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  1. Free energy: a user’s guide.Stephen Francis Mann, Ross Pain & Michael D. Kirchhoff - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-35.
    Over the last fifteen years, an ambitious explanatory framework has been proposed to unify explanations across biology and cognitive science. Active inference, whose most famous tenet is the free energy principle, has inspired excitement and confusion in equal measure. Here, we lay the ground for proper critical analysis of active inference, in three ways. First, we give simplified versions of its core mathematical models. Second, we outline the historical development of active inference and its relationship to other theoretical approaches. Third, (...)
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  • Teleosemantics and the free energy principle.Stephen Francis Mann & Ross Pain - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-25.
    The free energy principle is notoriously difficult to understand. In this paper, we relate the principle to a framework that philosophers of biology are familiar with: Ruth Millikan’s teleosemantics. We argue that: systems that minimise free energy are systems with a proper function; and Karl Friston’s notion of implicit modelling can be understood in terms of Millikan’s notion of mapping relations. Our analysis reveals some surprising formal similarities between the two frameworks, and suggests interesting lines of future research. We hope (...)
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  • The Transcendental Deduction of Integrated Information Theory: Connecting the Axioms, Postulates, and Identity Through Categories.Robert Chis-Ciure - 2022 - Synthese 200 (3):1-27.
    This paper deals with a foundational aspect of Integrated Information Theory of consciousness: the nature of the relation between the axioms of phenomenology and the postulates of cause-effect power. There has been a lack of clarity in the literature regarding this crucial issue, for which IIT has received much criticism of its axiomatic method and basic tenets. The present contribution elucidates the problem by means of a categorial analysis of the theory’s foundations. Its main results are that: IIT has a (...)
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  • Is the brain an organ for free energy minimisation?Daniel Williams - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (5):1693-1714.
    Two striking claims are advanced on behalf of the free energy principle in cognitive science and philosophy: that it identifies a condition of the possibility of existence for self-organising systems; and that it has important implications for our understanding of how the brain works, defining a set of process theories—roughly, theories of the structure and functions of neural mechanisms—consistent with the free energy minimising imperative that it derives as a necessary feature of all self-organising systems. I argue that the conjunction (...)
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  • Schema-Centred Unity and Process-Centred Pluralism of the Predictive Mind.Nina Poth - forthcoming - Minds and Machines:1-27.
    Proponents of the predictive processing framework often claim that one of the framework’s significant virtues is its unificatory power. What is supposedly unified are predictive processes in the mind, and these are explained in virtue of a common prediction error-minimisation schema. In this paper, I argue against the claim that PP currently converges towards a unified explanation of cognitive processes. Although the notion of PEM systematically relates a set of posits such as ‘efficiency’ and ‘hierarchical coding’ into a unified conceptual (...)
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  • New Directions in Predictive Processing.Jakob Hohwy - 2020 - Mind and Language 35 (2):209-223.
    Predictive processing (PP) is now a prominent theoretical framework in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. This review focuses on PP research with a relatively philosophical focus, taking stock of the framework and discussing new directions. The review contains an introduction that describes the full PP toolbox; an exploration of areas where PP has advanced understanding of perceptual and cognitive phenomena; a discussion of PP's impact on foundational issues in cognitive science; and a consideration of the philosophy of science (...)
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  • Laying Down a Forking Path: Tensions Between Enaction and the Free Energy Principle.Ezequiel Di Paolo, Evan Thompson & Randall Beer - 2022 - Philosophy and the Mind Sciences 3.
    Several authors have made claims about the compatibility between the Free Energy Principle and theories of autopoiesis and enaction. Many see these theories as natural partners or as making similar statements about the nature of biological and cognitive systems. We critically examine these claims and identify a series of misreadings and misinterpretations of key enactive concepts. In particular, we notice a tendency to disregard the operational definition of autopoiesis and the distinction between a system’s structure and its organization. Other misreadings (...)
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  • Extended Predictive Minds: Do Markov Blankets Matter?Marco Facchin - forthcoming - Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-30.
    The extended mind thesis claims that a subject’s mind sometimes encompasses the environmental props the subject interacts with while solving cognitive tasks. Recently, the debate over the extended mind has been focused on Markov Blankets: the statistical boundaries separating biological systems from the environment. Here, I argue such a focus is mistaken, because Markov Blankets neither adjudicate, nor help us adjudicate, whether the extended mind thesis is true. To do so, I briefly introduce Markov Blankets and the free energy principle (...)
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  • A Free Energy Reconstruction of Arguments for Panpsychism.Majid D. Beni - forthcoming - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-18.
    The paper draws on scientific resources formed around the notion of Free Energy Principle to reconstruct two well-known defences of panpsychism. I reconstruct the argument from continuity by expanding the mind-life continuity thesis under the rubric of the Free Energy Principle, by showing that FEP does not provide an objective criterion for demarcating the living from the inanimate. Then I will reconstruct the argument from intrinsic nature. The FEP-based account of consciousness is centred on the notion of ‘temporal depth’ of (...)
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  • Between Pebbles and Organisms: Weaving Autonomy Into the Markov Blanket.Thomas van Es & Michael D. Kirchhoff - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):6623-6644.
    The free energy principle is sometimes put forward as accounting for biological self-organization and cognition. It states that for a system to maintain non-equilibrium steady-state with its environment it can be described as minimising its free energy. It is said to be entirely scale-free, applying to anything from particles to organisms, and interactive machines, spanning from the abiotic to the biotic. Because the FEP is so general in its application, one might wonder whether this framework can capture anything specific to (...)
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  • A Critical Analysis of Markovian Monism.Majid D. Beni - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):6407-6427.
    Free Energy Principle underlies a unifying framework that integrates theories of origins of life, cognition, and action. Recently, FEP has been developed into a Markovian monist perspective. The paper expresses scepticism about the validity of arguments for Markovian monism. The critique is based on the assumption that Markovian models are scientific models, and while we may defend ontological theories about the nature of scientific models, we could not read off metaphysical theses about the nature of target systems from our theories (...)
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  • Unification by Fiat: Arrested Development of Predictive Processing.Piotr Litwin & Marcin Miłkowski - 2020 - Cognitive Science 44 (7).
    Predictive processing (PP) has been repeatedly presented as a unificatory account of perception, action, and cognition. In this paper, we argue that this is premature: As a unifying theory, PP fails to deliver general, simple, homogeneous, and systematic explanations. By examining its current trajectory of development, we conclude that PP remains only loosely connected both to its computational framework and to its hypothetical biological underpinnings, which makes its fundamentals unclear. Instead of offering explanations that refer to the same set of (...)
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  • Is Free-Energy Minimisation the Mark of the Cognitive?Matt Sims & Julian Kiverstein - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (2):1-27.
    A mark of the cognitive should allow us to specify theoretical principles for demarcating cognitive from non-cognitive causes of behaviour in organisms. Specific criteria are required to settle the question of when in the evolution of life cognition first emerged. An answer to this question should however avoid two pitfalls. It should avoid overintellectualising the minds of other organisms, ascribing to them cognitive capacities for which they have no need given the lives they lead within the niches they inhabit. But (...)
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  • Non-equilibrium thermodynamics and the free energy principle in biology.Matteo Colombo & Patricia Palacios - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (5):1-26.
    According to the free energy principle, life is an “inevitable and emergent property of any random dynamical system at non-equilibrium steady state that possesses a Markov blanket” :20130475, 2013). Formulating a principle for the life sciences in terms of concepts from statistical physics, such as random dynamical system, non-equilibrium steady state and ergodicity, places substantial constraints on the theoretical and empirical study of biological systems. Thus far, however, the physics foundations of the free energy principle have received hardly any attention. (...)
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  • Two Kinds of Information Processing in Cognition.Mark Sprevak - 2020 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (3):591-611.
    What is the relationship between information and representation? Dating back at least to Dretske, an influential answer has been that information is a rung on a ladder that gets one to representation. Representation is information, or representation is information plus some other ingredient. In this paper, I argue that this approach oversimplifies the relationship between information and representation. If one takes current probabilistic models of cognition seriously, information is connected to representation in a new way. It enters as a property (...)
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  • Active Inference and Abduction.Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen & Majid D. Beni - forthcoming - Biosemiotics:1-19.
    The background target of the research going into the present article is to forge an intellectual alliance between, on the one hand, active inference and the free-energy principle, and on the other, Charles S. Peirce’s theory of semiotics and pragmatism. In the present paper, the focus is on the allegiance between the nomenclatures of active and abductive inferences as the proper place to begin reaching at that wider target. The paper outlines the key conceptual elements involved in a naturalistic rendering (...)
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  • Morphological Computation: Nothing but Physical Computation.Marcin Miłkowski - 2018 - Entropy 10 (20):942.
    The purpose of this paper is to argue against the claim that morphological computation is substantially different from other kinds of physical computation. I show that some (but not all) purported cases of morphological computation do not count as specifically computational, and that those that do are solely physical computational systems. These latter cases are not, however, specific enough: all computational systems, not only morphological ones, may (and sometimes should) be studied in various ways, including their energy efficiency, cost, reliability, (...)
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  • Self-Supervision, Normativity and the Free Energy Principle.Jakob Hohwy - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):29-53.
    The free energy principle says that any self-organising system that is at nonequilibrium steady-state with its environment must minimize its free energy. It is proposed as a grand unifying principle for cognitive science and biology. The principle can appear cryptic, esoteric, too ambitious, and unfalsifiable—suggesting it would be best to suspend any belief in the principle, and instead focus on individual, more concrete and falsifiable ‘process theories’ for particular biological processes and phenomena like perception, decision and action. Here, I explain (...)
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  • The Math is Not the Territory: Navigating the Free Energy Principle.Mel Andrews - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (3):1-19.
    Much has been written about the free energy principle, and much misunderstood. The principle has traditionally been put forth as a theory of brain function or biological self-organisation. Critiques of the framework have focused on its lack of empirical support and a failure to generate concrete, falsifiable predictions. I take both positive and negative evaluations of the FEP thus far to have been largely in error, and appeal to a robust literature on scientific modelling to rectify the situation. A prominent (...)
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  • The Free Energy Principle: It’s Not About What It Takes, It’s About What Took You There.Axel Constant - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (2):1-17.
    Philosophical writings on the free energy principle in the life sciences often give the impression that minimising free energy is sufficient for life. But minimising free energy is not a sufficient condition for life. In fact, one can perfectly well conceive of a system that actively minimises its free energy, and for this very reason moves inexorably towards death. So, where does the assumption of this entailment relation come from? There is indeed an entailment relation, but it goes the other (...)
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  • Computational Enactivism Under the Free Energy Principle.Tomasz Korbak - 2019 - Synthese 198 (3):2743-2763.
    In this paper, I argue that enactivism and computationalism—two seemingly incompatible research traditions in modern cognitive science—can be fruitfully reconciled under the framework of the free energy principle. FEP holds that cognitive systems encode generative models of their niches and cognition can be understood in terms of minimizing the free energy of these models. There are two philosophical interpretations of this picture. A computationalist will argue that as FEP claims that Bayesian inference underpins both perception and action, it entails a (...)
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  • Limiting the explanatory scope of extended active inference: the implications of a causal pattern analysis of selective niche construction, developmental niche construction, and organism-niche coordination dynamics.Regina E. Fabry - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (1):1-26.
    Research in evolutionary biology and philosophy of biology and cognition strongly suggests that human organisms modify their environment through active processes of niche construction. Recently, proponents of the free-energy principle and variational active inference have argued that their approach can deepen our understanding of the reciprocal causal relationship between organisms and their niche on various scales. This paper examines the feasibility and scope of variational formalisations and conceptualisations of the organism-niche nexus with a particular focus on the extended active inference (...)
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  • Maladaptive Social Norms, Cultural Progress, and the Free-Energy Principle.Matteo Colombo - 2020 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 43.
    Veissière and collaborators ground their account of culture and social norms in the free-energy principle, which postulates that the utility of an outcome is equivalent to its probability. This equivalence would mean that their account entails that complying with social norms has always adaptive value. But, this is false, because many social norms are obviously maladaptive.
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