Purpose: To establish the essential centrality of a circular relationship between acting and understanding, and a role learning plays in this circularity, with special reference to Aristotle’s phronesis and sophia. The purpose of this paper is to establish a position. Design/methodology/approach – The argument is made through critical, cybernetic analysis and argument. Findings: The argument reconceptualises key relationships in the approach to understanding the world, and in education. Research limitations/implications – Research implications are not explored: the argument attempts to lay groundwork for other and later work. Originality/value – The argument establishes a cybernetic circular causality to replace the currently preferred linear causality.