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In general, a factor that is a contributory cause is not sufficient, because it is by definition accompanied by other causes, which would not count as causes if it were sufficient. Mackie argues that usual talk of "cause" in fact refers to INUS conditions (insufficient but non-redundant parts of a condition which is itself unnecessary but sufficient for the occurrence of the effect).
The nature of cause and effect is a concern of the subject known as metaphysics.
Causality is an abstraction that indicates how the world progresses, so basic a concept that it is more apt as an explanation of other concepts of progression than as something to be explained by others more basic. For this reason, a leap of intuition may be needed to grasp it.
In Aristotelian philosophy, the word 'cause' is also used to mean 'explanation' or 'answer to a why question', including Aristotle's material, formal, efficient, and final "causes"; then the "cause" is the explanans for the explanandum.
For example, the generative actions of his parents can be regarded as the efficient cause, with Socrates being the effect, Socrates being regarded as an enduring object, in philosophical tradition called a 'substance', as distinct from an action.
Since causality is a subtle metaphysical notion, considerable effort is needed to establish knowledge of it in particular empirical circumstances.