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Between pebbles and organisms: Weaving autonomy into the Markov blanket

van Es, Thomas and Kirchhoff, Michael D. (2020) Between pebbles and organisms: Weaving autonomy into the Markov blanket. [Preprint]

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Abstract

The free energy principle (FEP) purports to provide a single principle for the organizational dynamics of living systems, including their cognitive profiles. It states that for a system to maintain non-equilibrium steady-state with its environment it must minimise its free energy. It is said to be entirely scale-free, applying to anything from particles to organisms, and interactive machines, spanning from the abiotic to the biotic. Because the FEP is so general in its application, it is for this reason that one might wonder in what sense this framework captures anything specific to biological characteristics, if details at all. We take steps to correct for this here. We do so by taking up a distinct challenge that the FEP must overcome if it is to be of interest to those working in the biological sciences. We call this the pebble challenge: it states that the FEP cannot capture the organisational principles specific to biology, for its formalisms apply equally well to pebbles. We progress in solving the pebble challenge by articulating how the notion of ‘autonomy as precarious operational closure’ from the enactive literature can be unpacked within the FEP. This enables the FEP to delineate between the abiotic and the biotic; avoiding the pebble challenge that keeps it out of touch with the living systems we encounter in the world and is of interest to the sciences of life and mind.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
van Es, Thomasthomas.vanes@uantwerpen.be
Kirchhoff, Michael D.kirchhoff@uow.edu.au
Keywords: Free energy principle; Markov blanket; autonomy; operational closure; biology; cognition; the pebble challenge; unification
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
Depositing User: Mr. Thomas van Es
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2021 20:09
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2021 20:09
Item ID: 18574
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
Date: 1 August 2020
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18574

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