The Owl's Perch

The Rooster's Sunrise

Sunday, March 05, 2017
Perhaps you’ve heard the Latin phrase, “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” also known as the post hoc fallacy. It is a potential fallacy that, just because one event follows another, it must have been caused by the preceding event. Or, as the saying goes, since the Rooster crows immediately before sunrise, he must cause the sun to rise. Thinking about this more deeply, I realize how many times we fall into the trap of believing in a sequence of events and then, twisting the logic even more, taking it personally.

Let me give you an example from several years ago. My son was a little boy and we were visiting my dad’s house in the woods. Stepping out onto the back deck, we all looked up at the majesty of the 200-year old White Oak tree stretching its broad limbs over the deck. Suddenly there was a shriek as my son looked down to see a dead Cardinal under his foot. He was positive he had killed the bird! Despite my explanation that surely the bird hit the window hours earlier it took him quite a while to regain his joyous visit. Days later we talked about the incident and it still wasn’t funny – he still felt terrible about possibly injuring the bird.

Too often, I catch myself in a story about something and miss the fallacy of my logic. Of course, there are times when the sequence of events is logical. But the stories I add to the events rarely help me understand the situation any better. The next time I take something personally, I’m going to remember the Rooster and the Cardinal and seriously question my logic. Care to join me? 


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