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History of Philosophy Book Club Message Board › Post Hoc Fallacy

Post Hoc Fallacy

A former member
Post #: 49

The Latin phrase “post hoc ergo propter hoc” means, literally, “after this therefore because of this.” The post hoc fallacy is committed when it is assumed that because one thing occurred after another, it must have occurred as a result of it. Mere temporal succession, however, does not entail causal succession. Just because one thing follows another does not mean that it was caused by it. This fallacy is closely related to the cum hoc fallacy.

Example

(1) Most people who are read the last rites die shortly afterwards.
Therefore:
(2) Priests are going around killing people with magic words!

This argument commits the post hoc fallacy because it infers a causal connection based solely on temporal order.
Scott
user 6899431
Group Organizer
Silver Spring, MD
Post #: 106
Being mindful of this fallacy is especially important in science. For example, if you're testing to see whether vitamin C cures colds, and you find that people report significant improvement after taking it, that may be due to the placebo effect or to the person's anti-bodies defeating the virus (this error, of course, doesn't occur in double blind studies).

Nick, what distinguishes the post hoc from the cum hoc fallacy? Wikipedia's "List of Fallacies" and fallacyfiles.org don't list a separate cum hoc fallacy, only Cum Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc (which is the formal name for the Post Hoc fallacy).
A former member
Post #: 50
The difference has to do with whether temporal ordering is of significance or not.

Per Wikipedia:

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 and is also sometimes referred to as false cause, coincidental correlation, or correlation not causation.

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.

Scott
user 6899431
Group Organizer
Silver Spring, MD
Post #: 107
Thanks for the clarification--I should have read the complete Wikipedia article ("Correlation Does Not Imply Causation"). After reading it, however, it raised this question in my mind: can causality in relationship to two events ever occur simultaneously or, as Hume and Kant might argue, is that conceptually impossible? Does simultaneous causation ever happen in symbiotic relationships? For example, the brain cannot be viable without the heart supplying it with nutritious blood, but the heart cannot be viable without the brain's electrical stimulation.
Alex R.
user 13714540
Baltimore, MD
Post #: 8
Do you find this applying to Nietsche's arguments?
A former member
Post #: 54
Hello:

I personally think that the logical fallacy most pertinent to Nietzsche is the ad hominem fallacy.
He commits these all the time such as when he says such things as Socrates was ugly.

The reason that he does this is often because he is trying to analyze why someone holds the views that they do. He thinks that character, passions, and who a person is as far as ego is concerned are of great consequence in understanding why someone holds the views that they do. That Socrates was ugly but was still able to attract people to hear what he had to say, in Nietzsche view, was of great importance in understanding who he was, and the nature of his views.

He does speak about truth and like Hume thinks that things such as causation are fictions that we dare not live without. Causation and other concepts that humans being use to make sense of the world are in his view interpretations. I think he would agree that the post hoc fallacy is indeed, in terms of our logical framework, a fallacy but that our logical framework itself is a fiction, but all together a useful fiction.

Some of the conclusions that he draws based on the correlation of ideas possibly can be seen as fallacies of this type. This is often the case when you are dealing with non tangible entities like values and feelings. For example Socrates believed that if you are virtuous, you will be happy. Nietzsche thinks that if you happy, then most likely you will be virtuous. One may say that either Nietzsche or Socrates are committing a fallacy assuming that one leads to the other. I think Nietzsche would say that Socrates is the one that is wrong. :)


Nick
Alex R.
user 13714540
Baltimore, MD
Post #: 9
(Replying to Nick's newest reply) Thanks-- that's really interesting and well-explained.

But I thought maybe your previous fallacies would apply in his commentary on "the Jews"-- since he thinks they 'caused' all of the inversion of values, and also the other (maybe they'd be ad hominem) comments and criticisms and remarks he makes.
A former member
Post #: 56
I did not think of the rigorous application of the post hoc fallacy to Nietzsche's argument because it is not at all rigorously clear that there even is a transvaluation of values. Many people do not feel that such a thing exists. For instance, many Hegelians see Judaism and Christianity as a necessary path on the road toward the evolution of freedom. In there view, there is no transvaluation of values as Nietzsche hypothesizes.

That is what I mean when I said that the fallacy could applied some correlation of his ideas. I would call them weak correlations in the sense that not even the objects under consideration are established as true.

Nick
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