Cause and Effect
The method of dividing occurrences into their elements to find relationships
Causes: Which of the events preceding a specified outcome actually made it happen?
Example: What caused Adolf Hitler’s rise in Germany?
Why have herbal medicines become so popular?
Effects: Which of the events following a specified occurrence actually resulted from it?
Example: What do we do for (or to) drug addicts when we imprison them?
Effects are also predicted for the future.
How might your decision to major in history affect your job prospects?
Purpose: to explain or persuade
Explanation – make connections
Persuade – argue why one explanation of causes is more accurate than another or how proposed action will produce
desirable or undesirable consequences.
Not only do you have to identify causes and effects, but also discern their relationships accurately and weigh their
They often occur in sequence (causal chain).
There are 2 types:
Immediate: occur nearest an event
Remote: occur further away in time
In addition, there are 2 types of causes:
Major causes: directly and primarily responsible for outcome
Minor causes (contributory): merely contribute to the outcome
Formal logical arguments can be inductive or deductive. Inductive argumentation
lists cases, examples, and facts, and then ends with a logical conclusion (particular to general). Deductive argumentation begins with a statement of opinion
and proceeds to prove it with cases, examples, facts (general to the particular). The
basic form of the deductive argument is a three-par format known as a syllogism. The syllogism, you may recall, has a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. If your audience accepts your premises, then your conclusion is usually accepted.
Here’s an example:
Premise One: Most
Americans love violence.
Premise Two: Football
Therefore, most Americans love football.
Sound reasoning can be undermined by logical fallacies. The following
is a list of common logical fallacies you are expected to know for the AP English Language and Composition Examination:
Post hoc (ergo propter hoc) aka Circular
: an assumption that because one event preceded another, it must have caused the other. Latin meaning “after this,
therefore because of this.”
Example: superstitions (Think of The Crucible)
Example: He went to the store
to buy shoes, and therefore, the house burned down.
(I doubt it. Probably somebody lit a match. Buying shoes doesn’t make a house burn down.)
Oversimplification: does not consider all of the causes and effects inc. necessary and sufficient causes
Necessary: one that must happen in order for an effect to come about
Sufficient: one that brings about the effect of itself
This can occur if opinions or emotions cloud interpretation of evidence
Attacking the Person
(Argumentum ad hominem) attacks the personality of the individual instead
of dealing with the arguments and issues.
Example: John smith can’t tell us anything about the faithfulness of dogs because he has no faith at all in anything.
Begging the Question
Assumes something to be true that needs proof. The arguer uses as proof
the very argument that needs proving.
Example: The reason George is so smart is because he is very intelligent.(In other
words, A is true because A is true. Just a minute, here! I’ve got to show
why George is intelligent—the condition that stands in need of proof can’t be the source of the proof! “Intelligent” is just a synonym for “smart,” not evidence for it.)
Creating a False Dilemma
Uses a premise that presents a choice which does not include all the possibilities.
Example: People hate politics because politicians often lie.
(The premise that “people hate politics” is not necessarily true; somebody is sitting in those chairs in Washington.)
Since rabbits are responsible for destroying most suburban lawns, homeowners should shoot rabbits on sight.
Describing with Emotionally Charged Terminology
Use vocabulary carrying strong connotative meaning, either positive or
Example: Senator Jones is a commie, pinko, bleeding heart liberal who hates his
mother, babies, apple pie, and the American way. (This form of the tactic—name calling—is perhaps most common. Poor Senator Jones is getting a terrible review;
apparently, he hates all the things we
love, and is the things we hate, so our emotions are
likely to be transferred form them to him by association, whether they are true about him or not.)
Does not allow for any shades of meaning, compromise, or intermediate cases.
Example: Either we abolish cars, or the environment is doomed. (Probably
other factors contribute to this possibility besides cars.)
Generalizing from Insufficient Evidence
(Hasty generalization) uses too few of the examples needed to reach a valid conclusion.
Example: Only motivated athletes become champions.
(Maybe not. What are the other factors in becoming champions? Good health? Superior genes?)
(Post hoc ergo propter hoc) attempts to prove something by showing that
because a second event followed a first event, the second event is a result of the first event.
Tasks for Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”
1. Using the chart, map Machiavelli’s use of cause and effect relationships in this piece. Be sure to label immediate,
remote, major and minor causes.
2. Examine “The Prince” in terms of its syllogism. Determine whether or not his argument is inductive or
deductive. Create a syllogism for “The Prince.”
3. Find three logical fallacies in “The Prince.” Back them up with quoted evidence and explanation of their
effects both on the piece and the audience.