Types of Causal Arguments

In the post for your Causal Argument task I’ve provided several examples of specific recommendations you might find helpful in crafting Causal Arguments for your research topics. While you put your arguments together, decide what sort of framework suits your argument best:

Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)
“Facebook Can Cost Us Our Jobs”
The premise is that something supposedly personal, about which our employers should have nothing to say, is nevertheless available to our employers, and to prospective employers, if we make it so. What needs to be proved is that information about our non-work lives, or information we post to Facebook about our work lives, can keep us from getting a job, from advancing in a job, or from keeping a job.

  • You may say that sounds illegal or unethical, but your objection is irrelevant to the causal argument.
  • You could examine how different professions handle social media differently (for example kindergarten teachers might be fired for indiscretions that wouldn’t cost an insurance agent her job), because your topic is still what costs the teacher and the agent their jobs.
  • You could argue that free speech should be protected if it’s true, and nobody should be fired for saying his boss cheats on his wife, but your objection is irrelevant unless there really are certain types of speech for which we can’t be fired and types for which we can (X causes Z, but Y does not cause Z).
  • You could certainly make a good argument that employers have different policies regarding social media activities of their employees (X causes Y at Company 1, while X causes Z at Company 2).

Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
“We Are the Casualties of the War on Drugs”
The premise is that the War on Drugs has been counterproductive, subjecting the nation to increased drug use and drug-related death. What needs to be proved is that government interference in drug production and distribution creates crime, interrupts quality control, causes disease, and kills users, traffickers, and innocent bystanders of the illicit drug trade.

  • You could argue that the prohibition of certain desirable substances leads inevitably to a frenzied underground and by definition criminal enterprise to meet the demand.
  • You could argue that criminals aren’t always scrupulous about the quality of the contraband they deliver and that their product often harms or kills.
  • You could point out the countless people languishing in jails for owning small amounts of something that used to be legal.
  • You might want to mention that drug use, even sanctioned use of safe prescription drugs, can be very detrimental in and of itself, but your comments would be completely irrelevant to the causal argument.
  • You might also want to say that drug dealers get what’s coming to them when they deal in illicit materials and it’s wrong to blame cops for killing them, but again, that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the War on Drugs results in death.

Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
“There’s No One Explanation for Gangs”
The premise is usually employed to refute the “common knowledge” that a single cause can be blamed for an effect. If you’ve chosen a topic about which everybody “knows” the cause and effect, your causal essay will dispute the notion that there is in fact a single cause.

  • You could produce evidence that gangs are more prevalent in public housing projects than in suburban neighborhoods, but with special care. You still won’t have identified the cause, only the location of the cause.
  • You could produce evidence that a large majority of the kids in gangs come from families without a present, positive, male role model, but with great care in how you describe the situation, to avoid using misleading shortcuts like “kids with no dads.”
  • You could describe gangs as often engaged in petty criminal activity or as pointlessly obsessed with territorial disputes, but it’s completely irrelevant to your causal argument to describe what happens after a kid is in the gang when you intend to prove why he joined it in the first place.

A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
“Failure to Prosecute Rape Causes Rape”
The premise is that rape occurs because it’s tolerated and that every resulting rape reinforces the sense that it will be tolerated. Rapes of female students on college campuses are routinely reported to campus authorities, not local police, and are kept from local law enforcement to protect the reputation of the school at the expense of the rights of the victim. What needs to be proved is that the rapes are in fact kept secret, that the assailants escape justice, and that there is local awareness that sexual assaults are not prosecuted or punished.

  • You might want to investigate how it came to be that colleges got jurisdiction for sexual assaults on campus, but it’s probably irrelevant, unless you can demonstrate that they did so deliberately in order to keep assaults secret.
  • You might want to explain what you think are contributing causes, such as the loss of bonuses or jobs for administrators on whose watch the public learned of campus rapes.
  • You would need to argue that somehow, even though the outside world never hears of these rapes, students on campus learn that assault victims are not believed or supported and that assailants are not punished. This is essential to the chain.
  • You could make a suggestion that if victims of rape refused to be “handled” by honor boards and campus judiciaries and took their cases to the local prosecutors instead they could break the chain. Arguing how to break the chain is a confirmation of why the chain continues.

Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)
“Violent Games Are Not the Missing Link”
The premise of this causation fallacy argument is nobody has yet proved a causal link between a steady diet of violent video games and actual physical violence in the lives of the gamers.

  • You might be tempted to demonstrate that gamers are actually sweethearts who join the Boy Scouts and help old ladies across the street without knocking them down, but you don’t have to. You merely want to prove that they’re no more violent than players of other games.
  • In fact, you don’t need to prove anything positive of your own to produce a strong causation fallacy argument; you only need to discredit the logic, the methods, or the premises of your opponents who think they have proved causation.
  • For example, if an exhaustive study finds a strong link between kids who play violent video games and kids who kick their classmates on the playground, you argue this is mere correlation. It’s equally likely that the kids were violent first and attracted to the games as a result of their taste for aggression.
  • You could also question the methodology of the supposed proof. If a questionnaire measures hostility, the answer: “I am suspicious of overly friendly strangers” no more proves hostility than it indicates a healthy wariness of the unknown.

In-class Exercise

Consider what you know about your own Topic and Thesis.
As a Reply to this post, make 5 brief Causal Arguments derived from your own research, as I have done above.

  1. Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)
  2. Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
  3. Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
  4. A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
  5. Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)

17 Responses to Types of Causal Arguments

  1. oaktree1234 says:

    1. higher grades lead to less grit
    2. going to public school has many effects on students
    3. why some students go on to have successful careers
    4. how being a first generation student effects your chances of success
    5. high grades do not correlate to success


  2. runnerd4 says:

    1 speeding on local roads causes accidents
    2 intersections cause high traffic and more accidents
    3 low movability and high traffic leads to more accidents
    4 low movability leads to high crash rates which leads to lowering speed limits on locak roads
    5 speeding on highways does not cause accidents


  3. rowanstudent24 says:

    1. Animal Abuse is caused by growing up in a broken home.
    2. Animal Abuse can cause people to abuse their family and can cause other people to feel very unsafe around them.
    3. Broken Homes and the uneducation of animal care causes animal abuse.
    4. Broken homes can cause people to be uneducated in caring for animals which can cause animal abuse.
    5. Broken homes don’t cause animal abuse, it could just be that the person committing the abuse is just a bad person.


  4. profs22 says:

    1.People cannot obtain proper medication because you need a prescription to get it.
    2.People cannot obtain proper mental health medication because you need a prescription and it is not affordable.
    3.Because mental health medication is not affordable and requires a prescription, people cannot get the proper treatment.
    4.Because low income families cannot afford health insurance, they are not able to get the proper treatment, which leads to a higher rate of mental illness among the lower class.
    5. A person’s race does not affect whether or not they can be prescribed medication.


  5. 1.) Having an abortion causes many woman to have mental disorders
    2.) Third trimester abortions causes physical and metal health issues
    3.) Being careless about preparing for a baby if you are sexually intimate and not respecting your future could lead a mother into the decision of abortion.
    4.) Being absent in sexual intimacy will decrease the chance of an unexpected pregnancy, which will lead to a lower chance for the need to have an abortion, which would also decrease the chance of mothers contracting mental disorders from the traumatic experience.
    5.) Abortion is not easy as much as people say it is.


  6. cardinal7218 says:

    1. The lack of good representation in Hollywood causes audiences to turn to streaming content instead.
    2. The clamor for better representation in entertainment causes streaming services to step up their diversity game and causes audiences to lose faith in Hollywood.
    3. The convenience of streaming services and the more successful attempts at diversity in their content causes audiences to prefer streaming content over conventional Hollywood’s content.
    4. Since Hollywood is an old business, it favors white employees, which causes unrest within the business and audiences alike.
    5. Diversity programs within Hollywood do not meaningfully improve diversity and representation in Hollywood.


  7. l8tersk8ter says:

    1. Team contribution causes positive self image
    2. Competition causes life lessons and improved life skills
    3. Competition and Team contribution cause increased self esteem
    4. Team contribution causes positive self image which causes increased social skills
    5. Being required to participate with a team does not cause social anxiety issues


  8. mhmokaysure says:

    1. Young drivers cause more road accidents
    2. The young age at which driver’s licenses are awarded create many risks to people on the roads
    3. Lack of experience in many situations leads to accidents among young drivers.
    4. Young drivers are often not skilled enough drivers, which causes mistakes, leading to them being a higher risk on the road.
    5. Age has no effect on driving abilities.


  9. dayzur says:

    1. Early college exposure, easier to adapt
    2. High school career courses gives better career readiness and boosts confidence
    3. Early college option and high school career courses gives you a head start over other students
    4. Career courses in high school gets students ready for career early which helps them understand material more which causes lower dropout rate and less stress
    5. Early college exposure does not guarantee success for all students


  10. pardonmyfrench13 says:

    1. Social media can cause suicide.
    2. Poor social media feedback can cause low self esteem and doubt.
    3. Placing getting likes on social media at such high worth, as well as online bullying can cause suicide in young people.
    4. Not getting enough likes on social media can lead to low self esteem, which can result in suicide.
    5. Social media does not contribute to suicides.


  11. gooferious says:

    1. Young adults go into therapy and come out rehabilitated
    2. Young adults go into therapy and become good members of society, know how to handle stress and are educated to spread awareness
    3. Trauma, stress, fear can all lead to a mental health issue
    4. Young adults have experienced something traumatic in their childhood which causes them to rebel as teens which then causes them go use drugs which then leads to them realizing they need to get professional help
    5. A good family structure does not lead to a child with parental abandonment issues


  12. comicdub says:

    1. Different sized vehicles cause more fatalities in collisions.
    2. Bad crash compatibility causes more fatalities in collisions. Bad crash compatibility causes the smaller vehicle of a collision to receive more damage.
    3. Different sized vehicles as well as their crash compatibility cause more fatalities in collisions.
    4. Different sized vehicles on roadways causes bad crash compatibility, which causes more fatalities in accidents.
    5. Changing of energy absorbing structures in vehicles does not guarantee better crash compatibility.


  13. aquarela says:

    1. Emotional abuse affects children’s neurological development.
    2. Emotional abuse affects children’s neurological development and may cause several non-treatable problems in their future.
    3. Emotionally abused and neglected children by their parents may have neurological development problems.
    4. Emotional abuse affects children’s neurological development, which sometimes causes social anxiety.
    5. Emotional abuse affects children neurological development, yet, it doesn’t necessarily impact their physical growth.


  14. sonnypetro29 says:

    1. Glitch in technology causes AI to make mistakes.
    2. AI in the car doesn’t detect oncoming traffic causing a big crash.
    3.AI malfunctions the cameras and radars don’t work properly and cause you to drive off the road.
    4. Computer glitches cause the car not to drive properly causing the car to crash.
    5. A car hits you out of nowhere not even the radars could have picked it up.


  15. tcarter101 says:

    1.the pandemic has ruined the college experience
    2.Many people are missing their opportunity to learn in a way where they form friendships with their peers
    3.This has affected the social aspects of college
    4.This has lead to rising anxiety levels which only hurts us more both students and teachers
    5.Many people are trying to make programs for helping each other however it has not done much to reduce the stress


  16. gabythefujoshi18 says:

    Single Cause with a Single Effect (X causes Y)
    Single Cause with Several Effects (X causes Y and Z)
    Several Causes for a Single Effect (Both X and Y cause Z)
    A Causal Chain (X causes Y, which causes Z)
    Causation Fallacy (X does not cause Y)

    Lack of minority representation in mental health advocacy causes cultural stigma regarding mental health illnesses.
    Lack of minority representation in mental health advocacy causes cultural stigma regarding mental health illnesses, no proper treatment for minority groups suffering mental illnesses, and lack of awareness to mental health in these communities.
    Americanizing of mental health and lack of minorities in mental health advocacy causes cultural stigma regarding mental health.
    Lack of minority representation in mental health advocacy causes cultural stigma regarding mental health illnesses which causes no proper treatment for minority groups.
    Lack of minority representation in mental health advocates doesn’t have correlation to cultural stigma of mental health.


  17. sunshine2818 says:

    1) poor gun control causes high gun violence
    2) high amounts of guns causes poor gun control and high gun violence
    3) high amounts of guns and poor gun control causes high gun violence
    4) high amounts of guns causes poor gun control which causes high gun violence
    5) poor gun control does not correlate to high gun violence


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