From representations in predictive processing to degrees of representational features

Minds and Machines 32 (3):461-484 (2022)
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Whilst the topic of representations is one of the key topics in philosophy of mind, it has only occasionally been noted that representations and representational features may be gradual. Apart from vague allusions, little has been said on what representational gradation amounts to and why it could be explanatorily useful. The aim of this paper is to provide a novel take on gradation of representational features within the neuroscientific framework of predictive processing. More specifically, we provide a gradual account of two features of structural representations: structural similarity and decoupling. We argue that structural similarity can be analysed in terms of two dimensions: number of preserved relations and state space granularity. Both dimensions can take on different values and hence render structural similarity gradual. We further argue that decoupling is gradual in two ways. First, we show that different brain areas are involved in decoupled cognitive processes to a greater or lesser degree depending on the cause (internal or external) of their activity. Second, and more importantly, we show that the degree of decoupling can be further regulated in some brain areas through precision weighting of prediction error. We lastly argue that gradation of decoupling (via precision weighting) and gradation of structural similarity (via state space granularity) are conducive to behavioural success.



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