Principles of Causal Analysis

This material on causal analysis was designed in collaboration with Professor Mark Harris.

Just because one event comes before another one does not mean that the first event caused the second event. There need to be necessary causes and sufficient conditions before you can claim that one thing caused someone else.

For our purposes, we can start with the following principles. These principles will be illustrated with specific examples later in this module.

  1. For every cause, there is an effect.

  2. For every effect, there is a cause.

  3. The relationship between cause and effect may either be simple or complex.

  4. While causes and effects can sometimes be represented as a web of connected causes and effects, for the purposes of analysis, they are often represented in a chain.

  5. The most important step in establishing the cause/effect relationship is explaining:

    • How and why the cause led to the effects
      • This explanation will serve as the analysis for each body paragraph.

    • How and why the effects led to the cause
      • This explanation will serve as the analysis for each body paragraph.

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The issue of cause and effect is important to an understanding of kamma; a concept that is very misunderstood in popular culture. Dr. Robert Law gives a background of cause, effect, and kamma in his "The Meaning of Kamma in Early Buddhism."

Isn't "Kamma" spelled "Kharma"?

Americans have primarily been introduced to Buddhism from the Mahayana Tradition. Mahayana Buddhists read their scripture in Sanskrit and therefore write about "kharma." Theravada Buddhists read scripture in Pali and therefore talk about "kamma." In doing research, we need to realize that sometimes there are multiple spellings for the same concept.