A couple of random questions I think about...

secretad
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A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby secretad » Thu Mar 10, 2011 6:36 am

When I read a paragraph on the LSAT that incorporates a cause and effect relationship...I need clarification about some things.

I am having trouble differentiating between cause and effect relationships and conditional statements. I just feel like if a causes b, then you could say if a then b.

And in the same way conditional statements can also be viewed as cause and effect. If a is sufficient for b...could it not be said that a causes b to exist by necessity?

Thanks in advance for clearing some things up for me.

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Jack Smirks
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby Jack Smirks » Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:28 am

Ok there are three things that will help you tell the difference between conditional reasoning and causal reasoning.

First thing is the temporal relationship in cause and effect relationships.... the cause MUST happen before the effect. The same is not true for necessary/sufficient statements. The sufficient condition can happen before or after the necessary condition, or even at the same time.

Second thing is the connection between the two events. In cause and effect statements the events are related in a very direct way.

I lit the fuse to the TNT which caused the house to explode.

In other words, the cause actually makes the effect happen.

Conditional statements are often related to each other but they don't have to be.

If I sing a song, then you will go to church.

The sufficient condition is not making the necessary condition happen, it's just indicating that that it must occur.


The third thing to remember is that the language used to introduce the statements are different. Causal indicators are much more active words: caused by, responsible for, reason for, leads to,etc. Conditional reasoning is introduced with if/then statements or uses words like when, only, every, must, all, unless, etc.

Pay attention to the language used to introduce the relationship and if the usual indicator words don't make it clear think about the the chronology of the two events and whether or not one is actually making the other happen.

secretad
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby secretad » Thu Mar 10, 2011 8:31 am

Thank you for that...I had similar thoughts about temporal issues with cause and effect which I now fully realize must occur in that manner.

I understand the word unless functions as if not. A will happen unless b occurs. If not b then a happens. And by the contrapositive we can also say that if not a then b. So the word unless implies the only option to change a given condition?

If one were to say I am going to school unless I am sick, then the option of validly saying that winning the multimillion dollar lottery is off of the table as an alternative due to that given conditional statement. Is my understanding correct?

secretad
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby secretad » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:03 pm

Bump on this

spece212
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby spece212 » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:18 pm

This is purely an examination oriented tip. So I would not get into the debate of whether understanding conceptually is important or not.

Tip#1 : Cram the unless formula in the LR bible. helps you save a whole lot of time on LSAT conditional reasoning. So if you see

A unless B

straight away write (w/o getting into the correctness part)

~A -> B

Tip#2 : I found that conditional reasoning is usually found in certain types of questions where the correct answer is beyond doubt
- Inference questions
- Justify questions

Causal reasoning is typically found in
- strengthen
- weaken
etc.

Hope this helps.

Kurst
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby Kurst » Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:55 pm

secretad wrote:the word unless implies the only option to change a given condition?

If one were to say I am going to school unless I am sick, then the option of validly saying that winning the multimillion dollar lottery is off of the table as an alternative due to that given conditional statement. Is my understanding correct?

Your understanding is correct.

secretad
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby secretad » Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:57 pm

Thanks for answering my questions thus far. I also would like to know more about this situation...

A causes B. Let's say that this statement is given in the reading comprehension section. Does this still allow for other things to cause B? My understanding is that it would. Just because A causes B does not preclude the possibility of C, D, or E causing B as well. Am I correct in thinking that the passage must state that B is solely caused by A in order to justify not wondering about alternative causes?

Kurst
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby Kurst » Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:32 pm

From the chapter on cause and effect reasoning in the LRB (page 17 in Powerscore's official excerpt):

David M. Killoran wrote:The Central Assumption of Causal Conclusions

Understanding the assumption that is at the heart of a causal conclusion is essential to knowing why certain answers will be correct or incorrect. Most students assume that the LSAT makes basic assumptions that are similar to the real world; this is untrue and is a dangerous mistake to make.

When we discuss causality in the real world, there is an inherent understanding that a given cause is just one possible cause of the effect, and that there are other causes that could also produce the same effect. This is reasonable because we have the ability to observe a variety of cause and effect scenarios, and experience shows us that different actions can have the same result. The makers of the LSAT do not think this way. When an LSAT speaker concludes that one occurrence caused another, that speaker also assumes that the stated cause is the only possible cause of the effect and that consequently the stated cause will always produce the effect. This assumption is incredibly extreme and far-reaching, and often leads to surprising answer choices that would appear incorrect unless you understand this assumption. Consider the following example:

Premise: Average temperatures are higher at the equator than in any other area.
Premise: Individuals living at or near the equator tend to have lower per-capita incomes than individuals living elsewhere.
Conclusion: Therefore, higher average temperatures cause lower per-capita incomes.

This argument is a classic flawed causal argument wherein two premises with a basic connection (living at the equator) are used as the basis of a conclusion that states that the connection is such that one of the elements actually makes the other occur. The conclusion is flawed because it is not necessary that one of the elements caused the other to occur: the two could simply be correlated in some way or the connection could be random.

In the real world, we would tend to look at an argument like the one above and think that while the conclusion is possible, there are also other things that could cause the lower per-capita income of individuals residing at or near the equator, such as a lack of natural resources. This is not how speakers on the LSAT view the relationship. When an LSAT speaker makes an argument like the one above, he or she believes that the only cause is the one stated in the conclusion and that there are no other causes that can create that particular effect. Why is this the case? Because for an LSAT speaker to come to that conclusion, he or she must have weighed and considered every possible alternative and then rejected each one. Otherwise, why would the speaker draw the given conclusion? In the final analysis, to say that higher average temperatures cause lower per-capita incomes the speaker must also believe that nothing else could be the cause of lower per-capita incomes.

Thus, in every argument with a causal conclusion that appears on the LSAT, the speaker believes that the stated cause is in fact the only cause and all other theoretically possible causes are not, in fact, actual causes.

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suspicious android
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby suspicious android » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:28 am

Understanding the assumption that is at the heart of a causal conclusion is essential to knowing why certain answers will be correct or incorrect. Most students assume that the LSAT makes basic assumptions that are similar to the real world; this is untrue and is a dangerous mistake to make.

When we discuss causality in the real world, there is an inherent understanding that a given cause is just one possible cause of the effect, and that there are other causes that could also produce the same effect. This is reasonable because we have the ability to observe a variety of cause and effect scenarios, and experience shows us that different actions can have the same result. The makers of the LSAT do not think this way. When an LSAT speaker concludes that one occurrence caused another, that speaker also assumes that the stated cause is the only possible cause of the effect and that consequently the stated cause will always produce the effect. This assumption is incredibly extreme and far-reaching, and often leads to surprising answer choices that would appear incorrect unless you understand this assumption.


Just for fun I'd like to say that I think that on this topic the LRB off the mark, and this argument is full of unsubstantiated, hand-wavy bullshit.

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EarlCat
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby EarlCat » Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:46 am

Very few LSAT questions hinge on the difference between a causal relationship and a conditional relationship. The ones in which a causal relationship matters are pretty much confined to cause/correlation flaws, which are generally easy to spot ("Every time I carry my umbrella it rains. Therefore carrying my umbrella causes it to rain."). So I pretty much treat causal statements and conditional statements as if they were the same thing. Thinking this way would make a logic professor's head asplode, but it's never been a problem on the LSAT.

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EarlCat
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby EarlCat » Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:01 am

secretad wrote:Thanks for answering my questions thus far. I also would like to know more about this situation...

A causes B. Let's say that this statement is given in the reading comprehension section. Does this still allow for other things to cause B? My understanding is that it would. Just because A causes B does not preclude the possibility of C, D, or E causing B as well. Am I correct in thinking that the passage must state that B is solely caused by A in order to justify not wondering about alternative causes?

Absent other information, you couldn't rule out that other things might cause B. However, if you were told only A causes B, then you would have to rule out C, D, or E as causes.

youarereadingthis
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby youarereadingthis » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:40 pm

Kurst wrote:
secretad wrote:the word unless implies the only option to change a given condition?

If one were to say I am going to school unless I am sick, then the option of validly saying that winning the multimillion dollar lottery is off of the table as an alternative due to that given conditional statement. Is my understanding correct?

Your understanding is correct.



FLAW!! This presupposes there is no other conditional statement that states winning the multimillion dollar lottery does make you sick.

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EarlCat
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby EarlCat » Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:12 pm

youarereadingthis wrote:
Kurst wrote:
secretad wrote:the word unless implies the only option to change a given condition?
If one were to say I am going to school unless I am sick, then the option of validly saying that winning the multimillion dollar lottery is off of the table as an alternative due to that given conditional statement. Is my understanding correct?

Your understanding is correct.

FLAW!! This presupposes there is no other conditional statement that states winning the multimillion dollar lottery does make you sick.

Nice catch, although it would only have to have the possibility of making you sick.

youarereadingthis
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Re: A couple of random questions I think about...

Postby youarereadingthis » Thu Mar 17, 2011 9:28 am

EarlCat wrote:
youarereadingthis wrote:
Kurst wrote:
secretad wrote:the word unless implies the only option to change a given condition?
If one were to say I am going to school unless I am sick, then the option of validly saying that winning the multimillion dollar lottery is off of the table as an alternative due to that given conditional statement. Is my understanding correct?

Your understanding is correct.

FLAW!! This presupposes there is no other conditional statement that states winning the multimillion dollar lottery does make you sick.

Nice catch, although it would only have to have the possibility of making you sick.


Likewise, nice catch on my error. EarlCat is correct.




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