2

Capaldi PhD Columbia, Smit PhD Catholic Univ. of Leuven. The Art of Deception (2007).

Identify the fallacy, rhetorical technique, and potential difficulties in play with each of the following statements. We provide at least one answer for each after the exercises. Keep in mind that more than one answer may sometimes be possible.

p. 259-260. Exercise 2: Inductive Fallacies

  1. I am opposed to charging tuition for college. Without tuition-free education, I could never have become mayor of this city.

p. 262: Answers to Exercise 2.

  1. Post hoc[, ergo propter hoc] (at least twice [emboldening mine]).

One instance of this fallacy is the mayor's implicit argument that no tuition-free education ⇒ Not becoming mayor. But why does the answer state "at least twice"?

  • To me the question has a more obvious problem of causation and correlation; Just because the gained education from an institution that was free or paid at a given time doesn’t really have any baring on the actual outcome of mayor; One could argue this logical fallacy may infact have some legitimate factor on the reality of that person becoming mayor; as a poor young person with a low socioeconomic situation the bearing on his individual circumstances and opportunities that may arise from a tuition free education may have some objective truth. If this is the truth in his reality can we point fi – Cacoon Aug 14 '18 at 6:25
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'Y occurred after X, therefore Y occurred because of X'.

Two instances of this ?

Let's see : The person does not say that he became Mayor because he had a tuition-free education, rather (what is not the same claim) he says that without a tuition-free education he could not have become mayor. A difference here between sufficient and necessary conditions. But I'll go along with your reading:

(1) Because I had a tuition-free education and became mayor, therefore I became mayor because I had a tuition-free education. Logically (or empirically) this doesn't follow; he could have become mayor from a variety of causes distinct from his education (e.g., he bribed the electorate).

(2) It doesn't follow that because he had a tuition-free education he became mayor; what follows at most is that he became mayor because he had a (college) education.


NOTE

'At least two' : so what might a third be ? That it doesn't logically (or empirically) follow that anyone becomes mayor because of having a (college) education.

  • Thanks. Upvote. I corrected my post to focus on the Necessary Condition, which I misunderstood as the Sufficient Condition. You're correct: "The person does not say that he became Mayor because he had a tuition-free education, rather (what is not the same claim) he says that without a tuition-free education he could not have become mayor." Does this change your answer? – Antinatalism Aug 14 '18 at 6:11
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Capaldi and Smit claim there are "at least" two ways to identify a post hoc fallacy in the following statement: (page 260)

I am opposed to charging tuition for college. Without tuition-free education, I could never have become mayor of this city.

The authors of The Art of Deception describe a post hoc fallacy of causal reasoning as follows: (page 206)

It is a fallacy of causal reasoning in that it is based on the mistaken belief that mere temporal priority constitutes a causal relation. It completely neglects the other criteria of spatial connection and a history of regularity.

They provide two examples.

In one example, someone prays that another person recovers from an illness. When the person recovers, the claim that the prayer was the cause of the cure is the post hoc fallacy. In the other example, someone takes snake oil for a cure and then is cured. Claiming the snake oil was the cure is the post hoc fallacy.

In both examples temporal priority implied a causal connection. This is not to deny that there might have been some connection, perhaps a placebo effect, but there may have been other causes as well. Indeed, it is easy to imagine that without either the prayer or the snake oil the sick person might have been cured.

Let's consider the question:

One instance of this fallacy is the mayor's implicit argument that no tuition-free education ⇒ Not becoming mayor. But why does the answer state "at least twice"?

We need to identify something with temporal priority that the listeners might imagine the mayor needed to become mayor. Here are three:

  1. Having a college education at all regardless of how it was paid
  2. Having a tuition-free college education paid for by one's family rather than through student savings or loans
  3. Having a tuition-free college education paid for by the government

It is easy to imagine that someone could become mayor without having one's family pay for the college education, or without having the government pay for the college education or without having a college education at all.

This provides three ways one might find a post hoc fallacy in the statement provided by Capaldi and Smit.


Reference

Capaldi, N., Smit, M. (2007). The art of deception: an introduction to critical thinking. Prometheus Books.

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