Kinds of Causes

Conditions--the setting, the stage for the phenomenon or event, the preexisting factors
    For example:  in the case of a forest fire, high temperatures and lack of rain would be conditions

Influences--these affect the rate or degree of the phenomenon, they intensify or moderate it
    For example:  cheerleaders may intensify the energy of the players and, therefore, indirectly influence the outcome of a game

Precipitating Cause--forces the phenomenon to happen, this is the "last straw" idea, usually happens just before the phenomenon occurs
    For example: in the case of a forest fire, the bolt of lightning would be the precipitating cause

Remote Causes--the causes are remote in time, they are causes of causes
    For example:  the Great Wall of China led to the fall of Rome!

Proximate Causes--these are close in time to the phenomenon, there are usually several proximate causes
    For example:  one cause of low voter turnout could be bad weather on the day of the election, the energy crisis in CA occurred around Christmas time when          many people had light displays for the holidays and the weather was cold

Necessary Causes--these must exist in order for the phenomenon to happen, but their existence does not mean the phenomenon will always occur, the absence of any deterrent is also a kind of necessary cause
    For example:  oxygen is necessary for fire to occur, the forest fire might not have spread if firebreaks had been constructed

Sufficient Causes--these are all the possible causes, any one of these could have caused the phenomenon, most sufficient causes are not necessary causes
    For example:  sufficient causes of death are stroke, heart attack, strangulation

Absence of a Blocking Cause
    For example:  the house burned down because the fire engine couldn't get to it in time

Reciprocal Causes
    For example: consumer demand leads to new products which in turn lead to more consumer demand

Chance--the unexpected co-occurrence of events that each have their own causes, some chance is random, some chance can be expressed as a statistical probability

The ideas for this page were taken from A Rhetoric of Argument 2nd. ed. by Jeanne Fahnestock and Marie Secor
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