Mechanizmy predykcyjne i ich normatywność [Predictive mechanisms and their normativity]

Warszawa, Polska: Liberi Libri (2020)
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The aim of this study is to justify the belief that there are biological normative mechanisms that fulfill non-trivial causal roles in the explanations (as formulated by researchers) of actions and behaviors present in specific systems. One example of such mechanisms is the predictive mechanisms described and explained by predictive processing (hereinafter PP), which (1) guide actions and (2) shape causal transitions between states that have specific content and fulfillment conditions (e.g. mental states). Therefore, I am guided by a specific theoretical goal associated with the need to indicate those conditions that should be met by the non-trivial theory of normative mechanisms and the specific models proposed by PP supporters. In this work, I use classical philosophical methods, such as conceptual analysis and critical reflection. I also analyze selected studies in the field of cognitive science, cognitive psychology, neurology, information theory and biology in terms of the methodology, argumentation and language used, in accordance with their theoretical importance for the issues discussed in this study. In this sense, the research presented here is interdisciplinary. My research framework is informed by the mechanistic model of explanation, which defines the necessary and sufficient conditions for explaining a given phenomenon. The research methods I chose are therefore related to the problems that I intend to solve. In the introductory chapter, “The concept of predictive processing”, I discuss the nature of PP as well as its main assumptions and theses. I also highlight the key concepts and distinctions for this research framework. Many authors argue that PP is a contemporary version of Kantianism and is exposed to objections similar to those made against the approach of Immanuel Kant. I discuss this thesis and show that it is only in a very general sense that the PP framework is neo-Kantian. Here we are not dealing with transcendental deduction nor with the application of transcendental arguments. I argue that PP is based on reverse engineering and abduction inferences. In the second part of this chapter, I respond to the objection formulated by Dan Zahavi, who directly accuses this research framework of anti-realistic consequences. I demonstrate that the position of internalism, present in the so-called conservative PP, does not imply anti-realism, and that, due to the explanatory role played in it by structural representations directed at real patterns, it is justified to claim that PP is realistic. In this way, I show that PP is a non-trivial research framework, having its subject, specific methods and its own epistemic status. Finally, I discuss positions classified as the socalled radical PP. In the chapter “Predictive processing as a Bayesian explanatory model” I justify the thesis according to which PP offers Bayesian modeling. Many researchers claim that the brain is an implemented statistical probabilistic network that is an approximation of the Bayesian 7 rule. In practice, this means that all cognitive processes are to apply Bayes' rule and can be described in terms of probability distributions. Such a solution arouses objections among many researchers and is the subject of wide criticism. The purpose of this chapter is to justify the thesis that Bayesian PP is a non-trivial research framework. For this purpose, I argue that it explains certain phenomena not only at the computational level described by David Marr, but also at the level of algorithms and implementation. Later in this chapter I demonstrate that PP is normative modeling. Proponents of the use of Bayesian models in psychology or decision theory argue that they are normative because they allow the formulation of formal rules of action that show what needs to be done to make a given action optimal. Critics of this approach emphasize that such thinking about the normativity of Bayesian modeling is unjustified and that science should shift from prescriptive to descriptive positions. In a polemic with Shira Elqayam and Jonathan Evans (2011), I show that the division they propose into prescriptivism and Bayesian descriptivism is apparent, because, as I argue, there are two forms of prescriptivism, i.e. the weak and the strong. I argue that the weak version is epistemic and can lead to anti-realism, while the strong version is ontic and allows one to justify realism in relation to Bayesian models. I argue that a weak version of prescriptivism is valid for PP. It allows us to adopt anti-realism in relation to PP. In practice, this means that you can explain phenomena using Bayes' rule. This does not, however, imply that they are Bayesian in nature. However, the full justification of realism in relation to the Bayesian PP presupposes the adoption of strong prescriptivism. This position assumes that phenomena are explained by Bayesian rule because they are Bayesian as such. If they are Bayesian in nature, then they should be explained using Bayesian modeling. This thesis will be substantiated in the chapters “Normative functions and mechanisms in the context of predictive processing” and “Normative mechanisms and actions in predictive processing”. In the chapter “The Free Energy Principle in predictive processing”, I discuss the Free Energy Principle (hereinafter FEP) formulated by Karl Friston and some of its implications. According to this principle, all biological systems (defined in terms of Markov blankets) minimize the free energy of their internal states in order to maintain homeostasis. Some researchers believe that PP is a special case of applying this principle to cognition, and that predictive mechanisms are homeostatic mechanisms that minimize free energy. The discussion of FEP is important due to the fact that some authors consider it to be important for explanatory purposes and normative. If this is the case, then FEP turns out to be crucial in explaining normative predictive mechanisms and, in general, any normative biological mechanisms. To define the explanatory possibilities of this principle, I refer to the discussion of its supporters on the issue they define as the problem of continuity and discontinuity between life and mind. A critical analysis of this discussion and the additional arguments I have formulated have allowed me to revise the explanatory ambitions of FEP. I also reject the belief that this principle is necessary to explain the nature of predictive mechanisms. I argue that the principle formulated and defended by Friston is an important research heuristic for PP analysis. 8 In the chapter “Normative functions and mechanisms in predictive processing”, I start my analyzes by formulating an answer to the question about the normative nature of homeostatic mechanisms. I demonstrate that predictive mechanisms are not homeostatic. I defend the view that a full explanation of normative mechanisms presupposes an explanation of normative functions. I discuss the most important proposals for understanding the normativity of a function, both from a systemic and teleosemantic perspective. I conclude that the non-trivial concept of a function must meet two requirements which I define as explanatory and normative. I show that none of the theories I have invoked satisfactorily meets both of these requirements. Instead, I propose a model of normativity based on Bickhard's account, but supplemented by a mechanistic perspective. I argue that a function is normative when: (1) it allows one to explain the dysfunction of a given mechanism; (2) it contributes to the maintenance of the organism's stability by shaping and limiting possible relations, processes and behaviors of a given system; and when (3) (according to the representational and predictive functions) it enables explaining the attribution of logical values of certain representations / predictions. In such an approach, a mechanism is normative when it performs certain normative functions and when it is constitutive for a specific action or behavior, despite the fact that for some reason it cannot realize it either currently or in the long-term. Such an understanding of the normativity of mechanisms presupposes the acceptance of the epistemic hypothesis. I argue that this hypothesis is not cognitively satisfactory, and therefore the ontic hypothesis should be justified, which is directly related to adopting the position of ontic prescriptivism. For this reason, referring to the mechanistic theory of scientific explanations, I formulate an ontical interpretation of the concept of a normative mechanism. According to this approach, a mechanism or a function is normative when they perform such and such causal roles in explaining certain actions and behaviors. With regard to the normative properties of predictive mechanisms and functions, this means that they are the causes of specific actions an organism carries out in the environment. In this way, I justify the necessity of accepting the ontic hypothesis and rejecting the epistemic hypothesis. The fifth chapter, “Normative mechanisms and actions in predictive processing”, is devoted to the dark room problem and the related exploration-exploitation trade-off. A dark room is the state that an agent could be in if it minimized the sum of all potential prediction errors. I demonstrate that, in accordance with the basic assumption of PP about the need for continuous and long-term minimization of prediction errors, such a state should be desirable for the agent. Is it really so? Many authors believe it is not. I argue that the test of the value of PP is the possibility of a non-trivial solution of this problem, which can be reduced to the choice between active and uncertainty-increasing exploration and safe and easily predictable exploitation. I show that the solution proposed by PP supporters present in the literature does not enable a fully satisfactory explanation of this dilemma. Then I defend the position according to which the full explanation of the normative mechanisms, and, subsequently, the solution to the dilemma of exploration and exploitation, involves reference to the existence of constraints present in the environment. The constraints 9 include elements of the environment that make a given mechanism not only causal but also normative. They are therefore key to explaining the predictive mechanisms. They do not only play the role of the context in which the mechanism is implemented, but, above all, are its constitutive component. I argue that the full explanation of the role of constraints in normative predictive mechanisms presupposes the integration of individual models of specific cognitive phenomena, because only the mechanistic integration of PP with other models allows for a non-trivial explanation of the nature of normative predictive mechanisms that would have a strong explanatory value. The explanatory monism present in many approaches to PP makes it impossible to solve the problem of the dark room. Later in this chapter, I argue that the Bayesian PP is normative not because it enables the formulation of such and such rules of action, but because the predictive mechanisms themselves are normative. They are normative because they condition the choice of such and such actions by agents. In this way, I justify the hypothesis that normative mechanisms make it possible to explain the phenomenon of agent motivation, which is crucial for solving the dark room problem. In the last part of the chapter, I formulate the hypothesis of distributed normativity, which assumes that the normative nature of certain mechanisms, functions or objects is determined by the relations into which these mechanisms, functions or objects enter. This means that what is normative (in the primary sense) is the relational structure that constitutes the normativity of specific items included in it. I suggest that this hypothesis opens up many areas of research and makes it possible to rethink many problems. In the “Conclusion”, I summarize the results of my research and indicate further research perspectives.

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