Synthese 195 (6) (2018)

Julian Kiverstein
University of Amsterdam
In this paper, we argue for a theoretical separation of the free-energy principle from Helmholtzian accounts of the predictive brain. The free-energy principle is a theoretical framework capturing the imperative for biological self-organization in information-theoretic terms. The free-energy principle has typically been connected with a Bayesian theory of predictive coding, and the latter is often taken to support a Helmholtzian theory of perception as unconscious inference. If our interpretation is right, however, a Helmholtzian view of perception is incompatible with Bayesian predictive coding under the free-energy principle. We argue that the free energy principle and the ecological and enactive approach to mind and life make for a much happier marriage of ideas. We make our argument based on three points. First we argue that the free energy principle applies to the whole animal–environment system, and not only to the brain. Second, we show that active inference, as understood by the free-energy principle, is incompatible with unconscious inference understood as analagous to scientific hypothesis-testing, the main tenet of a Helmholtzian view of perception. Third, we argue that the notion of inference at work in Bayesian predictive coding under the free-energy principle is too weak to support a Helmholtzian theory of perception. Taken together these points imply that the free energy principle is best understood in ecological and enactive terms set out in this paper.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1007/s11229-016-1239-1
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,410
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Action in Perception.Alva Noë - 2005 - MIT Press.

View all 42 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Predictive Processing and the Representation Wars.Daniel Williams - 2018 - Minds and Machines 28 (1):141-172.

View all 83 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Free-Energy and the Brain.Karl J. Friston & Klaas E. Stephan - 2007 - Synthese 159 (3):417 - 458.
A Measurable and Testable Brain-Based Emergent Interactionism.Larry R. Vandervert - 1991 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 201 (2):201-219.
Bayesian Inference, Predictive Coding and Delusions.Rick A. Adams, Harriet R. Brown & Karl J. Friston - 2014 - Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 5 (3):51-88.
On Racist Hate Speech and the Scope of a Free Speech Principle.Mary Kate McGowan & Ishani Maitra - 2009 - Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 23 (2):343-372.
On Specification and the Senses.Thomas A. Stoffregen & Benoît G. Bardy - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (2):195-213.


Added to PP index

Total views
93 ( #127,179 of 2,519,874 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #270,671 of 2,519,874 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes