Curtain Call at the Cartesian Theatre

Journal of Consciousness Studies 22 (9-10):109-128 (2015)

Joe Dewhurst
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Hobson & Friston (2014) outline a synthesis of Hobson's work on dreaming and consciousness with Friston’s work on the free energy principle and predictive coding. Whilst we are sympathetic with their claims about the function of dreaming and its relationship to consciousness, we argue that their endorsement of the Cartesian theatre metaphor is neither necessary nor desirable. Furthermore, if it were necessary then this endorsement would undermine their positive claims, as the Cartesian theatre metaphor is widely regarded as unsustainable. We demonstrate this point and then develop an alternative formulation of their position that does not require the Cartesian theatre metaphor. Our positive goal is to clarify Hobson & Friston’s confusing usage of philosophical terminology, replacing it where possible with the more transparent language of the forward models framework. This will require some modifications to their account, which as it stands is philosophically and empirically unsustainable.
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