Post hoc ergo propter hoc
Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for "after this, therefore because of this", is a logical fallacy (of the questionable cause variety) that states "Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one." It is often shortened to simply post hoc. It is subtly different from the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc, in which two things or events occur simultaneously or the chronological ordering is insignificant or unknown, also referred to as false cause, coincidental correlation, or correlation not causation.
Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection.
The form of the post hoc fallacy can be expressed as follows:
- A occurred, then B occurred.
- Therefore, A caused B.
When B is undesirable, this pattern is often extended in reverse: Avoiding A will prevent B.
"I can't help but think that you are the cause of this problem; we never had any problem with the furnace until you moved into the apartment." The manager of the apartment house, on no stated grounds other than the temporal priority of the new tenant's occupancy, has that the tenant's presence has some causal relationship to the furnace's becoming faulty.
More and more young people are attending high schools and colleges today than ever before. Yet there is more juvenile delinquency and more alienation among the young. This makes it clear that these young people are being corrupted by their education.
In popular culture
The second episode of The West Wing, titled "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc", makes use of the phrase at two different levels, in two different ways. The more straightforward involves a minor political problem that supposedly arises from President Bartlet's sense of humor. The less obvious involves an apparent shift in the President's viewpoint on the use of force resulting from a personal connection to one individual killed when an American aircraft is shot down.
- Confirmation bias
- Third-cause fallacy
- Regression fallacy
- Magical thinking
- Cargo cult
- Whig history
- Damer, T Edward (1995). Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments (3rd. ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-534-21750-1. OCLC 30319422.
- Engel, S Morris (1994). With good reason: an introduction to informal fallacies (5th. ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-312-08479-0. OCLC 30478315.
- Post Hoc Reasoning in the Experiment-resources.com by Martyn Shuttleworth
- Post hoc fallacy in the Skeptic's Dictionary by Robert T. Carroll
- Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc in the Fallacy Files by Gary N. Curtis
- Non Causa Pro Causa in the Fallacy Files by Gary N. Curtis
- Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc at the Internet Movie Database