Circularity and Systems
Non-Linear Thinking: Join the discussion
The distinction between linear and non-linear systems is fundamental. It constitutes what is arguably the single most important conceptual development in contemporary sciences with a significant impact on the concept of circularity. Whereas linear systems adhere to the ‘superposition principle’, non-linear systems succumb to no such simple addition of quantities. In the linear system there is a correlation between ‘input’ and ‘output’: the greater the force the greater the change. By contrast, non-linear or complex systems have no such simple (1:1) correlation: small cause can produce great effect, or no effect, or variable effect, etc. This is important if we want to avoid the fallacy of (mere) linear causation. Put bluntly, the very attribute ‘non-linear’ is as meaningful as its counterpart in the term ‘non-elephant zoology’. In other words, linearity is very rare, except in (flawed) theory. Unfortunately, the contemporary indoctrination into linear causality is so strong that it continues to exercise a fatal attraction for much of contemporary thought. The question is how to resist it in order to fully realise the implications of nested sets of relations which entail reciprocal determination, emergent processes, unpredictable co-evolutions, and seemingly paradoxical entanglement of convergent and divergent processes?