Cognitive Systems, Predictive Processing, and the Self

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 13 (4):947-972 (2021)
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This essay presents the conditional probability of co-contribution account of the individuation of cognitive systems (CPC) and argues that CPC provides an attractive basis for a theory of the cognitive self. The argument proceeds in a largely indirect way, by emphasizing empirical challenges faced by an approach that relies entirely on predictive processing (PP) mechanisms to ground a theory of the cognitive self. Given the challenges faced by PP-based approaches, we should prefer a theory of the cognitive self of the sort CPC offers, one that accommodates variety in the kinds of mechanism that, when integrated, constitute a cognitive system (and thus the cognitive self), to a theory according to which the cognitive self is composed of essentially one kind of thing, for instance, prediction-error minimization mechanisms. The final section focuses on one of the central functions of the cognitive self: to engage in conscious reasoning. It is argued that the phenomenon of conscious, deliberate reasoning poses an apparently insoluble problem for a PP-based view, one that seems to rest on a structural limitation of predictive-processing models. In a nutshell, conscious reasoning is a single-stream phenomenon, but, in order for PP to apply, two streams of activity must be involved, a prediction stream and an input stream. Thus, with regard to the question of the nature of the self, PP-based views must yield to an alternative approach, regardless of whether proponents of the predictive processing, as a comprehensive theory of cognition, can handle the various empirical challenges canvassed in the preceding section.

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Robert D. Rupert
University of Colorado, Boulder


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