In discussions of reasoning or causality, a proximal factor is one that is close to the phenomenon you're studying, as opposed to a distal cause, which is conceptually or temporally distant. You might ask "why is there that stupid node about invisible husbands?" A natural answer would be "because someone thought it would be amusing," but a more proximal cause would be "because there was some text in the writeup box, and the author clicked stubmit."

Proximal causes are very closely related to their effects. As a cause becomes more proximal, it approaches indefeasibility under the laws of physics. However, it also tells us less and less about the larger context or related matters of interest.

Prox"i*mal (?), a.

1.

Toward or nearest, as to a body, or center of motion of dependence; proximate.

2. Biol. (a)

Situated near the point of attachment or origin; as, the proximal part of a limb.

(b)

Of or pertaining to that which is proximal; as, the proximal bones of a limb. Opposed to distal.

 

© Webster 1913.

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