search

Causal Reductionism

(also known as: complex cause, fallacy of the single cause, causal oversimplification, reduction fallacy)

Description: Assuming a single cause or reason when there were actually multiple causes or reasons.

Logical Form:

X occurred after Y.

Therefore, Y caused X (although X was also a result of A,B,C... etc.)

Example #1:

Hank: I ran my car off the side of the road because that damn squirrel ran in front of my car.

Officer Sam: You don’t think it had anything to do with the fact that you were trying to text your girlfriend, and driving drunk?

Explanation: While if it were not for the squirrel, perhaps Hank wouldn’t have totaled his car.  However, if it weren’t for him texting while driving drunk, he could have almost certainly prevented taking his unauthorized shortcut through the woods and into a tree.

Example #2:

The reason more and more people are giving up belief in ghosts is because of Bo’s books.

Explanation: Thank you, but that would be fallacious reasoning.  While my books may have played a role in some people giving up belief in ghosts, I doubt it was the only cause, and am pretty darn sure that overall, my books have very little effect on the population at large.

Exception: Causes and reasons can be debatable, so if you can adequately defend the fact that you believe there was only a single reason, it won’t be fallacious.

References:

The Journal of Mental Science. (1952). Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts.

Questions about this fallacy? Ask our community!

Master the "Rules of Reason" for Making and Evaluating Claims

Claims are constantly being made, many of which are confusing, ambiguous, too general to be of value, exaggerated, unfalsifiable, and suggest a dichotomy when no such dichotomy exists. Good critical thinking requires a thorough understanding of the claim before attempting to determine its veracity. Good communication requires the ability to make clear, precise, explicit claims, or “strong” claims. The rules of reason in this book provide the framework for obtaining this understanding and ability.

This book / online course is about the the eleven rules of reason for making and evaluating claims. Each covered in detail in the book

Take the Online Course