Models, Brains, and Scientific Realism

In Lorenzo Magnani & Claudia Casadio (eds.), Model Based Reasoning in Science and Technology. Logical, Epistemological, and Cognitive Issues. Springer. pp. 639-661 (2016)
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Prediction Error Minimization theory (PEM) is one of the most promising attempts to model perception in current science of mind, and it has recently been advocated by some prominent philosophers as Andy Clark and Jakob Hohwy. Briefly, PEM maintains that “the brain is an organ that on aver-age and over time continually minimizes the error between the sensory input it predicts on the basis of its model of the world and the actual sensory input” (Hohwy 2014, p. 2). An interesting debate has arisen with regard to which is the more adequate epistemological interpretation of PEM. Indeed, Hohwy maintains that given that PEM supports an inferential view of perception and cognition, PEM has to be considered as conveying an internalist epistemological perspective. Contrary to this view, Clark maintains that it would be incorrect to interpret in such a way the indirectness of the link between the world and our inner model of it, and that PEM may well be combined with an externalist epistemological perspective. The aim of this paper is to assess those two opposite interpretations of PEM. Moreover, it will be suggested that Hohwy’s position may be considerably strengthened by adopting Carlo Cellucci’s view on knowledge (2013).
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