"Multifactorial" is fast becoming a vogue word in medicine. Dorland's Medical Dictionary defines it as "of or pertaining to, or arising through the action of many factors." Curiously, the term has not as yet found its way to Webster's, Random House, and American Heritage. Whether this neologism is a welcome addition to the language of medicine depends to a degree on one's concepts of causality.
Causality, of course, is not an exclusively medical concern. It is the central doctrine of the laws of physics and one of the main preoccupations of philosophers since ancient times. Aristotle's four causes (essential, formal, exciting, and final) dominated Western thought for centuries. They served as points of reference even when philosophers departed from the traditional Aristotelian formulation to formulate their own.
As various concepts of causality passed through the focusing prisms of medical philosophers, they underwent further changes to accommodate the need for understanding