Is the free-energy principle a formal theory of semantics? From variational density dynamics to neural and phenotypic representations

Entropy 1 (1):1-30 (2020)

Authors
Abstract
The aim of this paper is twofold: (1) to assess whether the construct of neural representations plays an explanatory role under the variational free-energy principle and its corollary process theory, active inference; and (2) if so, to assess which philosophical stance - in relation to the ontological and epistemological status of representations - is most appropriate. We focus on non-realist (deflationary and fictionalist-instrumentalist) approaches. We consider a deflationary account of mental representation, according to which the explanatorily relevant contents of neural representations are mathematical, rather than cognitive, and a fictionalist or instrumentalist account, according to which representations are scientifically useful fictions that serve explanatory (and other) aims. After reviewing the free-energy principle and active inference, we argue that the model of adaptive phenotypes under the free-energy principle can be used to furnish a formal semantics, enabling us to assign semantic content to specific phenotypic states (the internal states of a Markovian system that exists far from equilibrium). We propose a modified fictionalist account: an organism-centered fictionalism or instrumentalism. We argue that, under the free-energy principle, pursuing even a deflationary account of the content of neural representations licenses the appeal to the kind of semantic content involved in the aboutness or intentionality of cognitive systems; our position is thus coherent with, but rests on distinct assumptions from, the realist position. We argue that the free-energy principle thereby explains the aboutness or intentionality in living systems and hence their capacity to parse their sensory stream using an ontology or set of semantic factors.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
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: 64,316
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Species of Realization and the Free Energy Principle.Michael David Kirchhoff - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (4):706-723.
Active Inference and the Primacy of the ‘I Can’.Jelle Bruineberg - 2017 - Philosophy and Predictive Processing.
Free-Energy and the Brain.Karl J. Friston & Klaas E. Stephan - 2007 - Synthese 159 (3):417 - 458.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2020-07-25

Total views
118 ( #92,236 of 2,456,152 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #225,894 of 2,456,152 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes