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Humanities LibreTexts

14: Reasoning about Causes and Their Effects

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    • Contributed by Bradley H. Dowden
    • Professor (Philosophy) at California State University Sacramento

    An inductive argument can establish its conclusion with probability but not certainty. A previous chapter examined many types of inductive argumentation and introduced some of the methods of statistical reasoning. This chapter begins a systematic study of causal reasoning. Causal arguments are arguments in support of a causal explanation or causal claim. You know what a causal claim is. If I say it's raining, then my claim is not a causal claim. If I say God made it rain, then I'm making the causal claim that God caused the rain. A causal claim is a claim that an effect has a cause. All of us are interested in finding causes; without finding them we'd never understand why anything happens. In the beginning of the chapter, we will explore reasoning about correlations and conclude with reasoning about causes and effects. We will investigate how to recognize, create, justify, and improve these arguments. Cause-effect reasoning often involves arguing by analogy from the past to the present, but it also can involve appealing to scientific theories and to other aspects of logical reasoning, as we shall see in this and the next chapter.

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