Abstract

Life and cognition are inherently circular dynamical processes, and people have difficulty understanding circular causation. I give case studies illustrating some resulting confusions, and propose that the problems may lie in failing to properly distinguish between similar concepts used to describe both local and global features of a system. I analyze how explanations in terms of circular causation work and how they rely on principles of normal settlement. Even though they typically will not explain the origins of phenomena (that is the province of linear causal explanation), circular explanations have predictive power for any persisting (i.e., stable or metastable) phenomena.

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