efficient cause

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English[edit]

Noun[edit]

efficient cause (plural efficient causes)

  1. (philosophy, natural science) The being or event which physically brings about the change or motion that produces another occurrence or thing.
    • 1781, Samuel Johnson, quoting Sir Richard Blackmore in Lives of the Poets:
      As to its efficient cause, wit owes its production to an extraordinary and peculiar temperament in the constitution of the possessor of it, in which is found a concurrence of regular and exalted ferments, and an affluence of animal spirits, refined and rectified to a great degree of purity.
    • 1859, Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, ch. 7:
      There must be some efficient cause for each slight individual difference, as well as for more strongly marked variations which occasionally arise.
    • 1895, Henry James, The Altar of the Dead, ch. 6:
      [H]e turned the corner where for years he had always paused; simply not to pause was an efficient cause for emotion.
    • 1998, R. J. Schork, Greek and Hellenic Culture in Joyce, ISBN 9780813016092, p. 176 (Google preview):
      In the production of a statue of Athena for the Parthenon, the bronze is the material cause; the shape and design of the statue is the formal cause; the sculptor is the efficient cause; the honor of the goddess (and the glory of Athens) is the final cause.

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