Explicit causal statements
Acausal statement is explicit when it contains the word ‘cause’:
e.g. Smoking cigarettes causes lung disease.
Implicit causal statements:
Without the word ‘cause’
e.g. Smoking leads to lung cancer(=Smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer.)
*Make all causal statements explicit.
Claims that one particular event caused another particular event. Ask
‘When did that occur?’
Claims that there is a causal connection between kinds, or types of events.
Not to ask ‘When did that occur?’
The Standard Form of General Causal Statements
C causes E in population P.
• Smoking causes cancer in people.
• Following a low-sodium diet causes reduction in heart disease in
The standard form for such comparative causal statements is:
e.g. Swimming is a more effective form of exercise than walking as a cause
of relief from arthritis.
The Meaning of General Causal Statements
Smoking causes lung cancer in people.
It doesn’t mean:
• everyone who smokes gets lung cancer;
• most smokers get lung cancer; Neither does it mean:
• some smokers get lung cancer.
General Causal Statements and Correlations
It might seem that the existence of a correlation between two factors shows
that there is a causal relation.
CR:Ais positively correlated with B in population P = Within population P,
the percentage of As who are B is greater than the percentage of non-As who
First attempt to give a standard pattern for causal arguments
(1) A is positively correlated with B in P.
(2) Acauses B in P.
Instead arguments with true premises of the form of 1. above may show:
1. No causal connection betweenAand B. The correlation is just an
(1) Having a last name beginning with D is positively correlated with
being registered for the debate class among students at Duncan’s
(2) Having a last name beginning with D causes registration in the
debate class at Duncan’s university.
The conclusion is false. The correlation is just an accident.
The correlation may show that the causal factors are reversed, i.e. it shows
not thatAcauses B, but that B causesA.
Aand B both have a common cause.
The Standard Pattern for Causal Arguments
1.C is positively correlated with E in P. 2.If C is positively correlated with E in P, then either the causal factors
are reversed in this correlation (E causes C in P); or this correlation is
the result of some common cause (some third factor causes both C and
E, but C doesn’t cause E and E doesn’t cause C); or this correlation is
accidental (C and E are causally unrelated), or C causes E in P.
3.The causal factors are not reversed.
4.The correlation is not the result of a common cause.
5.The correlation is not accidental.
6.C cause E in P (1-5)
In evaluating causal arguments, most attention will be paid to evaluating 3-5.
Now put the argument about the correlation between smokin