Proximate versus Underlying Causes

What does it mean for x to cause y? Did World War I begin because a man with a funny mustache was shot or because of perceived first strike advantages?

Takeaway Points

  1. A proximate cause explains why something happens when it did in the way it did.
  2. An underlying cause explains why something was going to eventually happen.
  3. We focus on underlying causes because they provide us with better advice on how to prepare for the future.