusiasm for the nebular hypothesis … was a recrement of ancient traditions about the origin of the universe from Nothing. The original mist of the nebular hypothesis … was readily substituted, in the conceptions of the popular mind, for the old void from which the world was said to have emerged … ‘in the beginning’ and ‘without form and void’ …”[118]
Thus, the scientific hypothesis of the origin of the solar system misappropriated the nebular hypothesis to promote scientific support for religious scripture. I.e., the formless state of void (the nebular mist) is taken to be part of the Creation causal sequence.

Also, Denison Olmsted, Yale professor of natural philosophy, misappropriates causal events for religious purpose in this argument:
“The sun himself turns on his axis from west to east; all the primary planets revolve around the sun from west to east; their revolutions on their own axes are also in the same direction; all the secondaries, with the single exception above mentioned [moons of Uranus], move about their primaries from west to east; and finally, such of the secondaries as have been discovered to have diurnal revolution, follow the same course. Such uniformity among so many motions could have resulted only from forces impressed upon them by the same Omnipotent hand; and few things in the creation more distinctly proclaim that God made the world.[119]
In the following more prosaic example, television evangelist Pastor John Hagge argues in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans:
All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God … And I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.[120]
The reasoning here is a bit bizarre, to say the least: God caused Hurricane Katrina.

19. Vagueness of Causal Ascription can occur when the causal factors are at a high level of generality as in the following example:
“[A] country is often said to be prosperous because it is rich, whereas in fact, it is rich because it is prosperous.”[121]
Since it is possible for a country to be prosperous and rich, prosperous and not rich, rich and not prosperous, not rich and not prosperous, no specific causal connection is necessarily involved.

1. One way to save an argument like this one in one sense of “cause” is to ignore the ordinary states of affairs which are normally assumed to be present in such a situation and to select the antecedent state(s) of affairs of foremost interest necessary to produce the effect. [122]

E.g., when the Duke of Argyll objected to Darwin's theory of evolution on the grounds that natural selection is not a cause but an abstraction, Herbert Spencer concurs but replies that the words “natural selection” “express a congeries of many congeries of [physical] causes [taken collectively].” The collections of more specifically described states of affairs need be identified and selected in accordance with their causal relations.[123]

2. Perfunctory vague causal allusions are not always intended to be argumentative and so should not be evaluated as fallacies — as in this example entry (without any further context than that quoted) in an anniversary editorial:
“Iris Murdoch was born in 1919. So was Doris Lessing. A link there, surely.”[124]
The implied causal link intimates that simply because both writers were born in the same year, this coincidence probably (causally?) accounts for such shared similarities as both having fathers in the First World War, both abandoning Marxism after early involvement, both writing about philosophy and religion, and both expressing anti-establishment outlooks.

3. In sum, Aristotle points out:
“People use ambiguous terms when they have nothing to say but make a pretence of saying something … Again, it is because there is less opportunity of error in generalities that soothsayers express themselves in general terms of their subject … so too in prophecy you have a better chance if you say that a thing will be than if you say when it will be, and this is the reason why soothsayers never go so far as to specify the date of an event.” [emphasis original, Aristotle, Rhet. III.5.1406b33-1407b5. trans. Welldon.]
Vagueness, of course, as a fallacy is not limited to false cause as it can be the source of error in most informal fallacies.

20. Causality and Explanation: Causes are not always explanatory, and explanations are not always causal. Additionally, as Peter Lipton states, “[T]he reason some causes are not explanatory is that so many of our why-questions are contrastive, and for these only clauses that make a difference between fact and [contrastive fact] will provide good answers.” [125]

E.g., The following example of non causa pro causa is used as an explanation for economic inequality in the U.S.:
”The progressive politics of blame, dependence and envy make the well-connected rich and keep impoverished people poor. It's why over the last 50 years, many black politicians have gotten wealthy while the gap in average household income between whites and blacks is 50 percent greater today than it was in 1970,”[126]
Essential economic factors such as outsourcing production and services to other countries, increased technological automation, race and gender disparity, decline of unions, and so forth are ignored in this flawed causal account.

In the following example, the explanation for the cause of the then current economy not rebounding is simply uninformative:
“Things [i.e., economic activities] haven't really rebounded quickly. Instead, they've just kind of wallowed around and crawled along. There are a lot of theories as to why it's happened this way, but the truth is, it's part of life. Just like you have good and bad time in your personal life, there will always be good and bad time in your financial life.”[127]
The financial adviser might as well have written that the economy has not rebounded because that's just the way things are.

In both of the above fallacy examples vaguely connected reasons might be considered category mistakes supplied in place of the requested causes of their effects. In these contexts, Ludwig Wittgenstein's observation that “the investigation of a reason entails as an essential part one's agreement with it, whereas the investigation of a cause is carried out experimentally.”[128]

Norwood Russell Hanson makes a similar point when he states, “[C]ause-words are theory laden with respect to their effect-words”[129] since both insights presuppose theoretical methods of discovery.

21. Interpreted Causality in Narration: Insightful narration often masterfully reports a sequence of events well, but just as often narration can leave out crucial facts essential for understanding essential causal connections. Alex Rosenberg warns:
To convey understanding, a historical explanation has to … get the causal connections between the event in the chronology right. But getting this … right … almost never happens in narrative history or biography.[130]
In all narration, the author interprets and relates what is believed to be factual events in accordance with what is significant with respect to an interpretative story which, in turn, is normally based on selected conjectural “forms of life” which might or might not reflect central issues of the subject. Many historians are well aware of the difficulties involved. E.g., Susan-Mary Grant writes in the introduction to her biography of Oliver Wendel Holmes:
“Whether Holmes' entire life and career can be regarded as informed, or at least influenced, by his Civil War experiences, however, or whether there is an element of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy about this perspective, is one of the issues this short study will explore.”[131]
False cause can occur when specific causal evidence supporting the narrative is selected and causal evidence not supporting the narrative is minimized or ignored.

An example of a singular narrative post hoc claim is given in this account of the cause of the explosion of the USS Maine prior to the Spanish American War:
“On the morning of February 16 came the news that on the previous evening the battle-ship Maine had been blown up and totally destroyed in the harbor of Havana. The explosion occurred under the forward part of the ship, and 264 men and two officers were killed. The overt act had come. This gigantic murder of sleeping men in the fancied security of a friendly harbor was the direct outcome and perfect expression of Spanish rule, the appropriate action of a corrupt system struggling in its last agony.[132]
Although the exact cause of the sinking of the Maine is remains in dispute, the constructed claim here is the explosion was “a direct outcome” of the power of corrupt Spanish rule in Cuba.

As Hayden White notes, “[T]he form in which historical events present themselves to a prospective narrator is found rather than constructed.[133]

22. A Posse Ad Esse Non Valet Consequentia: (the possibility of something does not imply its reality) although certain events or states of affairs might have occurred in various ways, it does not logically follow that they actually occurred in any of those ways. The events or states of affairs might not have occurred or existed at all.
“The actual existence of a thing proves its possibility, but its mere possibility does not prove its actual existence.”[134]
Inquiry into the possibility of any event cannot establish its occurrence. Either sufficient evidence is presented in order to conclude that any of the events or states of affairs occurred or no conclusion can be drawn. E.g.,
“If it be said the Soul may exist after the body is dead and decomposed, I reply, the soul may also not exist: one supposition is as good as the other.”[135]
First, consider this example of a violation of the principle of a posse ad esse non valet consequentia by Oxford professor John Keill:
“[L]et us suppose all the Matter in Universe to be amassed into two Spheres, which may be represented by two Circles, whose Centers are A and B. … If these Spheres touch one another, it is necessary that they touch one another in one Point only, by the Elements of Geometry: … and therefore there will be betwixt … these Spheres a certain and determinate Space not replete with Matter. … We conclude therefore, that there is in reality a Space distinct from all Body … Whence, since these Properties demonstratively agree with the Space here spoken of … the Idea we have of Space is not chimerical or imaginary …”[136]
So Keill mistakenly concludes from the assumption that if all matter exists within in two spheres there would be caused space without matter, so therefore there really is such a space. And this he claims is “an invincible Demonstration taken from Geometry.”

Second, in the following example, Thomas Cooper, after citing the principle as a caution against concluding that volcanoes can be explained by magnetism or electricity, concludes that the cause of volcanic eruptions are only possible due to the action of fire and/or water:
“Hence as we are unacquainted with any geological phenomena appertaining to the strata that form the crust of the earth, except such as are owing to the agency of water, or the agency of fire, or of both these causes combined — we must confine ourselves in the present state of our knowledge, to these, the only known sources of explanation.[137]
He concludes that volcanoes “are natural vents in the crust of the earth, made by subterranean fires, to afford an exit for the gasses, vapours …”[138] Although Cooper proves the source of the fires is not caused by coal deposits, he must recognize that factors need be considered; consequently, no conclusion can reliably be drawn from the limitation of the two mentioned possibilities.

The final example of a posse ad esse non valet consequentia is a version of the shibboleth “If you can believe it, you can achieve it”:
“There is an ideal which is to the individual an image of that which he could be and that he knows he should be. … Since the ideal exists, there is presumptive evidence that it could be realized …”[139]
Considered as a fallacy, this example presupposes that becoming what one knows one should be is sometimes actually impossible because of any number of different circumstances beyond one's control.
1. #### A Relational View of Some Varieties of Non Causa Pro Causa or False Cause [Optional Reading]

1. Aristotelian Background: False Cause as an Unwarranted Causal Premise: Beginning with Aristotle's De Sophisticis Elenchis, the fallacy of false cause is described as “no cause for a cause” and is implemented either as (1) the presence of an unwarranted assumed causal premise or as (2) an unwarranted reason.[140]

1. With good reasons for doing so, current philosophical accounts of the fallacy of false cause do not consider premises as causes for their conclusions even though Aristotle and many early logicians hold that in some sense they are the material causes (i.e., the constituents) of their conclusions. Owen Goldin states it this way:
”For Aristotle, the intelligibility of a demonstrative premise is the cause of the intelligibility of a demonstrated conclusion, and it is for this reason that inference on the basis of a demonstrative premise serves to render intelligible a demonstrated conclusion.”[141]
But in no sense are premises the efficient causes [i.e., the initiating change of] of a conclusions (as many beginning critical reasoning students often assume).[142]

Aristotle's definitions and examples were employed in scholastic logic and continued to be used in logic textbooks until the dawn of twentieth century.[143]

Unfortunately, however, ever since their traditional early use, these terms have been inconsistently used in textbooks. The Latin typology for the fallacies described in this section is not important for contemporary purposes of identification of informal fallacies since many of these terms have now passed from current use. Instead, the following adaptation of the schoolmen's terminology is used as a convenient framework for displaying additional examples of some of the varieties of non causa pro causa.

These ways the fallacy of false cause appear in argumentation (diagrammed below) are characterized by the presence of an erroneous logical ground or an erroneous logical “cause” of the conclusion of the argument. Note that for Aristotle:
“Reasoning is based on certain statements made in such a way as necessarily to cause the assertion of things other than those statements.” (emphasis mine) Soph. E. 165a1-4 (Forster).
And if there is no cause …
“The refutation connected with taking as a cause is not a cause, occurs when that which is not a cause is foisted into the argument as though the refutation were due to it. De Sophisticis ElenchisV, 168a (Forster).
Whereas in a valid argument with true premises, we have a demonstration:
[D]emonstration is a necessary thing because the conclusion cannot be otherwise, if there has been demonstration in the unqualified sense; and the causes of this necessity are the first premises, i.e. the fact that the propositions from which the syllogism proceeds cannot be otherwise. Metaphysics V.5, I.1.2.
Thus, in these passages, Aristotle, in large measure, views a “cause” as a “reason,” which is a perfectly good sense of the word on many occasions in ordinary everyday use, but is normally eschewed in logical and philosophical use today. [144]

Richard Whately explains Aristotle's material cause in this manner:
“When we say … the Premise is a cause, and the Conclusion drawn, an Effect, it is evident we are not speaking of the more syllogistic connexion of the Premise and Conclusion … for ‘Cause,’ and ‘Effect’ are relative words; and the Premise is called a Cause of that Effect which is inferred in the Conclusion. So that it is the relation, in respect of matter, of the Premise to the Conclusion, that we are speaking of.”[145]
Again, what's significant for us is not to memorize the thicket of Latin terms described below but instead to view from a different perspective some of the copious guises of false cause. Douglas Walton amplifies the terminological muddle brought about by conflicting uses of these terms in the logical literature:
[T]he terms … blended into this terminological mixture … [are] generally confusing and disorienting. … The sheer diversity of terminologies prevents one from even beginning to speak abut these fallacies in a coherent and orderly way, never mind trying to build up some basic knowledge on what the fallacies are.[146]
(For more on the Aristotelian background see footnote 140 on this page.)

2. From the time of Aristotle, descriptions of non causa pro causa also include the assignment of a false reason for some effect or conclusion such that the “causa” is taken either as a ground of inference (e.g. a false premise of a syllogism) or as a statement expressing a mistaken cause — but not specifically as the logical connection between the premises and conclusion.[147]

For example in the Book of Job, Job's friend Eliphaz accounts for Job's suffering as follows:
“[T]hey that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” [Job 4:8 Scofield]
An interpretative reconstruction of the argument becomes:
All sinners are persons reaping suffering. (F)
Job is a person reaping suffering.
Job is a sinner.
So the fallacy of false cause is attributable to the falsity of the major premise — not to the unrelated the fallacy of the undistributed middle term. If Eliphaz's statement is taken in the vein of a deductive nomological explanation why Job suffers, then in the following argument …
All sinners are persons reaping suffering. (F)
Job is a sinner.
Job is a person reaping suffering.
… no syllogistic (formal) fallacy occurs, but the (infomal) fallacy of Aristotle's “no cause for a cause” remains because of the false major premise.

3. Very often, of course, false cause or non causa pro causa is inferred without reconstructing the argument in formal terms.E.g., in the above generalization in the major premise “All sinners are persons reaping suffering” is set up as a premise from the inference from some instances of sinners reaping suffering).[148]

Here's another example of Aristotle's notion of false cause resulting from an unwarranted generalization.
“A balanced, healthy diet is the best remedy for disease in general. I have a cousin who is a breast cancer survivor, and she now consumes juiced fruits and vegetables in enormous quantities to keep herself healthy, and so far her cancer has stayed in complete remission.”[149]
Indeed, this archaic definition of false cause is sometimes taken to be the definition of converse accident, (a fallacy sometimes often not distinguished from “hasty generalization,” when both are considered types of secundum quid, a fallacy discussed below).

4. Somewhat surprisingly, C.L. Hamlin states the contemporary treatment of the false cause fallacy is unnecessary since it is subsumable under secundum quid (i.e., literally, ”that which is in accordance with some particular thing.)”[150]

He notes that to classify false cause as applying to sequences of events in the world is a break with the traditional definition of false cause — the traditional definition being the fallacy of drawing a conclusion from an unwarranted premise, which Aristotle also termed “reductio ad impossibile” (q.v., footnote 7 below.)[151]

5. Richard Whately over 100 years earlier also finds puzzling the “newer” definition of false cause as physical cause rather than logical ground, because it is …:
“confounding together cause and reason; the sequence of Conclusion from Premises, being perpetually mistaken for that of effect from physical cause.
Whately proceeds to anticipate C.L. Hamlin in one respect in recommending that the physical kind of cause be dropped from the fallacy of “non causa pro causa” and the fallacy be restricted to those arguments where “the premiss is unduly assumed; i.e. without being either self-evident, or satisfactorily proved.”[152]

6. Aristotle states the fallacy of secundum quid et simpliciter arises “when that which is predicated in part has been taken as though it was predicated absolutely.”[153]

Since a generalization about all instances of a supposed causal sequence is drawn from only one or a few qualified instances of a supposed causal sequence, without any further evidence, examples of false cause also can be seen as examples of the converse accident fallacy — and what some critical reasoning textbooks term the fallacy of hasty generalization. Scott Schreiber suggests that secundum quid fallacies of this nature may all involve category mistakes.[154]

7. For convenience, the cluster of terms originating from Aristotle's description of “No cause for a cause” can be arranged as follows:[155]
1. Classical Varieties of False Cause: (i.e., false cause as an unsound formal argument): the fallacy resulting from a false or dubious causal premise or a causal premise which does not provide an adequate logical ground for a causal conclusion. Note that this formulation of false cause need not be deductively fallacious since the argument structure can still be valid (but unsound). The subtypes of this fallacy traditionally are as follows:

1. Non Tali (Causa) Pro Tali (Causa): (no causal likeness put for a causal likeness) the fallacy resulting from the implicit assumption of a (causal) premise as similar, parallel, or in similar manner or type to the state of affairs in question. This premise is indeterminable or insufficient for a parallelism or proper analogy. Non tali (causa) pro tali (causa) also occurs when a causal connection is mistakenly taken to be analogous to another causal connection.[156] In general, in the fallacy of Non tali (causa) pro tali (causa) the argument proceeds from a particular case to another particular case which proves under examination to be irrelevant to the first — hence “is only a kind of fallacy of false analogy.[157]

Often in this fallacy one of the terms denotes the same kind thing as another of the terms, but is a different quantity, at a different time, or in a different condition:
“[B]ecause dry weather is good for the traveler it is also good for the farmer, or because the corn-laws were beneficial to England at one time they must always be so.[158]
The oft-used example of equivocation or the four term fallacy is another example:
He who is most hungry eats most.
He that eats most is least hungry.
He that is most hungry is least hungry.
Each premise is true at a different time than that of the time of the eating; hence, there is a lack of sameness in circumstance.

An extended example of the fallacy illustrates the lack of parallelism in the doctrine of biogenesis:
“The doctrine that the series of forms which an animal passes through in developing from the egg to the adult is an epitome of the stages in the evolution of the species. This is stated briefly in the expression: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. … The law is based upon observed parallelisms between ontogenetic changes and assumed evolutionary ones. Thus, at an embryonic stage, man possesses gill-slits, and a two chambered heart, like a fish; later the gill-slits close and the heart becomes reptilian. A tail like that of lower apes is present at a later stage. At birth the child grasps things with its feet, as the higher apes do, and not until several months after birth are the essentially animal instincts replaced by the human.[159]
Thus, the fallacy in biogenesis results from treating the stages in the embryonic development of particular organisms as though they are subject to the same quantity, times, or conditions as the evolutionary development of the species. Although there are many parallels between the development of embryos and evolutionary succession, the recapitulation thesis has now been superseded by the discovery of many conserved genes in organisms which drive morphological evolutionary processes.[160]

A similar example of non tali (causa) pro tali (causa) is summarized by Joseph Devy:
“[S]tates, by the very constitution of things, have the same periods of infancy, manhood, and decrepitude that are found in the individuals who compose them,—that after the enjoyment of a certain amount of vigorous action decay must stamp its furrows upon empire just as it writes its wrinkles on the human body.”[161]
The fallacy implicated in the identification of the identity of human biological development with that of the rise and fall of states occurs because of suppositional dissimilar causal processes of scale.

1. Fallacia a Dicto Secundum Quid ad Dictum Simpliciter (as applied to causal arguments): the fallacy arising from a term being used in a restricted, partial, limited or qualified sense in the premise and a majority, unlimited, absolute or unqualified sense in the conclusion. So the reasoning is from a statement under a condition in the premise to a statement simply without that condition.

(“Secundum quid” is usually taken to mean in this use of “in some respect,” and “simpliciter,” in this use is best taken to mean “unqualifiedly.”[162])

Isaac Watts constructs this example:
“If Opium or the Peruvian Bark has been used imprudently or unsuccessfully, whereby the Patient has received Injury, some weaker People absolutely pronounce against the Use of the Bark or Opium upon all.”[163]
The conditional statement summarizes a specific argument with the premise that certain medicines ineffective in a few cases implies the conclusion that those medicines ought never to be used for any cases.

Jevons explains the fallacy as “reasoning from a statement under a condition to a statement simply or [reasoning from a statement under a condition to a statement] without that condition.” [italics original] And unlike many previous logicians equates the fallacy with converse accident.[164]

Dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter is viewed here in terms of non tali (causa) pro tali (causa) and encompasses such causal topics as those included in the inferences:

— from a conditional statement to an absolute statement,

— from some aspect, part, or respect of a thing to the thing generally;

— or from confusing what is accidental to what is essential to something (i.e., fallacia accidentis).

Edward Bentham provides the following example:
”Vice and Misery may, by the direction of Providence, in particular cases, contribute to the benefit of mankind, therefore, it is no man's duty to refrain from it.” [i.e., refrain from the committing of vice and misery][165]
This example also illustrates the failure to distinguish what is accidental with what is essential to something. However, not all causes involve this kind of generalizing. For instance, in the following example, nationally syndicated columnist Ester Cepeda argues against granting special advantages to all persons who claim need for special consideration:

“[1] Our society is on the path to random chaos because our willingness to make exceptions for people morphed into never-ending feelings of grievance and expectations of entitlement. …

[2] We want whatever upper hand we can get. We each think we are deserving of special privilege and it hardly matters if it's not good for us, or others, in the long run, or if it comes at the expense of similar situations in the future. …

[3] If any of this seems ridiculous or wrong-headed, you'd better get used to it. We're now living in Accommodation Nation, a place where the only people who don't get special favors are those who speak out against the notion everyone is entitled to special treatment.” [Premise and conclusion markings mine][166]

The limitation in the premise is the assertion that our society is “on the path to” a specific state of affairs, whereas the unqualified conclusion is that our society is “now living” in that state of affairs.

2. Fallacia a Dicto Simpliciter ad Dictum Secundum Quid: originally, this fallacy arises from a term used as an unqualified or absolute term in the premise to a qualified sense in the conclusion; Thus, it is the converse of fallacia a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter discussed just above).[167]

For example, consider Charles Krauthammer's evidence that during the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, Barack Obama had a light workload:

“The Obama campaign's … excuses [for his poor performance in a presidential debate]: ‘He was weighed down by the burdens of office.’

Ah yes, the burdens of office. Like going on ‘The View’ [an American TV talk show] while meeting with not a single foreign leader at the U.N. Like flying to a Vegas campaign rally the day after a U.S. consulate is sacked and the ambassador murdered. Like rushing off to New York for a night with Jay-Z and Beyoncé.”[168]

Mr. Krauthammer argues from these atypical examples of the President's usual workload to conclude that the President isn't fatigued by the burdens of office. In both the simpliciter ([what is the case] unqualifiedly or absolutely) version and the secundum quid ([what is the case] in some respect or with some qualification) version of these fallacies, the mistake arises from an expressions which differ “in a particular sense” or a difference “in a certain respect.” The difference is, so to speak, in the direction of reference.

Both fallacies, Dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter and dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid, can occur by the mistaken conversion of universal affirmative or particular negative statements. The following example illustrates the initial simple illicit conversion of an implicit dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter constructed by Edward Bentham into a simple illicit dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid:
“A man is a master in this or that profession, therefore, he may be allowed to dictate in any other.”
mistakenly converts to:
A man is allowed to dictate in any profession, therefore he may be a master of this or that profession.
Both these brief fallacy examples are denials of the old platitude, “A Jack of all trades is a master none,” which is presupposed here as true. These last two examples also illustrate subtypes of the two fallacies, namely the conversion of converse accident (the fallacy of considering certain exceptional cases and generalizing to a universality of all or most cases) can result in the fallacy of accident (the fallacy of concluding certain exceptional cases are true on the grounds the generalization of all or most cases is true).

2. Non Vera (Causa) Pro Vera (Causa): the fallacy resulting from the tacit assumption of a (causal) premise as true when it is not true (or when there is no evidence for it). The suppressed premise is false or indeterminable in truth value.[169]

A distinction has occasionally been drawn that in non vera (causa) pro vera (causa) the supposed cause and effect have no connection because of a false assumption of facts, and in non tali pro tali the supposed cause and effect are insufficiently related.[170] Example: The occurrence of an eclipse prior to Xerxes' first march against Greece:
“When they had set forth, the sun left his place in the heaven and was unseen, albeit the sky was without clouds and very clear, and the day was turned into night. When Xerxes saw and took note of that, he was moved to think upon it, and asked the Magians what the vision might signify. They declared to him that the god was showing to the Greeks the desolation of their cities; for the sun they said was the prophet of the Greeks, as the moon was theirs. Xerxes rejoiced exceedingly to hear that, and kept on his march.” [Herodotus VII.37]
The argument can be translated as follows:
[All eclipses are events preceding the desolation of Greek cities. (F)]
This occasion is an eclipse.
This occasion is an event preceding the desolation of Greek cities.
When the false suppressed premise is declared, the unsoundness of the argument is evident.

Under early English common law, felo de se is a person who commits the crime of suicide and thereby forfeits his property. In 1560, the widow of Sir James Hale contested the forfeiture of her husband's estate. The defense argued:
“If a man commits felony and flies [i.e. middle English “flees” or “escapes”] he shall forfeit his goods.”
The implicit argument of the fallacy is the following enthymeme:
All fleeing felons are property forfeiters.
[All suicide committers are fleeing felons].
All suicide committers are property forfeiters.
Sir James is suicide committer.
Sir James is property forfeiter.
The minor (i.e., the second) premise of the first syllogism above is false since equivocation occurs on the word “flee”:

(1) “To run away from or as from danger; to take flight; to try to escape or seek safety by flight.”

(2) “To depart this life.”[171]

Consequently, the enthymeme can be evaluated as equivocation, four term fallacy, false cause, and unsound.

3. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: As discussed above III, A, the fallacy whereby it is argued that one event or state of affairs was caused, wholly or partly, by another event or state of affairs merely because it occurred after that event. One often occurring instance of this fallacy is described in the Port-Royal Logic:
“It is a very common defect amongst men to judge rashly of the actions and intentions of others; and they almost always fall into it by a bad reasoning, through which, in not recognising with sufficient clearness all the causes which might produce any effect, they attribute that defect definitely to one cause, when it may have been produced by many others …”[172]
In this kind of post hoc ergo propter hoc the presence of a contributing cause prior to one instance of its associated effect need not have been present prior to different occurrence of that effect.

4. Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc As discussed above III, B, the fallacy of reasoning solely from a correlation of events or conditions to the conclusion that those events or conditions are causally related when those events or conditions are actually only accidentally correlated. The Port-Royal Logic describes one such variety of this fallacy:
“It is a very common defect amongst men to … suppose a cause, which has accidentally, when united with many circumstances, produced and effect on one occasion, must do so on all occasions” [173]
In this kind of cum hoc ergo propter hoc the presence of a contributing cause occurring with one instance of its associated effect need not have been present at the time of a some other occurrence of that effect.
1. Some Metaphysical Difficulties in Understanding Causation: In order to understand the fallacy of false cause, ideally we need to have an adequate idea as to the nature of causality so that causality is distinguishable from correlation, mere sequence of events, and other various ordinarily mistaken occasions for causal ascription.

1. The question as to whether a universal method of causal inference is possible remains open, in part, on account of the many different ostensible uses of the term. Many philosophers of science surmise causal pluralism — the view that causation is not a single kind of relation or connection between or among worldly events.[174]

1. Experiments with proper subjects, conditions, and controls often provide appropriate, acceptable, but only probable evidence for the presence of causal connection. Nevertheless, causal relations appear to have a family resemblance, as we have seen which may well be what W. B. Gallie terms in a different frame of reference “essentially contested concepts” which have no common application in different contexts:
“[T]here is no one clearly definable general use of any of them which can be set up as the correct or standard use.”[175]
At one time, Bertrand Russell wrote that the notion of causality was of heuristic use, but functional relationships, not causal laws, are characteristic of scientific inquiry. He wrote: “[T]he word ‘cause’ is so inextricably bound up with misleading associations as to make its complete extrusion from the philosophical vocabulary desireable.…”[176]

2. Most likely Christopher Hitchcock is correct in his argument that “The goal of a philosophical account of causation should not be to capture the causal relation, but rather to capture the many ways in which the events of the world can be bound together.”[177]

3. For example, Nancy Cartwright writes:
“The term ‘cause’ is highly unspecific. It commits us to nothing about he kind of causality involved nor about how causes operate. Recognizing this should make us more cautious about investing in the quest for universal methods for causal inference.”[178]
Causality is identifiable in tipping points, emergent phenomena, homeostasis, phase transitions, complex systems, adaptive behaviors, nonlinear effects, cascades, positive feedback, fractal scaling, synergistic interaction, and many other kinds of states of affairs. Understanding causation in these contexts is tied to the semantic inquiry into the metaphysical nature of causation.

2. Judea Pearl, side-stepping metaphysics, notes:
“[T]he word cause is not in the vocabulary of probability theory; we cannot express in the language of probabilities the sentence, mud does not cause rain. [emphasis original][179]
Pearl and others reject the notion of causal pluralism and assume that varieties of causation can be analyzed in terms of mathematical causal modeling. He emphasizes causal inference from causal data without focusing on the problem of the elucidation of the meaning of causality:
“Any attempt to ‘define’ causation in terms of seemingly simpler, first-run concepts [e.g. probability] must fail.”[180]
However, as a result of stipulating the primitive nature of causality, Pearl begs the question of the non-plurality of causes in his practical application of uniform causal concepts within a mathematical framework. As Hitchcock notes, “For Pearl and his colleagues who are in the business of constructing causal models and making causal inferences, ‘causation’ is a subject matter, not a relation.”[181]

3. Previously W.V.O. Quine summed up the more general nature of the difficulty:
“What then of the doctrinal side, the justification of our knowledge of truths of nature? Here, Hume despaired. … On the doctrinal side, I do not see that we are farther along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament.”[182]
In practice, the question of causality is not so much a logical question as it is scientific one, and scientific approaches have provided various different techniques for assessing causal reasoning. From the logical side, the situation is not straightforward either: Ulrike Hahn, et al. write: “[T]he mere fact that there is no comprehensive, systematic typology of causal argument illustrates that causal argument is still poorly understood.”[183]

4. Many types of causation have been described in science and philosophy; no simple analysis can account for all of them. Nevertheless, just as we cannot, and need not, have a have a definitive and settled definition which completely anticipates all the possibilities of the open texture of the word “chair” in order to know in nearly all cases if something is not a chair, so likewise we need not have a definitive definition of “cause” in order to know in nearly all cases if something is not a cause.

Even though a precise meaning of the term “cause” is greatly contested; in practice, the distinction between a cause and a noncause is usually discernible, even given the vagueness and/or open texture of the term. The vagueness of the term “cause” can be remedied to a great extent by the precision of a theoretical definition, but the open texture of the term remains due to the possibility of novel circumstances and future theory revisions. The open texture of a concept, unlike its vagueness, always leaves concept open to further qualification.

1. Frederich Waismann states, “[I]t is not possible to define [our empirical concepts] with absolute precision, i.e., in such a way that every nook and cranny is blocked against entry or doubt. That is what is meant by the open texture of a concept.”[184]

2. As examples of the open texture of “cause,” consider the physicists' discussion of causality without determinism in quantum mechanics: e.g., “Causality is not identified with determinism, nor is lack of causality identified with nondeterminism.”[185] or of causality in chaos theory: e.g., “The observation that deterministic equations may have unpredictable results is the essence of chaos,”[186] or in possible states of affairs and causes of events realizing nonexistent objects, [187] and, finally, of course, the problem of an inductive proof for of the truth of universal causal statements.
2. #### Rules of Thumb for Determining Plausible Causal Connections in Informal Logic:

1. In spite of the unresolved difficulties inherent in the causal semantic and inferential approaches to false cause, for the purpose of routine informal reasoning, some rules of thumb are useful in assessing the plausibility of causal claims in everyday discourse. Ulrike Hahn et al. enjoin:
“An important, practical project for further work would be to try to distill insights from [measures of how convincing a particular inference from correlation to cause actually is] into ‘critical questions’ that can be readily communicated in everyday settings.”[188]
There have been attempts to do just that, but those attempts have been roundly criticized.

2. Even so, for the purpose of having some guidelines for judging the presence of false cause in argumentation, we can outline a few rules of thumb upon which to base everyday determinations of the presence of causality in informal arguments.[189]

1. Most singular accounts of causation presuppose causes precede their effects. Many note that this is one of the necessary conditions for causation involving everyday events.[190]

2. In everyday discussion of singular causal connection there must be some sense of unconditional natural necessity in the argument in order to avoid the charge of false cause.[191]

3. Most accounts of causation presuppose a strong correlation between cause and effect must exist. As David Hume points out, there is a “constant conjunction.” [192] At the very least the states of affairs should be strongly statistically associated in a variety of circumstances and conditions.

4. The relation of states of affairs should be consistent with current scientific theories or causal knowledge, if relevant and available.

5. An asymmetry exists between cause and effect; a cause must always precede its effect.[193] Some instances of apparently causally related events seem interactive, simultaneous, or even temporally reversed, but at least for ordinary everyday events this appearance disappears on closer investigation or experimentation.

3. Normally the relationship of a single cause to an effect is thought to be a necessary connection: given a cause, the effect not only always follows but necessarily follows.

1. However, this “necessity” is thought to be a natural necessity, not just an empirical induction from past observations of all events of type A being followed by events of type B.

2. So in this sense the attribution of causality is a result of something more than empirical regularity and something less than a priori necessity. Hence, on this characterization of causality, a cause cannot be observed; it can only be established (fallibly) through methodological experimentation.[194]
3. #### Ten Explained Examples of False Cause:

1. Evaluate the following quoted passages involving causation, and compare your evaluation of them with the related comments listed below each implicit argument.

1. “We hear that a writer has just filed a two million dollar lawsuit against the Coors beer company for pickling his brain. It seems that he had been consuming large quantities of Coors' 3.2 beer, containing only 3.2 percent alcohol and so supposedly non-intoxicating, at his local tavern. But, the suit contends, the stuff was insidiously marinating his mind; and as a result he has been unable to finish writing his second novel. The author may have a point. But we have to wonder whether the damage was caused by the beer, or by the current fad of product liability suits.[195]

Comment: The main fallacy here is a singular cum hoc ergo propter hoc:
The author drank much Coor's 3.2 beer.
The author did not complete his second novel.
Drinking Coor's 3.2 beer caused his inability to complete novel.
Or, put into the form of non tali (causa) pro tali causa:
All Coor's 3.2 beer drinkers are unfinished novelists.
The author is a Coor's 3.2 beer drinker.
The author is a unfinished novelist.
The expressed major premise is false or dubious. (The Wall St. Journal's concluding satirical comment is not meant to be taken as an argument.)

2. ”Who did he think he was, Napoleon, because he was so short?“[196]

Comment: Under the presumptions that this rhetorical question is taken as an argument, then it would follow that being short in statue leads to having the personality characteristics of Napoleon: arrogance, assertiveness, or belligerence. The fallacy of false cause occurs since the causal connection is not known to exist or probably does not exist.[197] The few psychological studies of the “short man complex” or sometimes termed “Napoleon complex,“ have at best mixed results. The term is often said to have originated from the psychotherapist Alfred Adler who mentions a small boy who slept with his arms in the same position as that shown by Napoleon in paintings. Adler dubiously concludes the boy sought to overcompensate for his height by becoming superior in “the useless side of life.” The cause, he states, originates from an inferiority complex brought on from derision by others.[198]

3. “Dear ABBY: If GOING BALD doesn't have any signs of rash, or sores on her head, she should make a mixture of castor oil and sheep dung, and plaster it on her head every night. (Tell her to wear a shower cap so she won't mess up her pillow.) I started losing my hair after the birth of my child. My grandmother gave me this remedy and it worked.[199]

Comment: This example of false cause (viz., cum hoc ergo propter hoc) is based on a singular correlation of low probability. Although “[d]iffuse hair loss in the postpartum woman is a well-known clinical fact,”[200] “full regrowth of hair generally occurs in less than a year”[201] as a natural process, so it is unlikely the concoction was the cause of the hair regrowth described.

4. “Since many a nation having a heavy debt has prospered, therefore a national debt is a national blessing.”[202]

Comment: Such a correlation, if it were true, would provide some evidence for the imputed causal connection, but correlation is not always causation. Thus, the passage is an example of false cause — in particular, cum hoc ergo propter hoc.

5. “Defense attorney Ellis Rubin claims Ronald Zamora's constant exposure to TV crime shows such as re-runs of ‘Kojak’ and ‘Police Woman’ was responsible for ‘diseasing his mind and impairing his behavior controls.’ ‘Without the influence of television … there would not have been any crime,’ Rubin argued.”[203]

Comment: The argument that watching crime shows caused Zamora to commit a crime is a false cause fallacy (viz., post hoc ergo propter hoc). Watching crime shows is a condition, not a cause of the murder. Many persons watch crime shows as a normal state of affairs without that causing them to commit crimes.

6. “When the telephone was first introduced to Saudi Arabia, some contended it was an instrument of the devil. But others pointed out that, according to Moslem doctrine, the devil is incapable of reciting the Koran. When several verses of the Koran were recited and heard over the phone, skeptics were convinced that the instrument wasn't evil.”[204]

Comment: The implicit supposition is that if the telephone were an evil instrument, then recitation of Koran could not be transmitted. However, since the Koran could be recited over the telephone, then the conclusion follows that the telephone is not evil. The argument is based on an unsupported belief of the causal claim that recitation of the Koran over the telephone is conclusive evidence that it is not a bad instrument.

7. “Especially bothersome to some parents whose children have chest pain, are reports in the media of sudden death in what appeared to be otherwise healthy athletes. There are many causes of chest pain in children. The most common cause is called idiopathic chest pain. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. One can only call chest pain idiopathic after they have ruled out other causes.”[205]

Comment: It's arguable that this argument is not fallacious since the notion of "idiopathic" in a list of causes is routine medical jargon. It's misleading to the patient, however, to claim that the cause of the patient's chest pain after investigation has been diagnosed to be an unknown cause of chest pain. Instead, the diagnosis in such a case is incomplete, even though it can be said in this case that the specific opinion arrived at resulted from a thorough investigation. Hence, the notion of idiopathic chest pain as a cause is at best uninformative.

8. “Like all enthusiasts, he [John Wesley] began to consider the most ordinary and trifling occurrences as miraculous manifestations of a special providence. Thus, for example, on one of his journeys, dining at Birmingham, he omitted, as was his wont, to instruct the servants who had attended him, and a violent hail-storm having ensued when he left the town, he believed it a divine reproof for his neglect. When, on the contrary, a shower passes by him, Wesley repeatedly interprets it as a special Providence in his behalf.”[206]

Comment: Wesley's superstitious belief that a lapse in one of his habits causes God to reproach him by subjecting him to a hail-storm is an example of false cause (post hoc ergo propter hoc). When he walks from town to town and misses a nearby rain shower, Wesley believes that this event is evidence of reward for his service to God. Again, this belief can be termed “fallacious” since it based on the unsound argument: post hoc ergo propter hoc.

9. Neil Malhotra correlates football results with incumbents winning elections:
“French president Nicolas Sarkozy should be thankful he isn't up for re-election now. France's abysmal showing in the soccer World Cup might have been his downfall. So suggests Neil Malhotra at Stanford University in California, who found that sports results can influence voting preferences. Malhotra and his team looked at how political candidates fared in 62 U,S. county elections between 1964 and 2008, and compared that with the local college American football team's results. They found that in years when the team won in the two weeks prior to election day, the incumbent or their party received 1.6 per cent more of the votes than in years when the team lost.”[207]

Comment Correlation is not causation but only a first indication that causation might be present. In this case a 1.6 per cent difference is clearly insufficient for a causal connection, much less as the dubious application comparing U.S. football games and U.S. political elections to French football and French political elections. Present also is the fallacy of equivocation since football in France and in the U.S. are different sports. The argument that the outcomes of sports contests are a causal influence on political elections is a fallacy of false cause. At best there might be from a statistical point of view confounding factors in overarching unnamed social conditions at the time.

10. “The army has been improved while flogging has been allowed, … therefore … it is not wise to tamper with the cat-o’nine-tails that has produced such a fair result.[208]

Comment: Again, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. This false cause can be specified as cum hoc ergo propter hoc.

2. Additional historical and present-day examples of false cause with comments can be accessed here: False Cause Examples Exercise

#### Links to Quizzes with False Cause Examples with Suggested Solutions

Test your understanding of false cause arguments with any of the following quizzes:

False Cause Examples Exercise
Fallacies of Relevance I
Fallacies of Relevance II
Fallacies of Relevance III

 In no way can an inference be made from the existence of one state of affairs to the existence of another entirely different from it.    There is no causal nexus which justifies such an inference.    The events of the future cannot be inferred from those of the present.    Superstition is the belief in the causal nexus. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1922), §5.135-5.1361, 109.

#### Notes: False Cause

[Source title links below connect to the online page reference.]

1. Some logicians however equate non causa pro causa with post hoc ergo propter hoc. E.g. Alexander Bain says they are names for the same thing and are an example of the inductive fallacy of simple enumeration. Alexander Bain, “Aristotelian and Scholastic Fallacies,” Logic: Deductive and Inductive, rev. ed. (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1884), 675.

FIG. 3. Historical Frequency of Use of “post hoc ergo propter hoc,” “false cause,”and “non causa pro causa” in Google Books, 1770-2008

Generally speaking, causal relationships have been analyzed in terms of events, circumstances, conditions, states of affairs, facts, and even objects. The differences among these categories are neglected in this account of false cause. Also, the general view taken here is that the factors of causal relationships are usefully described in the somewhat idealistic descriptive contexts of event c causes event e relative to background conditions, which, in the case of false cause can be thought of causality under normal, everyday, ceteris paribus conditions. Such a view is roughly compatible with G. E. M. Anscombe [“Causality and Determination,” in Causation and Conditionals, ed. Ernest Sosa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 63-80], H. L. A. Hart and A. M. Honoré [Causation and the Law (1959 Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978)], and Judea Pearl [Causality 2nd ed. (2000 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

I.e., Non causa pro causa, as a fallacy has been defined in at least three different ways in the literature. Here is a summary of each of those ways with representative logicians listed for each definition. Historically, this fallacy is also termed “non causæ pro causa or “non effectis pro effectu.” [An Elementary Treatise on Logic (London: J. Chapman, 1852), 65.]

#### Definitions of Non Causa Pro Causa as an Informal or a Inductive Fallacy:

(1) Fallacy of False cause: Presuming a causal connection that does not exist (causal conclusion from a false premise):

I. M. Copy and Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic 13th ed. (Upper Saddle Hill, N. J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009), 146.

Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, The Port-Royal Logic trans. T. B. Baynes 5th ed. (Edinburgh: James Gordon, 1861), 135.

(2) Fallacy of Questionable Cause: Presuming a causal connection that probably does not exist (for lack of evidence, insufficient causal justification, or causal conclusion from probable false premise.)

Isaac Watts, Logick: or, the Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth 3rd. ed. (1724 London: Bible and Crown, 1729), 316. (Early standard textbook used at Oxford for over 100 years; first use of the term “false cause” for “non causa pro causa” as an empirical fallacy.)

William Stanley Jevons, Logic (London: Macmillan, 1870), 181.

Patrick J. Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic 10th ed. (Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008), 136.

#### Definition of Non Causa Pro Causa deductive fallacy

(3) Groundless assumption, false ground, false evidence, irrelevant or false reason in a demonstration: conflation of the use of the terms “cause” and “reason.”

Aristotle, On Sophistical Refutations On-Coming-to-Be and Passing-Away trans. E.S. Forster (1955 London: Harvard University Press, 1992), 33 (SE 167b20-25).

Thomas Vuilson (Thomas Wilson), The Rule of Reason, Conteinyng the Arte of Logique Set Forth in Englishe (London: Richard Grafton, printer to the Kynges Maiestie, 1551), n.p. (First full logic textbook in English)

Richard Whately, Elements of Logic (London: J. Mawman, 1826), 181-182. (Whately states the “insufficiency” characterization of non causa pro causais a narrower form of the “undue assumption” characterization of the fallacy discussed next. However, he expresses the fallacy as an unsound deduction:

“[T]wo things are necessary; 1st, the sufficiency of the cause, 2nd, its establishment; these are the two Premises; if therefore the former be unduly assumed, we are arguing from that which is not a sufficient cause as if it were so.” [Whately, Elements, 181-182.])

Horace William Brindley Joseph, An Introduction to Logic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906), 555.

However, the fallacy of undue assumption (or false assumption) cannot be classified as a formal fallacy since the subject of logic is concerned with inference, i.e., distinguishing correct from incorrect reasoning. (Truth and falsity of premises can be taken from established truth values of other arguments which ultimately depend upon the truth or falsity of statements empirically derived or merely assumed. Arguing from a false premise only shows an argument to be unsound not invalid.)

2. The truth of the generalization that no causal determination can be made from one observation is periodically disputed on the basis that (1) only one exception is necessary to falsify a causal law or (2) only one observation is necessary to decide a crucial experiment. In practice, apparent exceptions are either disputed on the basis that they are instances to which the causal law does not apply or the scope of the causal law is narrowed. And, with respect to crucial experiments, controversy arises over what exactly the causal hypothesis is that is being tested and whether or not that hypothesis has been refuted. As Pierre Duhem argues, just as causal hypotheses are not proposed as dilemmas, so likewise crucial experiments cannot decide between one or the other hypothesis since other hypotheses are imaginable.

On this question c.f. these sources also:

1. Pierre Duhem, “Some Reflections on the Subject of Experimental Physics,” Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science, trans. and ed. Roger Ariew and Peter Barker (1894 Indianapolis, IN: 1996), 75-111.
2. Immre Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes,” in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, eds.Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 91-196.
3. Willard Van Orman Quine, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” in From a Logical Point of View: Logico-Philosophical Essays 2nd. ed. (1953 New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 46-20. Also on the internet at Calculemus: “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”].
Peter Achinstein points out, however, “[S]cientists frequently regard certain experiments as crucial in the sense that the experimental result helps make one theory among a set of competitors very probable and the others very improbable, given what is currently known.” Peter Achinstein, “Crucial Experiments,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1998), version 1.0. doi: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q021-1

3. Horace William Brindley Joseph, An Introduction to Logic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906), 401.

4. John Woods and Douglas Walton, “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc,” The Review of Metaphysics 30 no. 4 (June, 1977), 569.

5. Stephen Hupp and Jeremy Jewell, Great Myths of Child Development (John Wiley & Sons, 2015), 63. doi: 10.1080/07317107.2018.1428058

6. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Baby Walkers: A Dangerous Choice,” (September 17, 2018).

See also M. Garrett et al., “Locomotor Milestones and Babywalkers: Cross Sectional Study,” British Medical Journal 324 (June 22, 2002), 1494. doi: 10.1136/bmj.324.7352.1494

7. Aristotle clearly describes this fallacy in his Rhetoric (1401b30-34), but historically, prior to 1700, the main emphasis of the fallacy of false cause was defined in accordance with this empirical account, but on Aristotle's notion of reductio ad impossibile in “non-cause as cause.” where “cause” is taken to mean a ”logical ground for” (Soph. El. 167b1-21-37).

8. W. D. Wallis, “Prodigies and Potents,” Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics ed. James Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1919), X: 369.

9. A.H. McKinney, “Shinto,” in The Missionary Review of the World, (United States: Missionary Review Publishing, 1893), 654.

10. John Stossel, “Earth Daze,” Index-Journal no. 331 (April 14, 2014), 9A. See also John Stossel, “Earth Daze: Overcoming Environmental HysteriaReason (accessed 2019.11.18)

11. Aristotle's discussion in De Sophisticus Elenchis of non causa pro causa is quite different from how the fallacy is defined in current texts. From a logical point of view Aristotle points out that “those [who] assert that what is not a cause is a cause” commit a language fallacy. In so doing his terminology does not distinguish reason from cause. What Aristotle essentially means by non causa pro causa is the fallacy of mistaking a reason for what is not a reason by including an irrelevant statement in an argument, i.e., the fallacy of supposing a conclusion is false because it follows from an extra premise which is false (Soph. El. 167b20-25). So, for Aristotle, non causa pro causa is a formal syllogistic fallacy, not the inductive fallacy (or informal fallacy) studied here. In the Topics Aristotle gives the example:

“‘He who sits, writes’ and ‘Socrates is sitting”: for from these it follows that Socrates is writing.’” [Topics, viii 10]

Aristotle states the argument is shown to fail by pointing out that he who sits does not always write and so cannot “cause” the truth of the conclusion. Thus, for Aristotle, non causa pro causa is an unsound syllogistic fallacy “caused” by a false premise, not the kind of non-deductive informal fallacy studied in current texts.

Prior to the spelling reforms in the 16th and 17th centuries, Thomas Wilson, who wrote the first logic textbook in English in 1551, echoes Aristotle's sense of non causa:

Secundum nō causam, vt cau|sam, that is when a cause that ·s not able to proue the mat|·er, is brought in as though· it ware of force and strengthe, but the ground beynge considered, the fault is easely espied.

Dronkenes is euil,
Ergo wine is naught.[Thomas Vuilson, The Rule of Reason, Conteinyng the Arte of Logique Set Forth in Englishe (London: Richard Grafton, printer to the Kynges Maiestie), n.p.]

Wilson's account is explained by Thomas Blundeville in 1575:

”The Fallax of non causa pro causa, is, when that thing is made to bee the cause of the Conclusion, which is not the cause in deed; as Wine is naught, because it will make a man drunke. Of which drunkennesse, Wine is not the cause, but the intemperance of the man, and his immoderate vse thereof.” [Thomas Blundeville (M. Blvndevile), The Arte of Logick, rpt. (1575 London: William Stansby, 1617), 196. (Also transcribed by University of Oxford Text Creation Partnership, University of Oxford Text Archive, The Arte of Logick]

The second English historical account of “the fallacy of causation” concerns the use of a false causal premise in a syllogism. As the unknown author of An Elementary Treatise on Logic states, “[The fallacy is] to be found in the premises of an argument, and not in the connexion between them and the conclusions; it is the judgment, therefore that can alone detect and expose them.” An Elementary Treatise on Logic [Anonymous, (London: J. Chapman, 1852), 63.] For more on this topic see footnote 140.

12. Orsen Welles, “The Clock Speech,” in Graham Greene, The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed (U.K.: London Films), 1949.

13. John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding ed. Alexander Campbell Fraser Vol. 1 (New York: Dover Publications), 165.

14. Locke, Essay, 434, 435.

15. Locke, Essay, 165. Stewart, Philosophical Essays I, Chapter 3 says the same.

16. C. J. Ducasse, “The Nature and Observability of the Causal Relation,” The Journal of Philosophy 23 no. 3 (February 4, 1926), 61. Also in Ernest Sosa, ed. Causation and Conditionals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 118. doi: 10.2307/2014377

J.S. Mill would probably respond that Ducasse's notion of a singular cause is not what he means by the philosophical meaning of the term:

“We should never have had the notion of causation (in the philosophical meaning of the term) as a condition of all phenomena, unless many cases of causation, or in other words, many partial uniformities of sequence, had previously become familiar.”

John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic 8th ed.(New York: Harper & Brothers, 1904), 401.

17. Anscombe, “Causality,” 66.

18. For example, the theory of causality expressed in terms of natural necessity: “‘X has the power to A ’ means ‘X (will) or (can) do A, in the appropriate conditions, in virtue of its intrinsic nature.’” [italics original] by R. Harré and E. H. Madden, Causal Powers (Totowa, N.J.: Rowan and Littlefield, 1975), 86. See also papers in Jonathan D. Jacobs, ed. Causal Powers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). doi: 10.1093/oso/9780198796572.001.0001 The notion of intrinsic power or faculty of phenomena was treated as a fallacy in the Port-Royal Logic:

“When we see an effect, the cause of which is unknown, we imagine that we have discovered it, when we have joined to that effect a general word of virtue or faculty, which forms in our mind no other ideas except that that effect had some cause, which we knew well before we found that word.” [Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, The Port-Royal Logic, trans. T. S. Baynes, enlarged 5th ed. (1662 Edinburgh: James Gordon, 1861), 252.]

Arnauld and Nicole point out thinking that causality is a faculty or a power is the same sophism as, for example, claiming the ”soporific virtue” of the poppy.

19. Earl of Halsbury, et al., The Laws of England, Vol. IX (London: Butterworth, 1909).

20. Jane M. Orient and Joseph D. Sapira, Sapira's Art and Science of Bedside Diagnosis (Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010), 624.

21. Edward Sullivan, “Introduction,” to Stefano Guazzo, et. al The Civile Conversation of M. Steeven Guazzo, trans. George Pettie (1581 rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1925), xiv.

22. J. Leon Lievsay, “Shakespere's ’Golden World’ (A.Y.L.I., I.i.127),” The Shakespeare Association Bulletin, 13 no. 2 (April, 1938), 77-79.

23. If we know that events As always precede events Bs, then we have some evidence toward the establishment of a causal law. As Hume points out the difference at issue here is the difference between constant conjunction and necessary connection. Accidental generalizations are sometimes reflected in the fallacy of converse accident, and, in particular, the somewhat narrower fallacy of hasty generalization.

24. Bertha Alvarez, “False Cause: Cum Hoc Ergo Proper Hoc,” in Bad Arguments, eds. Robert Arp, Steven Barbone, and Michael Bruce (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, Ltd. for Wiley Blackwell, 2019), 336.

25. There is some econometric evidence relating (1) economic and electoral interaction due to the expansionist policies of Democratic administrations tending to increase inflation and (2) followed by the electorate understanding the results of the Democratic policies then seeking to curb inflation by voting Republican with (3) a recession ensuing. [Alberto Alesina and Howard Rosenthal, Partisan Politics, Divided Government, and the Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 7-8.]

26. Robert F. Bacigalupi, “A Man Without a Dog,” Opinion: Letters, New York Times (October 16, 2017) [accessed October 16, 2017].

27. See Scott G. Schreiber, Aristotle on False Reasoning (New York: State University of New York Press, 2003), 107-112.

27a. Hart and Honoré, Causation and the Law, 227-228.

28. The author of the quoted passage goes on to write, “The storm would have many other more immediate causes, of course, but without the butterfly, the storm might not have happened.” [Roger Schlafy, How Einstein Ruined Physics: Motion, Symmetry, and Revolution in Science (Smashwords, 2011), np.] Also, of course, a deterministic system does not imply individual predictability since information is lost from the finite accuracy of measurements in a series of events, as pointed out by G.E.M. Anscombe. [“Causality and Determination,” in Causation and Conditionals, 71-72.]

29. Henri Poincaré, Science and Method, trans. by Francis Maitland (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1914), 70.

30. J.S. Mill A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive 8th ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1904), 231. In terms of event description, would we then have the possibility of an indefinite number of descriptions of a storm which depend upon the differences of the lack of a specific number of wing flaps of a number of specific butterflies? C. J. Ducasse rightly points out cause and conditions need be distinguished:

“To take up the environment into the ‘cause’ as Mill's definition of cause tries to do, is impossible because the cause consists of a change in that environment.” [Ducasse, “On the Nature and Observability of the Causal Relation,” 116-117.]

The cause is, ordinarily speaking, the occurrence of an event sufficient for the occurrence of another event.

31. Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities, trans. F. W. Truscott and F. L. Emory (London: Chapman & Hall, 1902), 4.

32. John Woods and Douglas Walton, “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter HocThe Review of Metaphysics 30 no. 4 (June 1977), 570.

33. George Will, “The Apostle Mike Huckabee,” Index Journal (May 12, 2015) 97 No. 79, 6A. Also, “Mike Huckabe's Appalling Crusade,” Washington Post (May 8, 2015).[accessed 2019.11.19]

34. Some logic texts make the mistake of identifying post hoc ergo propter hoc wholly with false cause.

35. Example of false cause from C.J. Ducasse, Nature, Mind, and Death (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1951), 94.

36. Frédéric Bastiat, Fallacies of Protection: Being the Sophismes Economiques, trans. P. J. Stirling (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1909), 166.

37. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VI.61.

38. Cicero, De Natura Deorum III.37

39. William Stanley Jevons and Harriet Ann Taylor Jevons, Investigations in Currency ad Finance (London: Macmillan, 1909), 196.

40. J. V. Wall, C.R. Jenkins, Practical Statistics for Astronomers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 91.

41. Scottish philosopher William Hamilton does not distinguish between post hoc ergo propter hoc and cum hoc ergo propter hoc which he terms, “cum hoc (vel post hoc) ergo propter hoc,” literally translated “with this (or after this) therefore because of this.” [Sir William Hamilton, Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic, vol. III Lectures on Logic Vol. I, eds H.L. Mansel and John Veitch (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1860), 461.] John Stuart Mill does not distinguish these fallacies either; he cites examples such as “speculative writers [maintaining] that the national debt was one of the causes of national prosperity.” Such arguments, he states, are a posteriori “bad generalizations” where “one class of influencing circumstances [is assumed] to be the paramount rulers of phenomena which depend in an equal or greater degree on many others.” [John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, 552-553.]

42. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Hints Towards the Formation of More Comprehensive Theory of Life, ed. Seth B. Watson (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1848), 24.

43. The example is used by Brian Skyrms, Causal Necessity: A Pragmatic Investigation of the Necessity of Laws (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), 130. Examples like this one are due to the confusion of the notion of an “action” with the notion of “act.” In evidential decision theory, when an individual decision is based on acting in accordance with the evidence which would result from the decision itself, that hypothetical state of affairs could eliminate the reason for the act, itself. See Judea Pearl, Causality 2nd ed. (2000 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 108.

44. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur Cette Question: Quelle est la Vertu la plus nécessaire aux Héros; & quels sont les Héros à qui cette Vertu a manqué? in Collection Compléte Des Œvres de J.J. Rousseau Tome III (Geneve: [éditeur non identifié] 1781), 48. doi: 10.3931/e-rara-7942

“Où il n’y a nul effet, il n’y a point de cause à chercher: mais ici l’effet est certain, la dépravation réelle, & nos ames se sont corrompues à mesure que nos Sciences & nos Arts se sont avancés à la perfection. … L’élévation & l’abaissement journalier des eaux de l’Océan n’ont pas été plus reéguliérement assujettis au cours de l’Astre qui nous éclaire durant la nuit, que le sort des mœurs & de la probite au progrés des Sciences & des Arts.”

See also Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings, trans. Donald A. Cress (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2011), 8.

45. Jarl Flensmark, “Is There an Association Between the Use of Heeled Footwear and Schizophrenia?” 63 no. 4 Medical Hypotheses, 740-747.doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2004.05.014

46. Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — But Some Don't (New York: Penguin Books, 2012), 195.

47. See for example Haskell Fain, “Some Problems of Causal Explanation,” Mind New Series 2 no. 288 (October 1963), 519-532. doi: 10.1093/mind/lxxii.288.519"

48. See also Tyler Vigen, Spurious Correlations (New York: Hachette Books, 2015).

49. John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, 239.

50. Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, 5th ed. The Port-Royal Logic (Edinburgh: James Gordon, 1861), 286-287.

51. H.L.A. Hart and A.M. Honoré Causation in the Law (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), and Douglas Gasking, “Causation and Recipes,” Mind 64 no. 256 (October 1955), 479-487.doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198254744.001.0001

52. Sam Blows, Cusack's Principles of Logic (London: City of London Book Depôt, 1899), 169.

53. Champ Clark,, “The Financial Bill: Remarks of Champ Clark of Missouri,” in Gold Standard, Scientific Banking System, Etc: Miscellaneous Papers, 1878-1912, United States Congress (December 16, 1899), 14.

54.John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, 552.

55. More specifically, “Taking a cause that which is not a cause.” Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, The Port-Royal Logic trans. T. S. Baynes, enlarged 5th ed. (1662 Edinburgh: James Gordon, 1861), 251.

56. D. M. Armstrong, What Is a Law of Nature? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983) 366. Oddly enough, this view seems to some extent anticipated by David Hume in one of his definitions of causality often overlooked: “Tis the constant conjunction of objects, along with the determination of the mind, which constitutes a physical necessity.” David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (1888 Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 171. Online see A Treatise of Human Nature, eds. T.H. Green and T.H. Grose (London: Longmans, Green, 1890), I: 465.

57. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Elements of Chemistry: In a New Systematic Order, trans. Robert Kerr (Edinburgh: William Creech, 1790), 65, 176, and 146. (He specifically states in the latter passage that vinegar is already known by experimentation to contain oxygen, so his argument above is suppositious.)

58. Note how this syllogism illustrates Aristotle's view (discussed below) of “non-cause for a cause” or as it is sometimes spoken of as non causa pro causa as the assignment of a false reason for some effect or conclusion such that the “causa” is taken either as a ground of inference (e.g. a false premise of a syllogism) or as a mistaken cause.

59. Thomas Reid, Essays on the Powers of the Human Mind (London: R. Griffin and Co, 1827), 603.

60. John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic,, 389.

61. Johnson O'Connor, Science Vocabulary Builder, (Boston: Human Engineering Laboratory, 1956), n.p.

62. This example of common cause fallacy is effected by a fallacy of division. I.e., In sum, the fallacious claim is that since city residents vocabularies increase in proportion to city library size, a particular individual will thereby increase personal vocabulary in accordance with the increase in personal books owned.

63. Donna Brazile, “A New Movement for Sensible Gun Laws?,” Index-Journal 95 no. 348 (April 28, 2014), 6A. Online at Uexpress (April 24, 2014) [accessed 2019-11-22]

64. George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, ed. Edward Arber (1589 London: Bloomsbury, 1869), 193-194.

65. There are several types of slippery slope fallacies; all have three common characteristics:

1. A first problematic determination;
2. A resulting series of causal or logical effects;
3. A final undesirable result.
4. Recognition that the first problematic determination should be avoided so as to prevent the final undesirable result.

M. J. Rizzo and D. G. Whitman summarize slippery slope arguments as beginning with an initial seemingly acceptable decision and ending with a “danger case” — an unacceptable decision or argument. [Mario J. Rizzo and Douglas Glen Whitman, “The Camel's Nose Is in the Tent: Rules, Theories, and Slippery Slopes,” UCLA Law Review 51 (2003-2004), 544. doi:10.2139/ssrn.352981]

Douglas Walton provides a ten-step description of slippery slope arguments with six essential characteristics occurring within a two-agent dialogue. [Douglas Walton, “The Basic Slippery Slope Argument,” Informal Logic 35 no. 3 (September, 2015), 287-288. doi: 10.22329/il.v35i3.4286]

66. William Makepeace Thackeray, “The History of Pendennis,” Vol. 3, The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray (London: Smith, Elder, 1901), 21.

67. Paul Dean, “Review Copies,” The Times Literary Review no. 6041 (January 11, 2019), 6.

68. Richie S. Kink, “After Lean Acorn Crop in Northeast, Even People May Feel the Effects,” New York Times (December 2, 2011), A17.

69. Richard S. Ostfeld, Taal Levi, Felicia Keesing, Kelly Oggenfuss, and Charles D. Canham, “Tick-Borne Disease Risk in a Forest Food Web,” Ecology 99 no. 7 (July 2018), 1562-1573. doi: 10.1002/ecy.2386 See also “Forest Ecology Shapes Lyme Disease Risk in the Eastern US,” Science Daily (July 8, 2018). The rate of confirmed Lyme disease cases in New York actually fell 35% in 2012. [Amy M Schwartz, et al. “Surveillance for Lyme Disease — United States, 2008-2015,” MMWR Surveillance Summaries 2017 66 no. SS-22 (November 10, 2017), 1-12. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.ss6622a1

70. I.e., “Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht.” Friedrich Schiller, “Resignation, ” in Philosophische Gedichte (Hamburg-Frossborstel: Verlad der Deutschen-Dichter-Gedächtnis Stiftung, 1905), 55.

71. John Smyth, Truth and Religion with Special Reference to Religion, (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1901), 221.

72. John Smyth, Truth and Reality, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1901), 227.

73. Philip L. Kohl and Clare Fawcett, “Archaeology in the Service of the State: Theoretical Considerations,” in Nationalism, Politics, and the Practice of Archaeology eds. Philip L. Kohl and Clare Fawcett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), 5, 13.

74. Kohl and Fawcett, “Archaeology in Service, ” 13.

75. James Ward, “Naturalism,” Encyclopædia Britannica Vol. 19 (New York: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911), 274.

Désiré Mercier expresses a similar causal identity exemplifying this fallacy:

”[L]es énergies corporelles, y compris les énergies qui se développent dans la substance nerveuse et qui s‘accompagnment, soit de sensation, de passion, de mouvement spontané, soit de pensee et de volonté, ne sont que des énergies mécaniques.” [original italics] [Désiré Mercier, Logique in Cours de Philosophie, Vol. I “Sophismes d’induction,” (Louvain: Institut Supérieur de Philosophie: 1902), I:304.]

In translation:

“[B]odily energies, including energies which develop in the nervous system accompanied by sensation, passion, spontaneous movement, or thought and will, are only mechanical energies.”

I.e., the identity of the psychical and the physical are fallaciously causally assumed.

76. Marie Swabey, “Circles,” The Journal of Philosophy 34 no. 12 (June 10, 1937), 326. doi: 10.2307/2018140

77. John B. Watson, Behaviorism (New York: Routledge, 1988), 175.

78. Mercier, “Sophismes d’induction,” 305.

79. Hans Kelsen, “Causality and AccountingEssays in Legal and Moral Philosophy (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1973). doi: 10.1007/978-94-010-2653-6_7

80. Henry Summer Maine, Ancient Law, 4th ed. (London: John Murray, 1870), 73-74.

81. Peter Lipton, “Causation Outside the Law,” in Jurisprudence: Cambridge Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 136.

82. H. L. A. Hart and T. Honore, 391-410.

83. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Unpublished Letters, Part I”, Westminister Review XXVII (London: Tröner, April 1, 1870), 354.

84. As a philosophical account, this influential view espoused by David Lewis [“Causation,” Journal of Philosophy 70 no. 17 (October, 1973), 556-567. doi: 10.2307/2025310] has been criticized by a number of philosophers including Jonathan Bennett, A Philosophical Guide to Conditionals,” (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), 290-291.

85. Joel Mokyr, “Irish History with the Potato,” Irish Economic and Social History 8 no. 1 (June 1, 1981), 8-9. doi: 0.1177/033248938100800102

86. Mokyr, “Irish History,” 9.

87. “Mental Health and Social Relationships,” Economic and Social Research Council (May 2013).

88. “Mental Health.”

89. G. S. Hitchcock, “The Religion of the Hebrew Bible, The New Ireland Review vol. 29 (March to August, 1908) (Dublin: New Ireland Review Offices), 2 86.

90. Francis Bacon, Apophthegms in The Works of Francis Bacon ed. Basil Montagu (Philadelphia: Parry & McMillan, 1857), 113.

91. Shakespeare, Shakespeare's Play of “Troilus and Cressida, with Notes Critical and Explanatory, ed. John Hunter (London: Longmans, Green: 1872), 8.

92. The causa cognoscendi describes Aristotle's most common use of “cause” in Soph. El. 167b20-25.

93. Richard Whately, Introductory Lectures on Political Economy 2nd. ed. (London: B. Fellowes, 1832), 252-253.

94. James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson ed. Henry Morley vol. I (London: George Routledge and Sons. 1885), 15-16. As the “cure” in this case did not work, Boswell suggests his mother “should have taken him to Rome.”

95. Henry Morley, ed. “Introduction,” in Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 16.

96. E.g., Thomas Aquinas writes,

”Walking, for example, is the cause of health as an efficient cause, but health is the cause of walking as an end. … the end is said to be the cause of the efficient cause, since the efficient cause does not do its work except through the intention of the end. Whence the efficient cause is the cause of that which is the end; walking for example, of health.” [St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas on Matter and Form and the Elements: A Translation and Interpretation of the de Principiis Naturae … trans. Joseph Bobik (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998), 60 (4.22)].

In this view, an efficient cause is said to be brought about by the final cause or purpose. A fallacy can arise when the process being described is not goal-directed.

97. Elizabeth J. Parks-Stamm, Gabriele Oettingen, and Peter M. Gollwitzer, “Making Sense of One's Actions in an Explanatory Vacuum: The Interpretation of Nonconscious Goal Striving,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46 no. 3 (May 2010), 531-542. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.02.004

98. Ana P. Gantman et al., “Why Did I Do That? Explaining Actions Activated Outside of Awareness,” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 24 no. 5 (October 2017), 1564. [Springer Link]

99. Fiery Cushman, “Confabulation,” Edge ed. John Brockman (February 24, 2019).

100. Larry Shannon-Missal, “Americans' Belief in God, Miracles and Heaven Declines,” The Harris Poll #197 (December 16, 2013).

101. Jules Andrieu, “Astrology,” Encyclopæia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature 9th ed. (Philadelphia: Maxwell Sommerville, 1891), II: 649.

“Historians, as well as poets, assure us that the atmospheric conditions for the year 44 B.C. (the year of Cæsar's assassination) were remarkable.”

Virgil, Georgics in Virgil: Eclogues Georgics Aeneid I-VI (Georgics) trans. H. Rushton Fairclough Vol. I (London: William Heinemann, 1916), 113.

103. Harry Thurston Peck, A History of Classical Philology from the Seventh Century, B.C. to the Twentieth Century A. D. (New York: Macmillan, 1911), 42.

104. Jenny Turner, “As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes: On Feminism,” London Review of Books 33, No. 24 (Dec. 15 2011): 15. Also here: “As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes: On Feminism,” The Guardian UK 33 no. 24 (December 15, 2011).

105. Froma Harrop, “Death Penalty for Tsarnaev Hurts Boston,” Index Journal 97 no. 85 (May 19, 2015), 97. Also on web here: “Death Penalty for Tsarnaev Hurts Boston,” Creators.Com (May 19, 2015). [accessed 2019-11-24]

106. “[N]othing happens without a sufficient reason; that is to say, nothing happens without its being possible for him, who should sufficiently understand things to give a reason sufficient to determine why it is so and not otherwise.” [G.W.F. Leibniz, “The Principles of Nature and Grace 1714,” in The Philosophical Works of Leibniz trans. George Martin Duncan 2nd. ed. (New Haven: Tuttle Morehouse & Taylor, 1908), 303.

107. “[W]henever an event is observed, it is always referred to some antecedent, which it follows according to a universal rule; or else, everything of which experiences teaches that it happens must have a cause. [Immanuel Kant,Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, trans. James W. Ellington 2nd. ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001), 37 (Ak 4:296).]

108. Translated from:

“Donc cause et effet doivent s’entrainer, s’impliquer mutuellement. … En d’autres termes, nous devons pouvoir, par la cause ou raison, á l’aide d’une pure opèration de raisonnement, conclure au phénomène. C’est ce que l’on appelle une déduction.”

Émile Meyerson, De L’Explication Dans Les Sciences 2nd ed. (Paris: Payot, 1912), I:54.

109. Seth Pancoast, What is Bright's Disease? Its Curability (Philadelphia: Seth Pancoast, 1882), 50. John Veitch explains the distinction between cause and reason in this way:

“The logical laws will be found to afford the nexus [between cause and effect] — the cause becomes in fact a reason. The difference between cause and reason logically is that the complete knowledge of the cause per se could not lead us to anticipate or predict, far less necessarily deduce, the effect, while the full knowledge or consciousness of the reason not only enables, but necessitates us to anticipate and think the consequent.” [Veitch, Institutes, 131.]

General laws are reasons or grounds which can answer why something occurs.

110. “State of Oklahoma, ex rel. v. Purdue Pharma, LP, et al.,” Untitled — Oklahoma Attorney General. [accessed 2019-11-24]

111. “Proximate cause” in Law is ambiguous: “proximate cause.1.A cause that is legally sufficient to result in liability. 2. A cause that directly produces an event and without which the event would not have occurred.” [Black's Law Dictionary ed. Bryan A. Garner, 7th ed. (St. Paul: West, 1999).] But also “‘Proximate cause’ — in itself an unfortunate term — is merely the limitation which the courts have placed upon the actor’s responsibility for the consequences of the actor’s conduct. [North v. Johnson , 58 Minn. 242, 59 N.W. 1012 (1894).] Also,“A definition of ‘proximate cause’ as the efficient cause from which the injury follows, in unbroken sequence without any intervening cause to break the continuity is incorrect.” [ Eichmann v. Buchheit, 107 N.W. 325, 326.]

112. G.E.M. Anscombe writes:

“Now we cannot say that since [an] answer mentions something previous to the action, this will be a cause as apposed to a reason … If an action has to be thought of by the agent as doing good or harm of some sort, and the thing in the past as good or bad, in order for the thing in the past to be the reason for the action, then this reason shows not a mental cause but a motive. This will come out in the agent's elaboration on his answer to the question ‘Why.’”

[G.E.M. Anscombe, “Intention,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series 57 (1956-1957), 322, 329.]

113. Richard Whately writes:

“[The ambiguity between cause and reason] has produced incalculable confusion of thought, and from which it is the harder to escape, on account of its extending to those very forms of expression which are introduced in order to clear it up. What adds to the confusion is, that the Cause is often employed as a Proof of the effect; as when we infer, from a great fall of rain, that this is, or will be, a flood; which is at once the physical effect, and the logical conclusion. The case is just reversed, when from a flood we infer that the rain has fallen.” [Richard Whately, Elements of Logic (London: J. Mawman, 1826), 298.]

Judge Balkman's “Conclusions of Law” cites previous cases where interpretation of the nuisance law statute does not indicate that public nuisances must reference property. But, just in case the statute 50 O.S. 1981 ¶1 does require reference to property, he adds in conclusion 4:

”However, and in the alternative, in the event Oklahoma's nuisance law does require the use of property, the State has sufficiently shown that Defendants pervasively, systematically and substantially used real and personal property, private and public, as well as the public roads, building and land of the State of Olakahoma, to create this nuisance.”

I.e.,Johnson and Johnson sales representatives were trained in their homes, conducted marketing in medical venues, traveled on roads, sent messages by computer, phones etc. — all, into Oklahoma properties.

114. E.g., Whately, Elements, 181.

115. Plato, The Republic, X.605b, trans. Jowlett.

116. John Veitch, Institutes of Logic (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1885), 548. Perhaps, a better method to analyze this argument would be to point out, syllogistically, the conclusion would follow only if the argument is considered enthymematically, necessitating a false premise:

[All persons who mislead are persons to be banned. (F)]
All orators are persons who mislead.
All orators are persons to be banned.

This approach would jibe with an Aristotelian analysis:

“The Logical writers … were confounding together cause and reason; the sequence of Conclusion from Premises being perpetually mistaken for that of effect from physical cause. [Richard Whately, Elements of Logic (London: J. Mawman, 1826), 183.]

117. Margaret MacMillan, Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History (New York: Modern Library, 2010), 38-39.

118. J. B. Stallo, The Concepts and Theories of Modern Physics (New York: D. Appleton, 1882), 292-293.

119. Dennison Olmsted, The Mechanism of the Heaven (London: Thomas Nelson, 1801), 270.

120. “Pastor John Hagee on Christian Zionism, Katrina,” Fresh Air with Terry Gross, National Public Radio (September 18, 2006).

121. S. H. Emmens, A Treatise on Logic, Pure and Applied (London: Crosby Lockwood and Son, 1891), 107.

122. More accurately, ceteris paribus conditions, normal conditions, standard conditions, and others such are uselessly vague in practice. Better to say, if C did not cause E then there must be (some unexpected) cause why it did not do so. G. E. M. Anscombe makes a similar point. [Causality and Determination,” 71.

123. George J. Romanes, “The Contemporary Review,” 53 (June), (London: Isbister and Co., Ltd., 1888), 841-843.

124. James Campbell, “NB: Back Pages,” Times Literary Supplement, no. 6040 (January 4, 2019), 36.

125. Peter Lipton, “Causation and Explanation,” in The Oxford Handbook of Causation, eds. Helen Beebe, Christopher Hitchcock, and Peter Menzies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 625. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199279739.003.0030

126. Star Parker, “When Democrats Win, Freedom Loses,” Index-Journal 100 no. 258 (December 1, 2018), 15A. Also available “When Democrats Win, Freedom Loses,” Creators.Com [accessed 2019-11-28].

127. Dave Ramsey, "”What Goes Up, Must Come Down,” Index-Journal 94 No. 51 (June 20, 2012): 6B.

128. Alice Ambrose, ed. Wittgenstein's Lectures: Cambridge, 1932-1935) (1979 Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001), 39.

129. Norwood Russell Hanson, Patterns of Discovery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 62.

130. Alex Rosenberg, How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories, (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2018), 11-12. doi: 10.7551/mitpress/11905.001.0001

131. Susan-Mary Grant, Oliver Wendel Holmes, Jr. Civil War Soldier, Supreme Court Justice (New York: Routledge, 2016), 5. doi: 10.4324/9780203077702

132. Henry Cabot Lodge, The War with Spain (London: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1899), 29.

133. Hayden White, “The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory,” History and Theory 23 no. 1 (February, 1984), 2. doi: 10.2307/2504969

134. Francis Ellingwood Abbot, The Syllogistic Philosophy or Prolegomena to Science (Boston: Little, Brown. 1906), 24.

135. Thomas Cooper, On Irritation and Insanity (Columbia, SC: S.J. McMorris, 1831), 341. In this aspect of understanding a posse ad esse non valet consequentia note its connection with argumentum ad ignorantiam: the fallacy that a proposition is true simply on the basis that it has not been proved false or that it is false simply because it has not been proved true.

136. John Keill, An Introduction to Natural Philosophy or Philosophical Lectures (London: H.W., 1720), 17-19.

137. Thomas Cooper, “On Volcanoes and Volcanic Substances,” The American Journal of Science, &c. 4 (New Haven: S. Converse, 1822), 211.

138. Cooper, “Volcanoes,” 227.

139. A.A. Lindsay, Daily Life Psychology revised (Detroit: A.A. Lindsay, 1917), 106. Note also an equivocation on the word “exists”: in the first sentence the ideal is regarded as a possibility; however, in the second sentence the ideal is taken as existing since the image of the ideal exists. As Philipson, a character in one of Sir Walter Scott's novels states:

“[A] man may often think, that if he were in such and such a situation, he would be able to achieve certain ends, which, that position being attained, he may find himself unable to accomplish.”
Walter Scott, Anne of Geirstein in Scott's Novels (Paris: Baudry's European Library, 1833), XI:225.

140. Aristotle's discussion of non causa pro causa is quite different from how the fallacy is exclusively defined today. Aristotle distinguished different kinds of causes: the substance of which something is composed, its purpose, how it was produced, and its essential properties. From a logical point of view Aristotle points out that “those [who] assert that what is not a cause is a cause” commit a language fallacy. In so doing his terminology does not distinguish reason from cause.

The difference between aition (neuter) and aitia (feminine), used here, is that an aitia is an explanatory argument (a type of deduction) that identifies causes, whereas an aition is an item in the world that is causally efficacious. Aristotle does not systematically observe the distinction … [C.D.C. Reeve, “Notes, in Rhetoric by Aristotle trans. C.D.C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2018), 157.]

As Noah Davis states, “It is a case of sheer impertinence.” [Noah K. Davis, The Theory of Thought: A Treatise on Deductive Logic (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880), 290.]; and Whately avoids the confusion by generalizing this sense of “non causa” to obtain the “fallacy of undue assumption.”

Alexander Bain also apparently sees non causa pro causa as an inductively derived causa cognoscendi since the major premise of these kinds of argument is tacitly reached by inductive reasoning by “applying a general law to a concrete instance.” [Alexander Bain, Logic: Deductive and Inductive (New York: D. Appleton, 1889), 626.]

Some logicians classify an argument with a false causal premise as a case of false cause; others classify such an argument as simply unsound. For more on this topic see footnote 11.

141. Owen Goldin, “Circular Justification and Explanation in Aristotle,” Phronesis 58 no.3 (January 2013), 197.doi: 10.1163/15685284-12341248

142. See, for example, Frans H. van Eemeren, Kees de Glopper, Rob Grootendorst & Ron Oostdam, “Identification of Unexpressed Premises and Argumentation Schemes by Students in Secondary School,” Argumentation and Advocacy 31 no. 3, (August, 1995), 151-162, doi: 10.1080/00028533.1995.11951608 where secondary education students interpret unclear arguments as causal.

143. As, for example, H.W.B. Joseph in 1906 in his An Introduction to Logic, 554-555.

144. "[C]ause, n.3c, 6b." Oxford English Dictionary 2nd. ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).

145. Richard Whately, Easy Lessons on Reasoning (Toronto: Copp, Clark 1872), 137-138. Peter of Spain also follows Aristotle understanding of non causa pro causa: “Hence, a proposition that does nothing toward inferring the conclusion … so it is a non-cause taken as a cause.” Peter of Spain, “On Fallacies,” Tractatus in Brian P. Copenhaver, Peter of Spain: Summaries of Logic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 407.

146. Douglas N. Walton, “Ignoring Qualifications (Secundum Quid) as a Subfallacy of Hasty Generalization,” Logique & Analyse 33 no. 129/130 (Mars-Juin 1999), 115.

147. Whately's influential Elements of Logic also follows Aristotle. [Richard Whately, Elements of Logic 9th ed.(New York: Sheldon & Co. 1871), 223.] as do others.

148. In this instance, when hasty generalization (or converse accident) “overlap,” the preferred fallacy label is the fallacy of converse accident since fallacy is defined in terms of an error in reasoning.

149. Karen Lee, “Restoring Your Inner Balance — How to Stop the Aging Process in its Tracks,” Pick the Brain. Note that this fallacy is not best cited as an example of false cause (or post hoc ergo propter hoc) since there is empirical evidence that persons consuming more fruits and vegetables than others are less likely to acquire cancer. However, since the consumption of enormous quantities of fruits and vegetables is not necessarily a balanced, healthy diet, this example is not aptly chosen to support the conclusion that a balanced diet is the best remedy for disease in general. Thus the fallacy of converse accident occurs.

150. The phrase secundum quid is taken here by C.L. Hamlin as an abbreviation for a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter (i.e., literally, reasoning “from an unqualified statement to a qualified statement.”) Converse accident or hasty generalization is usually taken to be one form of secundum quid.

151. C.L. Hamlin, Fallacies (London: Methuen, 1970), 37-38.

152. Whately, Elements , 229.

153. Soph. El. 167a2 (Forester)

154. Scott G. Schreiber, Aristotle on False Reasoning (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), 150, 226. For example, a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid, is “any fallacy arising from the use of a general proposition without attention to tacit qualifications which would invalidate the use made of it.” Alonzo Church, “Secundum quid,” in Dagobert D. Runes, Dictionary of Philosophy (Patterson, NJ: Littlefield, Adams, 1943), 287.

155. This outline of follows Charles P. Krauth, Henry Calderwood and William Fleming, A Vocabulary of the Philosophical Sciences (New York Sheldon, 1878). 192, 667. Also available at https://archive.org/details/vocabularyofphil00kraurich/page/666.

156. Sometimes in logic texts, the expressed causal premise at issue is regarded as false. The characterization of non tali here is more traditional as it also includes recognition of the view of definition of non causa pro causa as presuming a causal connection that probably does not exist. Occasionally, non tali pro tali is equated with the fallacy of false analogy as in M. Bautain, “The Logic of the Orator,”The Art of Extempore Speaking (New Edition New York: McDevitt-Wilson's, 1915), 210.

157. Lawrence Johnstone, Short Introduction to the Study of Logic (London: Longmans, Green, 1887), 112.

158. Henry Coppée, Elements of Logic rev. ed. (New York: American Book Company, 1857), 143.

159. “Biogenesis,” The New International Encyclopædia ed. Daniel Coit Gilman, et al. vol. 3 (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1909), 85.

160. Igor Schneider and Chris Amemiya, “Developmental-Genetic Toolkit for Evolutionary Developmental Biology” in The Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology ed. Richard M. Kliman, vol 1 ( Oxford: Academic Press, 2016), 404-408. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-800049-6.00128-1

161. Joseph Devey, Logic; or the Science of Inference (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), 323.

162. Peter of Spain, “On Fallacies,” Tractatus in Brian P. Copenhaver, Peter of Spain: Summaries of Logic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 89. doi: 10.1093/actrade/9780199669585.book.1

163. Watts, Logick, 318-319.

164. W. Stanley Jevons, The Elementary Lessons in Logic (London: Macmillan, 1870), 176. (This popular logic text was widely used in British and American universities in the nineteenth century).

165. Edward Bentham, An Introduction to Logik: Scholastick and Rational (Oxford: W. Jackson and J. Lister, 1773), 59.

166. Ester Cepeda, “Accommodation Nation,” Index-Journal 95 no. 6 (May 07, 2013), 6A. Also online “"Accommodation Nation,” ArcaMax (May 5, 2013) [accessed 2019-12-03]

167. Aristotle explains this fallacy to include its counterpart fallacia a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter discussed above. That is, he describes dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid as “the confusion of absolute or unrestricted propositions with propositions restricted in mode, place, degree, or relation.”[Soph. El. 180a23-26.] So, briefly, secundum quid is the fallacy of “overlooking qualifications.” [Douglas Walton, Fallacies Arising From Ambiguity (Dordrecht: Springer-Science, 1996), 139. doi: 10.1007/978-94-015-8632-0] When Whately in the 19th century resurrected Aristotelian logic in English, he specified the fallacy as that which current informal logic subumes under the fallacy of accident. [Whately, Logic, (1871 ed.), 219.]

168. Charles Krauthammer, “The Big Bird Counterattack,” Index-Journal 94 No. 166 (October 14, 2012), 9A. Also see online “The Big Bird Counterattack,” The Washington Post (October 11, 2012)[accessed 2019-12-03]

169. Traditionally, the suppressed or supposed causal premise is often stated only to be false. The characterization of non vera here includes recognition of the view of some definitions of non causa pro causa presume a causal connection that probably does not exist, as discussed above in footnote 140.

170. E.g., see Henry Aldrich & H. L. Mansel, Artis Logicae Rudimenta, from the Text of Aldrich with Notes and Marginal Reference (Oxford: William Graham: Whittaker, 1852), 138n.

171. “Flee,” Oxford English Dictionary 2nd. ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).

172. Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, The Port-Royal Logic trans. Thomas Spencer Baynes 5th ed. (Edinburgh: James Gordon, 1861), 286-7.

173. The Port-Royal Logic, 286-287.

174. See Peter Godfrey-Smith, “Causal Pluralism,” in The Oxford Handbook of Causation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1010), 326-337. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199279739.003.0017)

175. W.B. Gallie, “Essentially Contested Concepts,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 56 no. 1 (June 956), 167-198. doi: 10.1093/aristotelian/56.1.167 also in Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 14 no. 1 (Autumn 1994), 3. doi: 10.5840/inquiryctnews19941415

176. Bertrand Russell, “On the Notion of Cause,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society New Series 13 (1912-1913), 1-26.

177. Christopher Hitchcock, “Of Humean Bondage,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 no. 1 (March 2003), 1. doi: 10.1093/bjps/54.1.1

178. Nancy Cartwright, The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 105, doi: 10.1017/cbo9781139167093 and again in “Causation: One Word, Many Things,” Philosophy of Science 71 no. 5 Proceedings of the 2002 Biennial Meeting Part II ed. Sandra D. Mitchell (December, 2004), 805-806.doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511618758.003

179. Judea Pearl, Causality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 342. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511803161"

180. Judea Pearl and Dana MacKenzie, The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect , (New York: Basic Books, 2018), 49. [Google Preview]

181. Hitchcock, “Of Humean Bondage,” 4.

182. Willard Van Orman Quine, “Epistemology Naturalized,” in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969) 71-72.

183. Ulrike Hahn, Roland Bluhm, and Frank Zenker, “Causal Argument,” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 483.

184. Frederich Waismann, “Verifiability in How I See Philosophy, ed. R. Hareé (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1968), 42.

185. Michael J. Manthey, “Nondeterminism Can Be Causal,” International Journal of Theoretical Physics 23 no. 10 (September, 1984), 930. doi: 10.1007/BF02213435

186. Ali Bulent Çambel, Applied Chaos Theory A Paradigm for Complexity (Boston: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993), 14.

187. As in Jaakko Hintikka, “Are There Nonexistent Objects? Why Not? But Where Are They,” Synthese 60 no. 3 (September, 1984), 451. doi: 10.1007/BF00485567

188. Hahn, “Causal Argument,” 483.

189. Most of the current proposals for criteria of causal relation are based on J.S. Mill's five methods of experimental inquiry:

(1) Method of Agreement: if instances of a phenomenon have only one shared circumstance in common, that circumstance is inferred as a cause or an effect.
(2) Method of Difference: if only one shared circumstance is different among phenomena which occur and phenomena which do not occur, that circumstance is inferred as a causal connection.
(3) Joint Method of Agreement and Difference: the two previous methods are used in combination.
(4) Method of Residues: if some aspects of a phenomenon are known to result from some antecedent circumstances, the other aspects are inferred to result from the other antecedent circumstances.
(5) Method of Concomitant Variations: if the aspects of some phenomenon varies continuously with the aspects of another, a causal relation can be inferred. [J.S. Mill, A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive 8th ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1874), 278-293.]

Causal criteria such as these are not sufficient for establishing causal relations because of factors such as the problem of event description, knowing which conditions or circumstances are relevant, and the problem of accidental correlation.

Of note also, see the Bradford Hill criteria for causality in occupational medicine which proved to be the starting point for many recent attempts to decipher causal association in medicine. Sir Austin Bradford Hill, “The Environment and Disease: Association or Causation?,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 58 no. 5 (May 1965), 295-300. doi: 0.1177/0141076814562718

190. Yet, of course, causal accounts of instances of simultaneous causation, reciprocal causation, or backward causation are widely discussed.

E.g., on simultaneous causation, Immanuel Kant writes:

“The principle of the causal connection among appearances is limited in our formula to their serial succession, whereas it applies also to their coexistence, when cause and effect are simultaneous. … The great majority of efficient natural causes are simultaneous with their effects, and the sequence in time of the latter is due only to the fact that the cause cannot achieve its complete effect in one moment. … Now we must not fail to note that it is the order of time, not the lapse of time, with which we have to reckon; the relation remains even if no time has elapsed. The time between the causality of the cause and its immediate effect may be [a] vanishing [quantity], and they may thus be simultaneous; but the relation of the one to the other will always still remain determinable in time. If I view as a cause a ball which impresses a hollow as it lies on a stuffed cushion, the cause is simultaneous with the effect. But I still distinguish the two through the time-relation of their dynamical connection.” [emphases original] (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason A202-3/A247-8 (trans. Norman Kemp Smith).)

Kant's point is often causally assumed in the empirical sciences when the events or states of affairs are complex.

191. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (1888 Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 171. Hume provided two definitions of “cause,” one of which suggests necessity:

(1) ”A CAUSE is an object precedent and contiguous to another, and so united with it, that the idea of the one determines the mind to form the idea of the other, and the impression of one to form a more lively idea of the other.” (Treatise, 170)
(2) “‘Tis the constant conjunction of objects, along with the determination of the mind, which constitutes a physical necessity.” (Treatise, 171)

The received view of Hume's well-known theory of causality is that we cannot have any idea of cause as a power to produce an effect or even as some sort of necessary connection as the basis of the observed regularity of successions of causes to effects since power and necessity in nature are “equally without foundation.” (Treatise, 171.)

So there are two problems here: (1) causality cannot be observed, only succession is observed and (2) ordinarily, we cannot know that future “instances, of which we have had no experience, resemble those, of which we have had experience.” (Treatise, 89).

192. J.S. Mill questions the notion of necessary succession in the definition of causality:

“The Law of Causation, the recognition of which is the main pillar of inductive philosophy is but the familiar truth, that the invariability of succession is found by observation to obtain between every fact in nature and some other fact which has preceded it.” [J.S. Mill, System of Logic III: 397.]

(Empirical) invariability does not imply (logical) necessity.

193. Yet in the empirical sciences, this requirement has been questioned. For example, in biology some teleological arguments and some biological processes suggest that causality is more complex. The question of the origin of life raise a number of difficulties with this asymmetry:

What came first, the protein or the nucleic acid? The term ‘first” is usually meant to define a causal rather than a temporal relationship … ” [emphasis original] [Manfred Eigen, “Selforganization of Matter and the Evolution of Biological Macromolecules,” Die Naturwissenschaften 58 no. 10 (October, 1971), 465.]

And, as well, Manfred Eigen goes on to discuss reciprocal or “closed” loop causation in the origin of life as summarized here:

“Although the line from which the loop is formed must have originated somewhere, the starting point will have lost all its importance as soon as the circle is closed.” Selforganization of Matter and the Evolution of Biological Macromolecules"

Backward or retro-causation is discussed by philosophers and physicists (although many philosophers consider backward causation a contradiction in terms). Michael Tooley writes:

[T]he physicist, G. Feinberg, suggested that there might be particles — called tachyons — which traveled faster than the speed of light, and which thus, according to the Special Theory of Relativity, would have to travel backward in time. Another, very famous physicist indeed, Richard Feynman, proposed that positrons might be simple electrons travelling backward in time.” [Michael Tooley, “Time and Causation,” in Analytical Metaphysics, ed. Michael Tooley (New York: Garland, 1999), ix.]

See also Huw Price's interview: Huw Price, interview by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton, ”Huw Price on Backward Causation,” Philosophy Bites (July 15, 2012), 16 min.

194. John Stuart Mill writes:

“If there be any meaning which confessedly belongs to the term necessity, it is unconditionalness. That which is necessary, that which must be, means that which will be, whatever supposition we may make in regard to all other things. … Invariable sequence, therefore, is not synonymous with causation, unless the sequence, besides being invariable, is unconditional.” [John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive Vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1846), 203.]

From a psychological point of view, causation cannot be understood solely as a uniform empirical sequence.

195. “Writer Sues Over 3.2 Beer,” The Decatur Herald (March 17, 1979), 4. Reprint from Wall Street Journal (February 14, 1979).

196. W. E. B. Griffin, The Lieutenants: Brotherhood of War I (New York: Penguin, 1982), 352.

197. This example fits definition 2 of non causa pro causa in footnote 1 above.

198. Alfred Adler, Understanding Life (Oxford: One World, 1997), 40-41. (First published as The Science of Living (New York: Greenberg, 1927)).

199. “Dear Abby: Says Caresses Restored Tresses,” Index-Journal 62 no. 2 (February 1, 1980). 21. On the web at “The Index-Journal, Page 5Newspapers.com (February 1, 1980), Scroll OCR at pg. btm.”

200. B. L. Schiff and A. B. Kern, “A Study of Postpartum Alopecia,” 87 no. 5 (May 1963), 609. doi: 10.1001/archderm.1963.01590170067011

201.Kevin T. Patton and Gary A. Thibodeau, The Human Body in Health & Disease 7th ed. (St. Louis: Elsevier, 2018), 153.

202. Noah Knowles Davis, The Theory of Thought: A Treatise on Deductive Logic (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880), 292.

203. Associated Press, “Television Intoxification’ Claimed As Defense in Trial of Boy, 15,”Ironwood Daily Globe no. 249 (September 13, 1977), 1. [Scroll OCR at pg. btm.]

204. “Law of Islam Blends Tradition Adaptability, Mercy and Stern Justice,The Des Moines Register (May 20, 1979), 23. [Click on OCR for article access]

205. Randy Robinson, M.D. “Family Practice Notes: Children and Chest Pain,” 72 no. 355 Index-Journal (February 9, 1990), 10.

206. Lord Mahon, History of England from the Peace of Utrecht to the Peace of Aix-La-Chapelle, vol. 1 (Paris: Baudry's European Library, 1841), 3.

207. Football Results Influence Voters,” New Scientist (July 7, 2010) based on A. J. Healy, N. Malhotra, and C. H. Mo. “Irrelevant Events Affect Voters’ Evaluations of Government Performance,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 no. 29 (July 6, 2010), 12804-12809. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007420107

208. ”Diary or the Month of March,”The London Magazine: New Series Vol. 7 (April, 1827), (London: Hunt and Clarke, 1827), 508-509.

John Anderson, “The Problem of Causality,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 16 no.2 (1938), 127-142. doi: 10.1080/00048403808541382

Anonymous,Syncategoremata Monacensia, (early 12th century) in The Cambridge Translations of Medieval Philosophical Texts Vol. I, Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump, eds. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 167. Google Preview

Aristotle, On Sophistical Refutations (De Sophisticis Elenchis) trans. E.S. Forster (1955 London: Harvard, 1992), 33 (167b:20-37).

Alexander Bain, Logic: Deductive and Inductive (New York: D. Appleton, 1889), 625-626.

Allan Bäck, “The Role of Qualification,” Journal of Philosophical Research 27 (2002), 159-171. doi: 10.5840/jpr_2002_29

Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock, and Peter Menzies, The Oxford Handbook of Causation (Oxford: Oxford University Press,2009). doi: 9780199279739.001.0001

David Botting, “Without Qualification: An Inquiry into the Secundum Quid,” 36 no. 1 Studies in Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric, 161-170. doi: 10.2478/slgr-2014-0008

Myles Brand,, “Identity Conditions for Events” American Philosophical Quarterly 14 no.4 (October, 1977), 329-337. JSTOR

Alex Broadbent, “Causation: Research Guide,” University of Cambridge: Department of History and Philosophy of Science [accessed 2020-01-02]

Arthur Burks, Cause, Chance and Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977).

Donald Davidson, “Causal Relations,” Journal of Philosophy 64 no. 21 (November 9, 1967), 691-703, reprinted, among other places, in “The Individuation of Events,” in N. Rescher et al. eds., Essays in Honor of Carl G. Hempel, (Dordrecht, Reidel, 1970), 216-234. JSTOR

Noah K. Davis, The Theory of Thought: A Treatise on Deductive Logic (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1889), 290-293.

David Hackett Fischer, “Fallacies of Causation,” Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), 165-186. Preview

John Losee, Theories of Causality: From Antiquity to the Present (New Brunswick: Transaction, 2011). Google Preview

J.L. Mackie, The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974).

Peter Godfrey-Smith, “Causal Pluralism,” in Oxford Handbook of Causation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 326-337. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199279739.003.0017

Ulrike Hahn, Roland Bluhm, and Frank Zenker, “Causal Argument,” in Oxford Handbook of Causal Reasoning ed. Michael Waldmann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 475-494. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199399550.013.26

Jaegwon Kim, “Noncausal Connection,” Nöus 8 no.1 (March, 1974), 41-52. doi: 10.2307/2214644 JSTOR

David Lewis, “Causation,” Journal of Philosophy 70 no. 17 (October 11, 1973), 556-567. doi: 10.2307/2025310

David Lewis, “Causation as Influence,” The Journal of Philosophy 97 no. 4 (April, 2000), 182-197. doi: 10.2307/2678389

Bertha Alvarez Manninen, “False Cause: Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc,” “False Cause: Ignoring Common Cause,” “False Cause: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc,” in Bad Arguments eds. Robert Arp, Steven Barbone, and Michael Bruce (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2019), 335-345. doi: 10.1002/9781119165811.ch78. doi: 10.1002/9781119165811.ch79, doi: 10.1002/9781119165811.ch80

John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive 8th ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1904).

Catarina Dutih Novaes and Stephen Read, “Insolubilia and the Fallacy Secundum Quid et Simpliciter,” 46 no. 2 (January, 2008) Vivarium, 175-191. doi: 10.1163/004275408X311258

Judea Pearl, “Epilogue: The Art and Science of Cause and Effect,” in Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference, 2nd. ed.(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 401-428. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511803161.014

Robert C. Pinto, “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc” in Argument, Inference and Dialectic (Dordrecht: Springer, 2001), 56-63. doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-0783-1_6 Also in Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings eds. Hans V. Hansen and Robert C. Pinto (University Part, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), 302-314.

Huw Price, interview by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton, ”Huw Price on Backward Causation,” Philosophy Bites (July 15, 2012), 16 min.

Alexander Rosenberg, “Propter Hoc, Ergo Post Hoc,” American Philosophical Quarterly 12 no. 3 (July, 1975), 245-254.

Bertrand Russell, “On the Notion of Cause,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society New Series 13 (1912-1913), 1-26. Also, in Bertrand Russell Mysticism and Logic (New York: Longmans, Green, 1919), 180-208. And here on the web: “On the Notion of Cause,” The Bertrand Russell Society [accessed 2109.11.21]

Herbert A. Simon and Nicholas Rescher, “Cause and Counterfactual,” Philosophy of Science 33 no. 4 (1960), 323-340. doi: 10.1086/288105

Richard Taylor, “Causation” in Paul Edwards, ed., The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (New York: Macmillan and Free Press, 1967), Vol. 2, pp. 56-66.

Richard Taylor, “Causation,” Monist 47 (1963), 287-313, esp. pp. 303-313, reprinted in Myles Brand ed., The Nature of Causation, (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1976), 277-305;

Christopher W. Tindale, “Correlations and Causal Reasoning,” in Fallacies and Argument Appraisal (Cambridge University Press, 2007), 173-193. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511806544.010

Douglas Walton, “Arguments from Correlation to Causation,” in Argument, Evaluation and Evidence (Cham: Springer, 2016),179-208. [uncorrected preprint]. Google Preview

Douglas N. Walton, “Ignoring Qualifications (Secundum Quid) as a Subfallacy of Hasty Generalization,” Logique & Analyse 33 no. 129/130 (Mars-Juin 1999), 113-154.

Douglas N. Walton, “Rethinking the Fallacy of Hasty Generalization,” Argumentation 13 no. 2 (May, 1999), 161-181. doi: 1026497207240

Douglas Walton and Thomas F. Gordon, Jumping to a Conclusion: Fallacies and Standards of Proof 29 no. 2 (June, 2009) Informal Logic, 215-243. doi: 10.22329/il.v29i2.1227

Richard Whately, Elements of Logic (London: J. Mawman, 1826), 181-182.

Wikipedia contributors,“ Causality,” Wikipedia (December 28, 2018). Page Version ID: 875810126.

John Woods and Hans V. Hansen, “The Subtleties of Aristotle on Non-Cause,” Logique et Analyse, 176 (2001), 395-415.

John Woods and Douglas Walton, “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter HocThe Review of Metaphysics 30 no. 4 (June, 1977), 569-593.

James Woodward, “Causation and Manipulability,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 ed.), ed. Edward N. Zalta

Send corrections or suggestions to