Post hoc ergo propter hoc

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Post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin: 'after this, therefore because of this') is an informal fallacy that states: "Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X." It is often shortened simply to post hoc fallacy. A logical fallacy of the questionable cause variety, it is subtly different from the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc ('with this, therefore because of this'), in which two events occur simultaneously or the chronological ordering is insignificant or unknown.[1]

Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because correlation appears to suggest causality. The fallacy lies in a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors potentially responsible for the result that might rule out the connection.[2]

A simple example is "the rooster crows immediately before sunrise; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise."[3]

Pattern[edit]

The form of the post hoc fallacy is expressed as follows:

  • A occurred, then B occurred.
  • Therefore, A caused B.

When B is undesirable, this pattern is often combined with the formal fallacy of denying the antecedent, assuming the logical inverse holds: Avoiding A will prevent B.[4]

Examples[edit]

  • A tenant moves into an apartment and the building's furnace develops a fault. The manager blames the tenant's arrival for the malfunction. One event merely followed the other, in the absence of causality.[5]
  • Brazilian footballer Pelé blamed a dip in his playing performance on having given a fan a specific playing shirt. His play recovered after receiving from a friend what he was told was the shirt in question, despite it actually being the same shirt he'd worn during his poor performance.[6]
  • Reporting of coincidental vaccine adverse events, where people have a health complaint after being vaccinated and assume it was caused by the vaccination.[7]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  1. Woods, J. H., Walton, D. N. (1977). Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc.
  2. Mommsen, J. K. F. (2013). Wider Das Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc - Primary Source Edition. United States: BiblioLife.
  3. Woods, J., Walton, D. (2019). Fallacies: Selected Papers 1972–1982. Germany: De Gruyter.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Grouse, Lawrence. "Post hoc ergo propter hoc". Journal of Thoracic Disease. 8 (7): E511–E512. doi:10.21037/jtd.2016.04.49. ISSN 2072-1439. PMC 4958779. PMID 27499984.
  2. ^ "post hoc". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2021-08-28.
  3. ^ admin (2015-10-09). "Correlation vs Causation". KnowledgeSpace. Retrieved 2021-08-28.
  4. ^ Summers, Jesse S. (24 March 2017). "Post hoc ergo propter hoc : some benefits of rationalization". Philosophical Explorations. 20 (sup1): 21–36. doi:10.1080/13869795.2017.1287292.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Macaskill, Sandy (2009-02-25). "Top 10: Football superstitions to rival Arsenal's Kolo Toure". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2010-08-26.
  7. ^ Manktelow, K. I. (2012). Thinking and Reasoning: An Introduction to the Psychology of Reason, Judgment and Decision Making. Psychology Press. p. 119. ISBN 9781841697413.