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The Literalist Fallacy & the Free Energy Principle: Model-building, Scientific Realism and Instrumentalism

Kirchhoff, Michael and Kiverstein, Julian and Robertson, Ian (2022) The Literalist Fallacy & the Free Energy Principle: Model-building, Scientific Realism and Instrumentalism. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Disagreement about how best to think of the relation between theories and the realities they represent has a longstanding and venerable history. We take up this debate in relation to the free energy principle (FEP) - a contemporary framework in computational neuroscience, theoretical biology and the philosophy of cognitive science. The FEP is very ambitious, extending from the brain sciences to the biology of self-organisation. In this context, some find apparent discrepancies between the map (the FEP) and the territory (target systems) a compelling reason to defend instrumentalism about the FEP. We take this to be misguided. We identify an important fallacy made by those defending instrumentalism about the FEP. We call it the literalist fallacy: this is the fallacy of inferring the truth of instrumentalism based on the claim that the properties of FEP models do not literally map onto real-world, target systems. We conclude that scientific realism about the FEP is a live and tenable option.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Kirchhoff, Michaelkirchhof@uow.edu.au
Kiverstein, Julianj.d.kiverstein@amsterdamumc.nl
Robertson, Ianianrob@uow.edu.au
Keywords: Free energy principle; Scientific realism; Instrumentalism; Model building; Idealisation; Approximation
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Depositing User: Dr Michael Kirchhoff
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2022 04:39
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2022 04:39
Item ID: 20077
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Date: 3 January 2022
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20077

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