Types of Arguments- Cause-and-effect reasoning

This is a method of trying to help the other person see things your way by showing how certain outcomes follow from certain actions or events. The objective may be to explain the way things are as a result of things that happened in the past, in which case it is an explanation, or it could be to show how things could end up in the future due to things that are unfolding or yet to happen themselves, in which case it is prediction.

For example:

The holiday season is supposed to be a huge time for sales at the electronics outlet Dave works at. Instead of sales volume increasing 800% like it has in previous years, this last year they increased by just 450% and Dave’s manager Todd is out for the sales team’s blood. Dave explains that paradigms are changing and most people chose to shop online because it is often cheaper and more convenient than physically going to a brick-and-mortar store.

Martha wants to get her son Josh to war a sweater before he goes out. She tells him that if he does not wear a sweater he will catch a cold.*

In either case there has to be a demonstrable causal link between the two events. If there isn’t, then the entire argument rests on nothing. It’s also important not to mistake correlation with causation. Simply because two phenomena have been observed occurring sequentially or together does not mean that one caused the other. Still, sometimes merely stating a causal link may be successful and go unchallenged, even if there is no link: the human mind’s desire to seek explanations for everything is that powerful. Like all tactics that exist in that ethical gray-area, only use this power very rarely.

*’Smart Alecs’ will point out that no, this is not true – being cold does not cause one to catch a cold. Well, actually it is true: cold weather causes blood vessels to constrict, creating a more favorable environment for any viruses already in the air to incubate.


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