An exciting theory in neuroscience is that the brain is an organ for prediction error minimization (PEM). This theory is rapidly gaining influence and is set to dominate the science of mind and brain in the years to come. PEM has extreme explanatory ambition, and profound philosophical implications. Here, I assume the theory, briefly explain it, and then I argue that PEM implies that the brain is essentially self-evidencing. This means it is imperative to identify an evidentiary boundary between the (...) brain and its environment. This boundary defines the mind-world relation, opens the door to skepticism, and makes the mind transpire as more inferentially secluded and neurocentrically skull-bound than many would nowadays think. Therefore, PEM somewhat deflates contemporary hypotheses that cognition is extended, embodied and enactive; however, it can nevertheless accommodate the kinds of cases that fuel these hypotheses. (shrink)
An exciting theory in neuroscience is that the brain is an organ for prediction error minimization. This theory is rapidly gaining influence and is set to dominate the science of mind and brain in the years to come. PEM has extreme explanatory ambition, and profound philosophical implications. Here, I assume the theory, briefly explain it, and then I argue that PEM implies that the brain is essentially self-evidencing. This means it is imperative to identify an evidentiary boundary between the brain (...) and its environment. This boundary defines the mind-world relation, opens the door to skepticism, and makes the mind transpire as more inferentially secluded and neurocentrically skull-bound than many would nowadays think. Therefore, PEM somewhat deflates contemporary hypotheses that cognition is extended, embodied and enactive; however, it can nevertheless accommodate the kinds of cases that fuel these hypotheses. (shrink)
The effect of the body transfer illusion on the perceived strength of self- and externally-generated “tickle” sensations was investigated. As expected, externally generated movement produced significantly higher ratings of tickliness than those associated with self-generated movements. Surprisingly, the body transfer illusion had no influence on the ratings of tickliness, suggesting that highly surprising, and therefore hard to predict, experiences of body image and first-person perspective do not abolish the attenuation of tickle sensations. In addition, evidence was found that a version (...) of the rubber hand illusion exists within the body transfer illusion. We situate our findings within the larger debate over sensory attenuation: there is an attenuation of prediction errors that depends upon the context in which sensory input is predicted , and sensory attenuation is a necessary consequence of self-generated movement irrespective of context . The results support the notion of active inference. (shrink)
Bortolotti’s Delusions and Other Irrational Beliefs defends the view that delusions are beliefs on a continuum with other beliefs. A different view is that delusions are more like illusions, that is, they arise from faulty perception. This view, which is not targeted by the book, makes it easier to explain why delusions are so alien and disabling but needs to appeal to forensic aspects of functioning.
In rubber hand illusions and full body illusions, touch sensations are projected to non-body objects such as rubber hands, dolls or virtual bodies. The robustness, limits and further perceptual consequences of such illusions are not yet fully explored or understood. A number of experiments are reported that test the limits of a variant of the rubber hand illusion. Methodology/Principal Findings -/- A variant of the rubber hand illusion is explored, in which the real and foreign hands are aligned in personal (...) space. The presence of the illusion is ascertained with participants' scores and temperature changes of the real arm. This generates a basic illusion of touch projected to a foreign arm. Participants are presented with further, unusual visuotactile stimuli subsequent to onset of the basic illusion. Such further visuotactile stimulation is found to generate very unusual experiences of supernatural touch and touch on a non-hand object. The finding of touch on a non-hand object conflicts with prior findings, and to resolve this conflict a further hypothesis is successfully tested: that without prior onset of the basic illusion this unusual experience does not occur. Conclusions/Significance -/- A rubber hand illusion is found that can arise when the real and the foreign arm are aligned in personal space. This illusion persists through periods of no tactile stimulation and is strong enough to allow very unusual experiences of touch felt on a cardboard box and experiences of touch produced at a distance, as if by supernatural causation. These findings suggest that one's visual body image is explained away during experience of the illusion and they may be of further importance to understanding the role of experience in delusion formation. The findings of touch on non-hand objects may help reconcile conflicting results in this area of research. In addition, new evidence is provided that relates to the recently discovered psychologically induced temperature changes that occur during the illusion. (shrink)
It appears that consciousness science is progressing soundly, in particular in its search for the neural correlates of consciousness. There are two main approaches to this search, one is content-based (focusing on the contrast between conscious perception of, e.g., faces vs. houses), the other is state-based (focusing on overall conscious states, e.g., the contrast between dreamless sleep vs. the awake state). Methodological and conceptual considerations of a number of concrete studies show that both approaches are problematic: the content-based approach seems (...) to set aside crucial aspects of consciousness; and the state-based approach seems over-inclusive in a way that is hard to rectify without losing sight of the crucial conscious-unconscious contrast. Consequently, the search for the neural correlates of consciousness is in need of new experimental paradigms. (shrink)
The phenomenology of agency and perception is probably underpinned by a common cognitive system based on generative models and predictive coding. I defend the hypothesis that this cognitive system explains core aspects of the sense of having a self in agency and perception. In particular, this cognitive model explains the phenomenological notion of a minimal self as well as a notion of the narrative self. The proposal is related to some influential studies of overall brain function, and to psychopathology. These (...) elusive notions of the self are shown to be the natural upshots of general cognitive mechanisms whose fundamental purpose is to enable agents to represent the world and act in it. (shrink)
Recent research has begun to investigate sensory processing in relation to nonclinical variation in traits associated with the autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We propose that existing accounts of autistic perception can be augmented by considering a role for individual differences in top-down expectations for the precision of sensory input, related to the processing of state-dependent levels of uncertainty. We therefore examined ASD-like traits in relation to the rubber-hand illusion: an experimental paradigm that typically elicits crossmodal integration of visual, tactile, and (...) proprioceptive information in an unusual illusory context. Individuals with higher ASD-like traits showed reduced effects of the rubber-hand illusion on perceived arm position and reach-to-grasp movements, compared to individuals with lower ASD-like traits. These differences occurred despite both groups reporting the typical subjective experience of the illusion concerning visuotactile integration and ownership for the rubber hand. Together these results suggest that the integration of proprioceptive information with cues for arm position derived from the illusory context differs between individuals partly in relation to traits associated with ASD. We suggest that the observed differences in sensory integration can be best explained in terms of differing expectations regarding the precision of sensory estimates in contexts that suggest uncertainty. (shrink)
Different cognitive functions recruit a number of different, often overlapping, areas of the brain. Theories in cognitive and computational neuroscience are beginning to take this kind of functional integration into account. The contributions to this special issue consider what functional integration tells us about various aspects of the mind such as perception, language, volition, agency, and reward. Here, I consider how and why functional integration may matter for the mind; I discuss a general theoretical framework, based on generative models, that (...) may unify many of the debates surrounding functional integration and the mind; and I briefly introduce each of the contributions. (shrink)
Most consciousness researchers, almost no matter what their views of the metaphysics of consciousness, can agree that the first step in a science of consciousness is the search for the neural correlate of consciousness (the NCC). The reason for this agreement is that the notion of ‘correlation’ doesn’t by itself commit one to any particular metaphysical view about the relation between (neural) matter and consciousness. For example, some might treat the correlates as causally related, while others might view the correlation (...) as evidence for identity between conscious states and brain states. The common ground therefore seems to be that the scientific search for the NCC is largely independent of the metaphysics of consciousness. (shrink)
Autism spectrum disorder is characterised by differences in unimodal and multimodal sensory and proprioceptive processing, with complex biases towards local over global processing. Many of these elements are implicated in versions of the rubber hand illusion, which were therefore studied in high-functioning individuals with ASD and a typically developing control group. Both groups experienced the illusion. A number of differences were found, related to proprioception and sensorimotor processes. The ASD group showed reduced sensitivity to visuotactile-proprioceptive discrepancy but more accurate proprioception. (...) This group also differed on acceleration in subsequent reach trials. Results are discussed in terms of weak top-down integration and precision-accuracy trade-offs. The RHI appears to be a useful tool for investigating multisensory processing in ASD. (shrink)
Three challenges to a unified understanding of delusions emerge from Radden's On Delusion (2011). Here, I propose that in order to respond to these challenges, and to work towards a unifying framework for delusions, we should see delusions as arising in inference under uncertainty. This proposal is based on the observation that delusions in key respects are surprisingly like perceptual illusions, and it is developed further by focusing particularly on individual differences in uncertainty expectations.
Distributive justice decision making tends to require a trade off between different valued outcomes. The present study tracked computer mouse cursor movements in a forced-choice paradigm to examine for tension between different parameters of distributive justice during the decision-making process. Participants chose between set meal distributions, to third parties, that maximised either equality (the evenness of the distribution) or efficiency (the total number of meals distributed). Across different formulations of these dilemmas, responding was consistent with the notion that individuals tend (...) to base decisions in part on the magnitude of these parameters. In addition, dilemmas associated with inconsistent responding across the sample tended to elicit the greatest spatial deviation of the cursor, potentially reflecting dilemma difficulty. One interpretation of these results is that individuals value equality and efficiency in such a way that moral dilemmas are resolved by comparing the perceived value of these qualitatively different parameters, consistent with a value pluralistic framework of decision making. A post-hoc analysis indicated that individuals also incorporated sufficiency concerns during distributive justice decision making. The results are discussed in relation to political philosophy. (shrink)
Some monothematic types of delusions may arise because subjects have unusual experiences. The role of this experiential component in the pathogenesis of delusion is still not understood. Focussing on delusions of alien control, we outline a model for reality testing competence on unusual experiences. We propose that nascent delusions arise when there are local failures of reality testing performance, and that monothematic delusions arise as normal responses to these. In the course of this we address questions concerning the tenacity with (...) which delusions are maintained, their often bizarre content, the patients' inability to dismiss them, and their often circumscribed character. (shrink)
The notion that the brain is a prediction error minimizer entails, via the notion of Markov blankets and self-evidencing, a form of global scepticism — an inability to rule out evil demon scenarios. This type of scepticism is viewed by some as a sign of a fatally flawed conception of mind and cognition. Here I discuss whether this scepticism is ameliorated by acknowledging the role of action in the most ambitious approach to prediction error minimization, namely under the free energy (...) principle. I argue that the scepticism remains but that the role of action in the free energy principle constrains the demon’s work. This yields new insights about the free energy principle, epistemology, and the place of mind in nature. (shrink)
Clark acknowledges but resists the indirect mind–world relation inherent in prediction error minimization (PEM). But directness should also be resisted. This creates a puzzle, which calls for reconceptualization of the relation. We suggest that a causal conception captures both aspects. With this conception, aspects of situated cognition, social interaction and culture can be understood as emerging through precision optimization.
Investigation of neural and cognitive processes underlying individual variation in moral preferences is underway, with notable similarities emerging between moral- and risk-based decision-making. Here we specifically assessed moral distributive justice preferences and non-moral financial gambling preferences in the same individuals, and report an association between these seemingly disparate forms of decision-making. Moreover, we find this association between distributive justice and risky decision-making exists primarily when the latter is assessed with the Iowa Gambling Task. These findings are consistent with neuroimaging studies (...) of brain function during moral and risky decision-making. This research also constitutes the first replication of a novel experimental measure of distributive justice decision-making, for which individual variation in performance was found. Further examination of decision-making processes across different contexts may lead to an improved understanding of the factors affecting moral behaviour. (shrink)
According to one theory, the brain is a sophisticated hypothesis tester: perception is Bayesian unconscious inference where the brain actively uses predictions to test, and then refine, models about what the causes of its sensory input might be. The brain’s task is simply continually to minimise prediction error. This theory, which is getting increasingly popular, holds great explanatory promise for a number of central areas of research at the intersection of philosophy and cognitive neuroscience. I show how the theory can (...) help us understand striking phenomena at three cognitive levels: vision, sensory integration, and belief. First, I illustrate central aspects of the theory by showing how it provides a nice explanation of why binocular rivalry occurs. Then I suggest how the theory may explain the role of the unified sense of self in rubber hand and full body illusions driven by visuotactile conflict. Finally, I show how it provides an approach to delusion formation that is consistent with one-deficit accounts of monothematic delusions. (shrink)
This chapter explores the idea that the need to establish common knowledge is one feature that makes social cognition stand apart in important ways from cognition in general. We develop this idea on the background of the claim that social cognition is nothing but a type of causal inference. We focus on autism as our test-case, and propose that a specific type of problem with common knowledge processing is implicated in challenges to social cognition in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This (...) problem has to do with the individual’s assessment of the reliability of messages that are passed between people as common knowledge emerges. The proposal is developed on the background of our own empirical studies and outlines different ways common knowledge might be comprised. We discuss what these issues may tell us about ASD, about the relation between social and non-social cognition, about social objects, and about the dynamics of social networks. (shrink)
There is surprising evidence that introspection of our phenomenal states varies greatly between individuals and within the same individual over time. This puts pressure on the notion that introspection gives reliable access to our own phenomenology: introspective unreliability would explain the variability, while assuming that the underlying phenomenology is stable. I appeal to a body of neurocomputational, Bayesian theory and neuroimaging findings to provide an alternative explanation of the evidence: though some limited testing conditions can cause introspection to be unreliable, (...) mostly it is our phenomenology itself that is variable. With this account of phenomenal variability, the occurrence of the surprising evidence can be explained while generally retaining introspective reliability. (shrink)
Cognitive neuroscience aspires to explain how the brain produces conscious states. Many people think this aspiration is threatened by the subjective nature of introspective reports, as well as by certain philosophical arguments. We propose that good neuroscientific explanations of conscious states can consolidate an interpretation of introspective reports, in spite of their subjective nature. This is because the relative quality of explanations can be evaluated on independent, methodological grounds. To illustrate, we review studies that suggest that aspects of the feeling (...) of being in control of one's bodily movement can be explained in terms of the complex and surprising way the brain predicts movement. This is a modest type of functional, contrastive explanation. Though we do not refute the threatening philosophical arguments, we show that they do not apply to this type of explanation. (shrink)
This chapter seeks to recover an approach to consciousness from a general theory of brain function, namely the prediction error minimization theory. The way this theory applies to mental and developmental disorder demonstrates its relevance to consciousness. The resulting view is discussed in relation to a contemporary theory of consciousness, namely the idea that conscious perception depends on Bayesian metacognition; this theory is also supported by considerations of psychopathology. This Bayesian theory is first disconnected from the higher-order thought theory, and (...) then, via a prediction error conception of action, connected instead to the global neuronal workspace theory. Considerations of mental and developmental disorder therefore show that a very general theory of brain function is relevant to explaining the structure of conscious perception; furthermore, this theory can subsume and unify two contemporary approaches to consciousness, in a move that seeks to elucidate the fundamental mechanism for selection of representational content into consciousness. (shrink)
The theory of rationality has traditionally been concerned with the investigation of the norms of rational thought and behaviour, and with the reasoning procedures that satisfy them. As a consequence, the investigation of irrationality has largely been restricted to the behaviour or thought that violates these norms. There are, however, other forms of irrationality. Here we propose that the delusions that occur in schizophrenia constitute a paradigm of irrationality. We examine a leading theory of schizophrenic delusion and propose that some (...) delusions can be traced to a violation of a condition on thought we call egocentricity. We argue that the violation of egocentricity leads to irrational states that cannot be explained by the traditional categories of irrationality and conclude, therefore, that these states belong in a new branch of the theory of irrationality, that of experiential irralionahly. (shrink)
Most of us have a very firm belief in mental causation; that is, we firmly believe that our own distinctly mental properties are causally efficacious in the production of our behavior. This belief is dominating in contemporary philosophy of mind as a part of the causal explanatory exclusion problem for non-reductive materialists. I do not discuss the exclusion problem; rather, I assess the conception of mental causation that is presupposed in the current debate. I propose that in order to make (...) sense of our firm belief in mental causation we need to operate with a broader conception of it than is normally seen, focusing on common-sense aspects concerning the timing, awareness, control, and tracking of mental causation. However, prominent studies in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience show that mental causation is not as self-evident, robust, and pervasive as our firm belief in it would suggest. There is therefore a tension between the common-sense, broad conception of mental causation and our empirical evidence for mental causation. A full defense of mental causation is not just a matter of securing causal efficacy but also of situating our notion of mental properties in relation to difficult issues concerning awareness, control, and judgment. (shrink)
Creatures that have different physical realizations than human beings may or may not be conscious. Ned Block’s ‘harder problem of consciousness’ is that naturalistic phenomenal realists have no conception of a rational ground for belief that they have or have not discovered consciousness in such a creature. Drawing on the notion of inference to the best explanation, it appears the arguments to these conclusions beg the question and ignore that explanation may be a guide to discovery. Thus, best explanation can (...) both validate an interpretation of the evidence and lead to the discovery of consciousness. (shrink)
Any position that promises genuine progress on the mind-body problem deserves attention. Recently, Daniel Stoljar has identified a physicalist version of Russells notion of neutral monism; he elegantly argues that with this type of physicalism it is possible to disambiguate on the notion of physicalism in such a way that the problem is resolved. The further issue then arises of whether we have reason to believe that this type of physicalism is in fact true. Ultimately, one needs to argue for (...) this position by inference to the best explanation, and I show that this new type of physicalism does not hold promise of more explanatory prowess than its relevant rivals, and that, whether it is better than its rivals or not, it is doubtful whether it would furnish us with genuine explanations of the phenomenal at all. (shrink)
Is it rational to believe that the mind is identical to the brain? Identity theorists say it is (or looks like it will be, once all the neuroscientific evidence is in), and they base this claim on a general epistemic route to belief in identity. I re-develop this general route and defend it against some objections. Then I discuss how rational belief in mind–brain identity, obtained via this route, can be threatened by an appropriately adjusted version of the anti-physicalist knowledge (...) argument. Responses to this threat usually appeal either to different modes of presentation or to phenomenal concepts. But neither type of response is satisfactory. I provide a novel response, which appeals to an innocuous epistemic peculiarity of phenomenal states, namely their, as I shall call it, evidential insulation. (shrink)
A central part of Kripke's influential interpretation of Wittgenstein's sceptical argument about meaning is the rejection of dispositional analyses of what it is for a word to mean what it does (Kripke, 1982). In this paper I show that Kripke's arguments prove too much: if they were right, they would preclude not only the idea that dispositional properties can make statements about the meanings of words true, but also the idea that dispositional properties can make true statements about paradigmatic dispositional (...) properties such as a cup's fragility or a person's bravery. However, since dispositional properties can make such statements true, Kripke-Wittgenstein's arguments against dispositionalism about meaning are mistaken. (shrink)
In this paper, we consider how certain longstanding philosophical questions about mental representation may be answered on the assumption that cognitive and perceptual systems implement hierarchical generative models, such as those discussed within the prediction error minimization framework. We build on existing treatments of representation via structural resemblance, such as those in Gładziejewski :559–582, 2016) and Gładziejewski and Miłkowski, to argue for a representationalist interpretation of the PEM framework. We further motivate the proposed approach to content by arguing that it (...) is consistent with approaches implicit in theories of unsupervised learning in neural networks. In the course of this discussion, we argue that the structural representation proposal, properly understood, has more in common with functional-role than with causal/informational or teleosemantic theories. In the remainder of the paper, we describe the PEM framework for approximate Bayesian inference in some detail, and discuss how structural representations might arise within the proposed Bayesian hierarchies. After explicating the notion of variational inference, we define a subjectively accessible measure of misrepresentation for hierarchical Bayesian networks by appeal to the Kullbach–Leibler divergence between posterior generative and approximate recognition densities, and discuss a related measure of objective misrepresentation in terms of correspondence with the facts. (shrink)
We use the hierarchical nature of Bayesian perceptual inference to explain a fundamental aspect of the temporality of experience, namely the phenomenology of temporal flow. The explanation says that the sense of temporal flow in conscious perception stems from probabilistic inference that the present cannot be trusted. The account begins by describing hierarchical inference under the notion of prediction error minimization, and exemplifies distrust of the present within bistable visual perception and action initiation. Distrust of the present is then discussed (...) in relation to previous research on temporal phenomenology. Finally, we discuss how there may be individual differences in the experience of temporal flow, in particular along the autism spectrum. The resulting view is that the sense of temporal flow in conscious perception results from an internal, inferential process. (shrink)
Disorders of consciousness include coma, the vegetative state and the minimally conscious state. Such patients are often regarded as unconscious. This has consequences for end of life decisions for these patients: it is much easier to justify withdrawing life support for unconscious than conscious patients. Recent brain imaging research has however suggested that some patients may in fact be conscious.
Nancy Cartwright argues that so-called capacities, not universal laws of nature, best explain the often complex way events actually unfold. On this view, science would represent a world that is fundamentally "dappled", or disunified, and not, as orthodoxy would perhaps have it, a world unified by universal laws of nature. I argue, first, that the problem Cartwright raises for laws of nature seems to arise for capacities too, so why reject laws of nature? Second, that in so far as there (...) is a problem, it concerns the role of counterfactuals in explanation; I then briefly propose a simple model of counterfactual explanation. Finally, I investigate how a sophisticated version of the regularity theory of laws of nature (that of Ramsey-Lewis) can be neutral between the empirical hypotheses that the world is unified, and that the world is disunified. (shrink)
Cognitive neuropsychiatry attempts to understand psychiatric disorders as disturbances to the normal function of human cognitive organisation, and it attempts to link this functional framework to relevant brain structures and their pathology. This recent scientific discipline is the natural extension of cognitive neuroscience into the domain of psychiatry. We present two examples of recent research in cognitive neuropsychiatry: delusions of control in schizophrenia, and affective disorders. The examples demonstrate how the cognitive approach is a fruitful and necessary supplement to the (...) otherwise successful biological psychiatry paradigm, which tend to bypass the cognitive level. Philosophy concerns some of the core concepts involved in psychiatric illness, particularly concerning rationality, thought and action, reality testing, and the self. We present concrete examples that illustrate how philosophical conceptual tools can be particularly important for the construction and interpretation of the cognitive models relevant to the understanding of psychiatric illness. We conclude that cognitive neuropsychiatry is a fruitful and necessary supplement to biological psychiatry. Furthermore, cognitive neuropsychiatry itself may benefit significantly from employing philosophical conceptual tools in the interpretation and construction of its cognitive models. The cognitive and philosophical approaches may thus be further steps towards a scientific psychopathology. (shrink)
Kripke-Wittgenstein meaning skepticism appears as a serious threat to the idea that there could be meaning-constituting facts. Some people argue that the only viable response is to adopt semantic primitivism (SP). SP is the doctrine that meaning-facts are _sui generis and irreducibly semantic. The idea is that by allowing such primitive semantic facts into our ontology Kripke's skeptical paradox cannot arise. I argue that SP is untenable in spite of its apparent resourcefulness. (edited).
The normative character of meaning creates deep problems for the attempt to give a reductive explanation of the constitution of meaning. I identify and critically examine an increasingly popular Carnap-style position, which I call Internalized Meaning Factualism (versions of which I argue are defended by, e.g., Robert Brandom, Paul Horwich and Huw Price), that promises to solve the problems. According to this position, the problem of meaning can be solved by prohibiting an external perspective on meaning constituting properties. The idea (...) is that if we stick to a perspective on meaning that is internal to meaning discourse, then we can preserve the normativity of meaning and yet locate meaning in the natural world. I develop a generic motivation for this position, but argue that, since this motivation is consistent with the Ramsey–Carnap–Lewis–Jackson reductionist strategy, internalized meaning factualism is unstable. The problems about the normativity of meaning can therefore not be sidestepped in this way. (shrink)