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  1. 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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  • A Multi-Scale View of the Emergent Complexity of Life: A Free-Energy Proposal.Casper Hesp, Maxwell Ramstead, Axel Constant, Paul Badcock, Michael David Kirchhoff & Karl Friston - forthcoming - In Michael Price & John Campbell (eds.), Evolution, Development, and Complexity: Multiscale Models in Complex Adaptive Systems.
    We review some of the main implications of the free-energy principle (FEP) for the study of the self-organization of living systems – and how the FEP can help us to understand (and model) biotic self-organization across the many temporal and spatial scales over which life exists. In order to maintain its integrity as a bounded system, any biological system - from single cells to complex organisms and societies - has to limit the disorder or dispersion (i.e., the long-run entropy) of (...)
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  • Making Worlds in a Waking Dream: Where Bion Intersects Friston on the Shaping and Breaking of Psychic Reality.Matthew John Mellor - 2018 - Frontiers in Psychology 9.
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  • Attuning to the World: The Diachronic Constitution of the Extended Conscious Mind.Michael D. Kirchhoff & Julian Kiverstein - 2020 - Frontiers in Psychology 11.
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  • How to Count Biological Minds: Symbiosis, the Free Energy Principle, and Reciprocal Multiscale Integration.Matthew Sims - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):2157-2179.
    The notion of a physiological individuals has been developed and applied in the philosophy of biology to understand symbiosis, an understanding of which is key to theorising about the major transition in evolution from multi-organismality to multi-cellularity. The paper begins by asking what such symbiotic individuals can help to reveal about a possible transition in the evolution of cognition. Such a transition marks the movement from cooperating individual biological cognizers to a functionally integrated cognizing unit. Somewhere along the way, did (...)
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  • The Literalist Fallacy & the Free Energy Principle: Model Building, Scientific Realism and Instrumentalism.Michael David Kirchhoff, Julian Kiverstein & Ian Robertson - manuscript
    Disagreement about how best to think of the relation between theories and the realities they represent has a longstanding and venerable history. We take up this debate in relation to the free energy principle (FEP) - a contemporary framework in computational neuroscience, theoretical biology and the philosophy of cognitive science. The FEP is very ambitious, extending from the brain sciences to the biology of self-organisation. In this context, some find apparent discrepancies between the map (the FEP) and the territory (target (...)
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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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  • Modelling Ourselves: What the Free Energy Principle Reveals About Our Implicit Notions of Representation.Matt Sims & Giovanni Pezzulo - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):7801-7833.
    Predictive processing theories are increasingly popular in philosophy of mind; such process theories often gain support from the Free Energy Principle —a normative principle for adaptive self-organized systems. Yet there is a current and much discussed debate about conflicting philosophical interpretations of FEP, e.g., representational versus non-representational. Here we argue that these different interpretations depend on implicit assumptions about what qualifies as representational. We deploy the Free Energy Principle instrumentally to distinguish four main notions of representation, which focus on organizational, (...)
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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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  • 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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  • Inflating the social aspects of cognitive structural realism.Majid D. Beni - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (3):1-18.
    Inspired by Ronald Giere’s cognitive approach to scientific models, Cognitive Structural Realism has presented a naturalist account of scientific representation. CSR characterises the structure of theories in terms of cognitive structures. These are informational structures embodied in the brains of scientists. CSR accounts for scientific representation in terms of the dynamical relationship between the organism and its environment. The proposal has been criticised on account of its negligence of social aspects of scientific practice. The present paper aims to chart out (...)
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  • Cultural Blankets: Epistemological Pluralism in the Evolutionary Epistemology of Mechanisms.Pierre Poirier, Luc Faucher & Jean-Nicolas Bourdon - 2021 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 52 (2):335-350.
    In a recently published paper, we argued that theories of cultural evolution can gain explanatory power by being more pluralistic. In his reply to it, Dennett agreed that more pluralism is needed. Our paper’s main point was to urge cultural evolutionists to get their hands dirty by describing the fine details of cultural products and by striving to offer detailed and, when explanatory, varied algorithms or mechanisms to account for them. While Dennett’s latest work on cultural evolution does marvelously well (...)
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  • Immunoceptive Inference: Why Are Psychiatric Disorders and Immune Responses Intertwined?Karl Friston, Maxwell Ramstead, Thomas Parr & Anjali Bhat - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (3):1-24.
    There is a steadily growing literature on the role of the immune system in psychiatric disorders. So far, these advances have largely taken the form of correlations between specific aspects of inflammation with the development of neuropsychiatric conditions such as autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression. A fundamental question remains open: why are psychiatric disorders and immune responses intertwined? To address this would require a step back from a historical mind–body dualism that has created such a dichotomy. We propose three (...)
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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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  • First Principles in the Life Sciences: The Free-Energy Principle, Organicism, and Mechanism.Matteo Colombo & Cory Wright - 2021 - Synthese 198 (14):3463–3488.
    The free-energy principle states that all systems that minimize their free energy resist a tendency to physical disintegration. Originally proposed to account for perception, learning, and action, the free-energy principle has been applied to the evolution, development, morphology, anatomy and function of the brain, and has been called a postulate, an unfalsifiable principle, a natural law, and an imperative. While it might afford a theoretical foundation for understanding the relationship between environment, life, and mind, its epistemic status is unclear. Also (...)
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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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  • Zoocentrism in the weeds? Cultivating plant models for cognitive yield.Adam Linson & Paco Calvo - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (5):1-27.
    It remains at best controversial to claim, non-figuratively, that plants are cognitive agents. At the same time, it is taken as trivially true that many animals are cognitive agents, arguably through an implicit or explicit appeal to natural science. Yet, any given definition of cognition implicates at least some further processes, such as perception, action, memory, and learning, which must be observed either behaviorally, psychologically, neuronally, or otherwise physiologically. Crucially, however, for such observations to be intelligible, they must be counted (...)
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  • From Allostatic Agents to Counterfactual Cognisers: Active Inference, Biological Regulation, and the Origins of Cognition.Andrew W. Corcoran, Giovanni Pezzulo & Jakob Hohwy - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (3):1-45.
    What is the function of cognition? On one influential account, cognition evolved to co-ordinate behaviour with environmental change or complexity. Liberal interpretations of this view ascribe cognition to an extraordinarily broad set of biological systems—even bacteria, which modulate their activity in response to salient external cues, would seem to qualify as cognitive agents. However, equating cognition with adaptive flexibility per se glosses over important distinctions in the way biological organisms deal with environmental complexity. Drawing on contemporary advances in theoretical biology (...)
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  • A Universal Ethology Challenge to the Free Energy Principle: Species of Inference and Good Regulators.Thomas van Es & Michael D. Kirchhoff - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (2):1-24.
    The free energy principle portends to provide a unifying principle for the biological and cognitive sciences. It states that for a system to maintain non-equilibrium steady-state with its environment it must minimise its free energy. Under the FEP, to minimise free energy is equivalent to engaging in approximate Bayesian inference. According to the FEP, therefore, inference is at the explanatory base of biology and cognition. In this paper, we discuss a specific challenge to this inferential formulation of adaptive self-organisation. We (...)
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  • The Ant Colony as a Test for Scientific Theories of Consciousness.Daniel A. Friedman & Eirik Søvik - 2019 - Synthese (2):1-24.
    The appearance of consciousness in the universe remains one of the major mysteries unsolved by science or philosophy. Absent an agreed-upon definition of consciousness or even a convenient system to test theories of consciousness, a confusing heterogeneity of theories proliferate. In pursuit of clarifying this complicated discourse, we here interpret various frameworks for the scientific and philosophical study of consciousness through the lens of social insect evolutionary biology. To do so, we first discuss the notion of a forward test versus (...)
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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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  • Enactivism and Predictive Processing: A Non-Representational View.Michael David Kirchhoff & Ian Robertson - 2018 - Philosophical Explorations 21 (2):264-281.
    This paper starts by considering an argument for thinking that predictive processing (PP) is representational. This argument suggests that the Kullback–Leibler (KL)-divergence provides an accessible measure of misrepresentation, and therefore, a measure of representational content in hierarchical Bayesian inference. The paper then argues that while the KL-divergence is a measure of information, it does not establish a sufficient measure of representational content. We argue that this follows from the fact that the KL-divergence is a measure of relative entropy, which can (...)
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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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  • Minimizing prediction errors in predictive processing: from inconsistency to non-representationalism.Thomas van Es - 2020 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (5):997-1017.
    Predictive processing is an increasingly popular approach to cognition, perception and action. It says that the brain is essentially a hierarchical prediction machine. It is typically construed in a representationalist and inferentialist fashion so that the brain makes contentful inferences on the basis of representational models. In this paper, I argue that the predictive processing framework is inconsistent with this epistemic position. In particular, I argue that the combination of hierarchical modeling, contentful inferentialism and representationalism entail an internal inconsistency. Specifically, (...)
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  • Multiscale Integration: Beyond Internalism and Externalism.Maxwell J. D. Ramstead, Michael D. Kirchhoff, Axel Constant & Karl J. Friston - 2019 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 1):41-70.
    We present a multiscale integrationist interpretation of the boundaries of cognitive systems, using the Markov blanket formalism of the variational free energy principle. This interpretation is intended as a corrective for the philosophical debate over internalist and externalist interpretations of cognitive boundaries; we stake out a compromise position. We first survey key principles of new radical views of cognition. We then describe an internalist interpretation premised on the Markov blanket formalism. Having reviewed these accounts, we develop our positive multiscale account. (...)
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  • Hierarchical Markov Blankets and Adaptive Active Inference. [REVIEW]Michael David Kirchhoff - 2018 - Physics of Life Reviews 24.
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