Computational enactivism under the free energy principle

Synthese 198 (3):2743-2763 (2019)

Abstract

In this paper, I argue that enactivism and computationalism—two seemingly incompatible research traditions in modern cognitive science—can be fruitfully reconciled under the framework of the free energy principle. FEP holds that cognitive systems encode generative models of their niches and cognition can be understood in terms of minimizing the free energy of these models. There are two philosophical interpretations of this picture. A computationalist will argue that as FEP claims that Bayesian inference underpins both perception and action, it entails a concept of cognition as a computational process. An enactivist, on the other hand, will point out that FEP explains cognitive systems as constantly self-organizing to non-equilibrium steady-state. My claim is that these two interpretations are both true at the same time and that they enlighten each other.

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