Active inference models do not contradict folk psychology

Synthese 200 (2):1-37 (2022)
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Active inference offers a unified theory of perception, learning, and decision-making at computational and neural levels of description. In this article, we address the worry that active inference may be in tension with the belief–desire–intention model within folk psychology because it does not include terms for desires at the mathematical level of description. To resolve this concern, we first provide a brief review of the historical progression from predictive coding to active inference, enabling us to distinguish between active inference formulations of motor control and active inference formulations of decision processes. We then show that, despite a superficial tension when viewed at the mathematical level of description, the active inference formalism contains terms that are readily identifiable as encoding both the objects of desire and the strength of desire at the psychological level of description. We demonstrate this with simple simulations of an active inference agent motivated to leave a dark room for different reasons. Despite their consistency, we further show how active inference may increase the granularity of folk-psychological descriptions by highlighting distinctions between drives to seek information versus reward—and how it may also offer more precise, quantitative folk-psychological predictions. Finally, we consider how the implicitly conative components of active inference may have partial analogues in other systems describable by the broader free energy principle to which it conforms.



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Intention, plans, and practical reason.Michael Bratman - 1987 - Cambridge: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Thought.Gilbert Harman - 1973 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
Two concepts of consciousness.David M. Rosenthal - 1986 - Philosophical Studies 49 (May):329-59.

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