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Philosophy Topic: Causation

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Published on Sep 22, 2007

From the season six episode "The One With Joey's Fridge". Joey gets a new roommate and then his fridge dies, he falsely blames the roommate as the cause.

Fallacy committed by Joey: "cum hoc ergo propter hoc" and/or "Post hoc ergo propter hoc". In English: "Correlation does not imply causation".

General form of this fallacy:

(1) A occurs in correlation with B.
(2) Therefore, A causes B.

My favorite example of this fallacy has always been the correlation between lung cancer and people who carry around lighters.

Philosopher David Hume famously argued that we had no knowledge about what causes what, since all our knowledge of causation comes from correlation. That is, even when I say smoking causes cancer I am still committing "cum hoc ergo propter hoc". The correct answer to Hume's criticism has been a hot topic in philosophy ever since.

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