Chicken or the egg  

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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli

The chicken or the egg causality dilemma is commonly stated as "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" To ancient philosophers, the question about the first chicken or egg also evoked the questions of how life and the universe in general began.

Cultural references to the chicken and egg intend to point out the futility of identifying the first case of a circular cause and consequence. It could be considered that in this approach lies the most fundamental nature of the question. A literal answer is somewhat obvious, as egg-laying species pre-date the existence of chickens. However, the metaphorical view sets a metaphysical ground to the dilemma. To better understand its metaphorical meaning, the question could be reformulated as: "Which came first, X that can't come without Y, or Y that can't come without X?"

An equivalent situation arises in engineering and science known as circular reference, in which a parameter is required to calculate that parameter itself. Examples are Van der Waals equation and the famous Colebrook equation.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Chicken or the egg" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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