Proximate Causation

∞ generated and posted on 2016.08.30 ∞

How things happen rather than why they do.

The proximate cause typically is the mechanistic explanation for how things happen. For example, typically studies of biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, etc., are considerations of the mechanism of how things happen. This is rather than explorations of why they happen one way rather than another, that is, there is in an interest in how things have optimized rather than why they have optimized the way that they have; that is, emphasis on issues of proximate rather than of ultimate causation.

If you drive a car to work or school then the proximal cause of your translocation from home to these places is via your use of a car. This speaks however not at all to the reason that you wanted or needed to drive your car which instead may have little or nothing to do with how you got to where you are going, but instead is a function of what is there when you arrive. The latter, the motivation, the ultimate reason for leaving the house in the morning, is why you drove your car to wherever you are going rather than how.