Minimizing prediction errors in predictive processing: from inconsistency to non-representationalism

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (5):997-1017 (2020)
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Abstract

Predictive processing is an increasingly popular approach to cognition, perception and action. It says that the brain is essentially a hierarchical prediction machine. It is typically construed in a representationalist and inferentialist fashion so that the brain makes contentful inferences on the basis of representational models. In this paper, I argue that the predictive processing framework is inconsistent with this epistemic position. In particular, I argue that the combination of hierarchical modeling, contentful inferentialism and representationalism entail an internal inconsistency. Specifically, for a particular set of states, there will be both a representation requirement and not. Yet a system cannot both be required to represent a certain set of states and not be required to represent those states. Due to this contradiction, I propose to reject the standard view. I suggest that predictive processing is best interpreted in terms of reliable covariation instead, entailing an instrumentalist approach to the statistical machinery.

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