Re: Proximal Vs. Distal (Ultimate) Causes

From: Haseldine, Philip (
Date: Sat May 25 1996 - 15:04:57 BST

                [Choice question after original question was dropped]
Proximal causes are those which are purely psychological. It is when we do
things not because we believe that it will benefit our blood line and enable
"good" genes to be passed on (i.e. this thought will not be prevalent in our
minds), but simply because we like doing it. In the ancient history of mankind,
groups of humans may well have enjoyed playing various games involving movement
and physical contact. Over a course of time, this interaction and use of
muscles, etc., will have made the most enthusiastic participants obtain more
athletic physiques, and perhaps therefore more attractive to the opposite sex,
through social interaction also - e.g. talking about "victories" over fellow
members of the tribe. Eventually, the genes of having attractive, athletic
bodies would be passed on to certain members of the local group of humans, and
having this property would more often than not assist in finding a mate to
reproduce with.
 Distal causes are those to do with Darwinian evolution in the original
environment - they are the "ultimate", underlying causes, to do with survival
of the race, and although we may not realise that these are the causes
ultimately we wish to fulfill more than anything else, so they are. Cognitive
causes are not distal causes; cognition is a proximal mechanism in that we like
to be aware of our surroundings and have a vast array of experiences,from which
we can eventually draw good memories.It acts as a means to an end, but the
distal reasons for having these mechanisms in the first place rule when you
look at the history of mankind as a whole. The means to ancient ends stay with
us today,and although it may not dawn on us too brightly, we are maybe not that
far removed from our ancient origins as we may think.

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