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The Math is not the Territory: Navigating the Free Energy Principle

Andrews, Mel (2020) The Math is not the Territory: Navigating the Free Energy Principle. [Preprint]

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Abstract

The free energy principle (FEP) has seen extensive philosophical engagement— both from a general philosophy of science perspective and from the perspective of philosophies of specific sciences: cognitive science, neuroscience, and biology. The literature on the FEP has attempted to draw out specific philosophical commitments and entailments of the framework. But the most fundamental questions, from the perspective of philosophy of science, remain open: To what discipline(s) does the FEP belong? Does it make falsifiable claims? What sort of scientific object is it? Is it to be taken as a representation of contingent states of affairs in nature? Does it constitute knowledge? What role is it in- tended to play in relation to empirical research? Does the FEP even properly belong to the domain of science? To the extent that it has engaged with them at all, the extant literature has begged, dodged, dismissed, and skirted around these questions, without ever addressing them head-on. These questions must, I urge, be answered satisfactorily before we can make any headway on the philosophical consequences of the FEP. I take preliminary steps towards answering these questions in this paper, first by examining closely key formal elements of the framework and the implications they hold for its utility, and second, by highlighting potential modes of interpreting the FEP in light of an abundant philosophical literature on scientific modelling.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Andrews, Melmel.andrews@tufts.edu0000-0002-0042-5098
Keywords: free energy principle, Bayesian brain, life-mind continuity, scientific models, modelling, simulations, scientific theories, epistemic virtues, falsification, demarcation problem
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Computation
Specific Sciences > Computation/Information
General Issues > Computer Simulation
Specific Sciences > Mathematics
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Perception
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Specific Sciences > Psychology
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Depositing User: Mel Andrews
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2020 19:23
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2020 19:23
Item ID: 18315
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Computation
Specific Sciences > Computation/Information
General Issues > Computer Simulation
Specific Sciences > Mathematics
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Perception
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Specific Sciences > Psychology
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Date: 25 October 2020
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18315

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