Blind spots obscuring circular causality in design and elsewhere

Thomas Fischer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Circular causality is one of several unorthodox assumptions underlying cybernetics. This paper identifies “blind spots” which obscure the soundness of this assumption, rendering cybernetics liable to rejection. The purpose of this paper is to aid students of cybernetics in appreciating circular causality. Design/methodology/approach – The presented argument is based on textual and diagrammatic explication of several more or less obvious causal scenarios. Some of these modes are shown to obscure circular causality from observation. Findings – Previously discussed “blind spots” obscuring circular causality are referenced. The notion of probabilistic causality is developed from the notion of collateral effects, which is introduced by extension of the notion of contributory causality. The possible “lossiness” of probabilistic causation is shown to constitute another “blind spot” obscuring circular causality, for example in design. Research limitations/implications – The presented argument aims to promote acceptance of circular causality. Assuming a radical-constructivist perspective, it discusses the construction of mental models of causal relationships. Originality/value – Ignorance of circular causality has previously been attributed to preferences for description in terms of energy, and in terms of timeless logic. Additionally, this paper proposes the obscuring effect of probabilistic causality, and the possible co-occurrence of multiple “blind spots.”

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1233-1239
Number of pages7
Issue number8-9
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2015


  • Circular causality
  • Linear causality
  • Mutuality
  • Perception
  • Reciprocity


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