What the Post Hoc?

The Post Hoc fallacy derives its name from the Latin phrase “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.” This has been traditionally interpreted as meaning “After this, therefore because of this.” This fallacy is committed when it is concluded that one event causes another simply because the proposed cause occurred before the proposed effect.  This is the very reason why two events being highly correlated does not mean one caused the other. There could be a third factor which causes the other two events to occur.  The two events might be related as cause-and-effect, but typically you need more than just a coincidence that the two things occurred at the same time.  A great analogy to make this point comes from one of my favorite books about teaching philosophy principles through jokes “Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .”.  Here you go:

Ninety-year-old man  meets a beautiful young blonde  in her mid-20s and decides to marry her  against his family’s best advice.  Nine months later his young wife tells him that she is pregnant.  The old man proudly marches in  to see his doctor and announces  the “good  news”.  The doctor looking at the old man smiles  and says, “I want to tell you a story…  A man wakes up in the morning  in a hurry to go bear hunting and as he leaves his home instead of grabbing his shotgun,  he grabs his cane.   While out in the woods  he comes upon a bear,  raises his cane up, aims it at the bear and attempts to pull the trigger.  Immediately at that point, there is a loud bang and the bear drops over dead.  The doctor looks at the old man  and asks, “what do you think happened?”   The old man replies,  “why somebody else shot the bear. ”   The  doctor quickly quips, “my point exactly”.

Need I say more?


About Richard A. Cook

Richard Cook graduated from Purdue University in the Economics Honor Program in 1979 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Following law school, Richard served as a federal law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. In 1984, Richard began working as Deputy Prosecutor for the Lake County Prosecutor's Office and from there, served as Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. There he handled a number of complex criminal matters and jury trials. While there, Richard received the Chief Postal Inspector's Special Award and a letter of commendation from the U.S. Attorney General for his work prosecuting a major money order fraud scheme being perpetrated out of the Indiana State Prison system. Since leaving the U.S. Attorney's office in 1989, Richard has focused primarily on civil work and is currently a member of the firm Yosha Cook & Tisch in Indianapolis. Richard is also a member of the ITLA, IBA and the ABA, as well as, a fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Posted on May 28, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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