The anticipating brain is not a scientist: the free-energy principle from an ecological-enactive perspective

Jelle Bruineberg, Julian Kiverstein, Erik Rietveld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this paper, we argue for a theoretical separation of the free-energy principle from Helmholtzian accounts of the predictive brain. The free-energy principle is a theoretical framework capturing the imperative for biological self-organization in information-theoretic terms. The free-energy principle has typically been connected with a Bayesian theory of predictive coding, and the latter is often taken to support a Helmholtzian theory of perception as unconscious inference. If our interpretation is right, however, a Helmholtzian view of perception is incompatible with Bayesian predictive coding under the free-energy principle. We argue that the free energy principle and the ecological and enactive approach to mind and life make for a much happier marriage of ideas. We make our argument based on three points. First we argue that the free energy principle applies to the whole animal–environment system, and not only to the brain. Second, we show that active inference, as understood by the free-energy principle, is incompatible with unconscious inference understood as analagous to scientific hypothesis-testing, the main tenet of a Helmholtzian view of perception. Third, we argue that the notion of inference at work in Bayesian predictive coding under the free-energy principle is too weak to support a Helmholtzian theory of perception. Taken together these points imply that the free energy principle is best understood in ecological and enactive terms set out in this paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2417-2444
Number of pages28
JournalSynthese
Volume195
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • Action-readiness
  • Active inference
  • Affordances
  • Enaction
  • Free-energy principle
  • Metastability
  • Predictive-coding
  • Skilled intentionality

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The anticipating brain is not a scientist: the free-energy principle from an ecological-enactive perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this