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Axel Constant
University of Amsterdam
Axel Constant
University of Exeter
  1. A Variational Approach to Niche Construction.Axel Constant, Maxwell Ramstead, Samuel Veissière, John Campbell & Karl Friston - 2018 - Journals of the Royal Society Interface 15:1-14.
    In evolutionary biology, niche construction is sometimes described as a genuine evolutionary process whereby organisms, through their activities and regulatory mechanisms, modify their environment such as to steer their own evolutionary trajectory, and that of other species. There is ongoing debate, however, on the extent to which niche construction ought to be considered a bona fide evolutionary force, on a par with natural selection. Recent formulations of the variational free-energy principle as applied to the life sciences describe the properties of (...)
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  2.  37
    Multiscale Integration: Beyond Internalism and Externalism.Maxwell J. D. Ramstead, Michael D. Kirchhoff, Axel Constant & Karl J. Friston - 2019 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 1):41-70.
    We present a multiscale integrationist interpretation of the boundaries of cognitive systems, using the Markov blanket formalism of the variational free energy principle. This interpretation is intended as a corrective for the philosophical debate over internalist and externalist interpretations of cognitive boundaries; we stake out a compromise position. We first survey key principles of new radical views of cognition. We then describe an internalist interpretation premised on the Markov blanket formalism. Having reviewed these accounts, we develop our positive multiscale account. (...)
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  3.  28
    Regimes of Expectations: An Active Inference Model of Social Conformity and Human Decision Making.Axel Constant, Maxwell J. D. Ramstead, Samuel P. L. Veissière & Karl Friston - 2019 - Frontiers in Psychology 10.
  4. A Multi-Scale View of the Emergent Complexity of Life: A Free-Energy Proposal.Casper Hesp, Maxwell Ramstead, Axel Constant, Paul Badcock, Michael David Kirchhoff & Karl Friston - forthcoming - In Michael Price & John Campbell (eds.), Evolution, Development, and Complexity: Multiscale Models in Complex Adaptive Systems.
    We review some of the main implications of the free-energy principle (FEP) for the study of the self-organization of living systems – and how the FEP can help us to understand (and model) biotic self-organization across the many temporal and spatial scales over which life exists. In order to maintain its integrity as a bounded system, any biological system - from single cells to complex organisms and societies - has to limit the disorder or dispersion (i.e., the long-run entropy) of (...)
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  5. Precise Worlds for Certain Minds: An Ecological Perspective on the Relational Self in Autism.Axel Constant, Jo Bervoets, Kristien Hens & Sander Van de Cruys - 2018 - Topoi:1-12.
    Autism Spectrum Condition presents a challenge to social and relational accounts of the self, precisely because it is broadly seen as a disorder impacting social relationships. Many influential theories argue that social deficits and impairments of the self are the core problems in ASC. Predictive processing approaches address these based on general purpose neurocognitive mechanisms that are expressed atypically. Here we use the High, Inflexible Precision of Prediction Errors in Autism approach in the context of cultural niche construction to explain (...)
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  6.  33
    Extended Active Inference: Constructing Predictive Cognition Beyond Skulls.Axel Constant, Andy Clark, Michael Kirchhoff & Karl J. Friston - forthcoming - Mind and Language.
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  7.  50
    Thinking Through Other Minds: A Variational Approach to Cognition and Culture.Samuel P. L. Veissière, Axel Constant, Maxwell J. D. Ramstead, Karl J. Friston & Laurence J. Kirmayer - 2020 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 43:1-97.
    The processes underwriting the acquisition of culture remain unclear. How are shared habits, norms, and expectations learned and maintained with precision and reliability across large-scale sociocultural ensembles? Is there a unifying account of the mechanisms involved in the acquisition of culture? Notions such as “shared expectations,” the “selective patterning of attention and behaviour,” “cultural evolution,” “cultural inheritance,” and “implicit learning” are the main candidates to underpin a unifying account of cognition and the acquisition of culture; however, their interactions require greater (...)
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  8.  55
    Representation Wars: Enacting an Armistice Through Active Inference.Axel Constant, Andy Clark & Karl J. Friston - 2021 - Frontiers in Psychology 11.
    Over the last 30 years, representationalist and dynamicist positions in the philosophy of cognitive science have argued over whether neurocognitive processes should be viewed as representational or not. Major scientific and technological developments over the years have furnished both parties with ever more sophisticated conceptual weaponry. In recent years, an enactive generalization of predictive processing – known as active inference – has been proposed as a unifying theory of brain functions. Since then, active inference has fueled both representationalist and dynamicist (...)
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    Precise Worlds for Certain Minds: An Ecological Perspective on the Relational Self in Autism.Axel Constant, Jo Bervoets, Kristien Hens & Sander Van de Cruys - 2020 - Topoi 39 (3):611-622.
    Autism Spectrum Condition presents a challenge to social and relational accounts of the self, precisely because it is broadly seen as a disorder impacting social relationships. Many influential theories argue that social deficits and impairments of the self are the core problems in ASC. Predictive processing approaches address these based on general purpose neurocognitive mechanisms that are expressed atypically. Here we use the High, Inflexible Precision of Prediction Errors in Autism approach in the context of cultural niche construction to explain (...)
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  10.  15
    TTOM in Action: Refining the Variational Approach to Cognition and Culture.Samuel P. L. Veissière, Axel Constant, Maxwell J. D. Ramstead, Karl J. Friston & Laurence J. Kirmayer - 2020 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 43.
    The target article “Thinking Through Other Minds” offered an account of the distinctively human capacity to acquire cultural knowledge, norms, and practices. To this end, we leveraged recent ideas from theoretical neurobiology to understand the human mind in social and cultural contexts. Our aim was bothsynthetic– building an integrative model adequate to account for key features of cultural learning and adaptation; andprescriptive– showing how the tools developed to explain brain dynamics can be applied to the emergence of social and cultural (...)
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    A World Unto Itself: Human Communication as Active Inference.Jared Vasil, Paul B. Badcock, Axel Constant, Karl Friston & Maxwell J. D. Ramstead - 2020 - Frontiers in Psychology 11.
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    The First Prior: From Co-Embodiment to Co-Homeostasis in Early Life.Anna Ciaunica, Axel Constant, Hubert Preissl & Katerina Fotopoulou - 2021 - Consciousness and Cognition 91:103117.
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    Tinkering with Cognitive Gadgets: Cultural Evolutionary Psychology Meets Active Inference.Paul Benjamin Badcock, Axel Constant & Maxwell James Désormeau Ramstead - 2019 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42.
    Cognitive Gadgetsoffers a new, convincing perspective on the origins of our distinctive cognitive faculties, coupled with a clear, innovative research program. Although we broadly endorse Heyes’ ideas, we raise some concerns about her characterisation of evolutionary psychology and the relationship between biology and culture, before discussing the potential fruits of examining cognitive gadgets through the lens of active inference.
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    The Free Energy Principle: It’s Not About What It Takes, It’s About What Took You There.Axel Constant - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (2):1-17.
    Philosophical writings on the free energy principle in the life sciences often give the impression that minimising free energy is sufficient for life. But minimising free energy is not a sufficient condition for life. In fact, one can perfectly well conceive of a system that actively minimises its free energy, and for this very reason moves inexorably towards death. So, where does the assumption of this entailment relation come from? There is indeed an entailment relation, but it goes the other (...)
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