Extended Predictive Minds: do Markov Blankets Matter?

Review of Philosophy and Psychology:1-30 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

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 in Section 2. I then turn from exposition to criticism. In Section 3, I argue that using Markov Blankets to determine whether the mind extends will provide us with an answer based on circular reasoning. In Section 4, I consider whether Markov Blankets help us track the boundaries of the mind, answering in the negative. This is because resorting to Markov Blankets to track the boundaries of the mind yields extensionally inadequate conclusions which violate the parity principle. In Section 5, I further argue that Markov Blankets led us to sidestep the debate over the extended mind, as they make internalism about the mind vacuously true. A brief concluding paragraph follows.

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