Let's suppose my father was a good moral teacher to me. I say:

"I learned my virtuous morals from my father."

This is a true statement, because he did teach me good morals. However the subsequent claim:

"That is the reason why I am a moral person."

May sound suspicious. The statement may be only a partial explanation for my moral principles, ie., I also learned from my mother, siblings, friends, teachers, etc.

If it were the case that I had many moral teachers, and my father was only one among many, what do you call the statement:

"I learned my virtuous morals from my father."

It's true, but is misleading because it makes a tendentious argument towards my father being the reason. I thought of the term half-truth, and in fact it does fall into the definition of half-truth. But I don't like this term because the above statement is FULLY true. I DID learn good morals from my father, so as far as I'm concerned it is FULLY true, and I don't like the term half-truth. Neither do I like "partial-truth", because as I said it's fully true.

Also, I'm aware that the second statement is a case of making a possibly wrong conclusion from a valid premise, I'm not referring to this as in the case of syllogisms. I'm specifically asking about:

"I learned my virtuous morals from my father."

True in every way but sounds biased towards one particular cause. Maybe it's simply a case of omission: if there are my father, mother, siblings, friends etc., and I only mention my father, it may be simply a case of omission to persuade another that my father is the reason for why I'm moral.

Are there any terms that fit this? I've already considered half-truth and affirming the consequent and these don't fit. The best one word I've thought of so far is "omission", but that just means leaving something out, doesn't seem specific enough. Can be a word or multiple, preferable if it's a recognised term in the field of logic, rhetoric, or popular culture, or can be cited from a dictionary or anywhere else for that matter.

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    I think it’s the word "my" that is causing the suspicious feel. Truly virtuous morals are universal. Implying ownership implies a) they’re not your standard virtuous morals and b) (for some reason) completeness.
    – Pam
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 11:17
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    Using "That is the reason why I am a moral person." rather than "That is a contributory factor in my being a moral person." may not please a precisionist or logician (I'm not sure about Grice), but would normally be judged pragmatically to be a paraphrase by the man in the street, and would encourage them to carry on listening to you. 'That's the main reason ...' is what I'd choose. Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 11:31
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    "I learned my virtuous morals from my father." if taken as meaning more than "I know on an intellectual level ...", as I would say most people would assume, begs the question (ie tacitly assumes the answer that the author now proceeds to show is a necessary entailment of that statement). Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 11:55
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    @EdwinAshworth I'm glad that you understood the question, your comment about "contributory factor" is spot-on. I'm not saying I'd correct the man on the street, it wouldn't be conducive to good relations if we corrected every imprecision someone made. Though I would challenge someone's use of language if I perceived it as some form of demagogy or trickery for making an argument. That's why I'd like to identify what it is exactly (I'm curious). I've read that it falls under "half-truth", but I've already explained why I don't like that term, because it's FULLY true, not half or partially.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 12:37
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    @EdwinAshworth Totally agree with the begging the question bit. There's obviously more than one problem in there, strictly speaking.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


This looks like causal reductionism, also known as:

  • complex cause
  • fallacy of the single cause
  • causal oversimplification
  • reduction fallacy

Essentially, this fallacy refers to arguments that focus on a single cause while ignoring other potential causes, such as attributing one's morals totally to a father.

The fallacy occurs when an explanation of an event is assumed to be a single, simple cause when it may have had multiple causes. The cause is oversimplified, preventing a more in-depth analysis, often in order to deceive the listener as to the real causes.

An example from Logically Fallacious provides context, though the example is quite different from the case in the question:

Hank: I ran my car off the side of the road because that damn squirrel ran in front of my car.

Officer Sam: You don’t think it had anything to do with the fact that you were trying to text your girlfriend, and driving drunk?

  • I feel this is right answer. Just as I was about to say my favourite name was "fallacy of the single cause", which sounds the clearest to me, I found this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_the_single_cause Thank you. I'll wait to see if anyone else has something to add, otherwise I think this is the correct answer.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 19:51
  • From Wikipedia: It can be logically reduced to: " X caused Y; therefore, X was the only cause of Y" (although A,B,C...etc. also contributed to Y.). Sounds like what I was looking for, except I was wanting to know the term for the rhetorical device, not the fallacy (if there's any distinction), but this is close enough.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 19:57
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    Spot on. But if an intending suitor responded to 'People say I get my looks from my mother Hedy' with 'That's causal reductionism', I'd say they were woefully lacking in the pragmatics department. Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 9:20

I would not call it a rhetorical device. I would call it an example of the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc (Wikipedia):

Post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin: "after this, therefore because of this") is a logical fallacy that states "Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X." It is often shortened simply to post hoc fallacy.

A logical fallacy of the questionable cause variety, it is subtly different from the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc ("with this, therefore because of this"), in which two events occur simultaneously or the chronological ordering is insignificant or unknown.

Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to suggest causality. The fallacy lies in a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors potentially responsible for the result that might rule out the connection.

  • I have a feeling it might be a case of this. RaceYouAnytime's answer is a good one, of the many names given to this fallacy, "fallacy of the single cause" sounds right to me. I'm still thinking. Thanks, and upvoted.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 19:41
  • This does not necessarily match the 'only a partial explanation' requirement. Y and X may be causally unrelated with this logical fallacy; not so with causal reductionism. Commented Apr 7, 2018 at 9:22

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