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How can of the phrase "circumstantial consequence" be explained? I vaguely understand the probable meaning, but it doesn't quite come into focus. Is it something like (unintended) side effect?

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    Could you provide some context- perhaps the sentence in which you saw it? – Jim Jul 29 '14 at 3:57
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    My guess is that is means a consequence that derives, not from the crux of the matter at hand, but from circumstances that just happen to exist at the time. After having written that, I think that pretty much boils down to "unintentional consequences" as @tchrist has supposed. – Jim Jul 29 '14 at 4:01
  • @Jim it's from the "Echelon" lyrics by 30 Seconds to Mars, not much context there. It can be found in books though, for example "The thesis of an authoritarian and not totalitarian Fascism which became a dictatorship not by vocation, but merely as an unwanted circumstantial consequence..." – Dmitriy Jul 29 '14 at 4:07
  • Ok, so I think @tchrist has it right. It might also be phrased as an unsought by-product. For example I might say that steam is a circumstantial consequence to boiling potatoes. Steam is completely unsought but arises naturally when heating water to the temperature desirable for immersion cooking of potatoes. – Jim Jul 29 '14 at 4:13
  • "circumstantial consequence" is just a typo, or just very poor writing by someone who is not very literate (or perhaps, "arty-nonsense-like" writing, if you say it's from a song - like arty slightly-nonsensical Beatles lyrics, you know?) they were thinking of "unintentional consequence" as tchrist explains. it is very common on this site that non-native speakers, ask about some phrase they have seen (for example, "circumstantial consequence") which is, in fact, just an error by a poor writer, or a straight typo. – Fattie Jul 29 '14 at 10:18
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From a social science / behavioral science point of view, it makes me think of "natural consequences."

For example: I am choosing to take time to attempt to answer this question. Later, I may find that I do not have enough time to complete other tasks which then result in an undesirable outcome. This would be a natural consequence for not remaining focused on my pressing tasks. The existence of this post/answer is not so much the cause of the consequence, but me being distracted and spending longer meandering this website is the cause.

In Terms of circumstance, the cause of the consequence can be expanded even further. Such as, I have ADD (i.e., inattentive attention, easily distractible, interruptions or breaks in concentration) which add to the circumstances. Further, my dog is barking and needs some attention, let say that I provide my dog with attention, then I recive an important phone call that requires immediate action; this (or the circumstances) all take more time away from completing my tasks for the day and adds more time it takes me to be able to get back on task. If the circumstances were not present, I likely would have finished my tasks for the day and had a desirable outcome.

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