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The body as laboratory: Prediction-error minimization, embodiment, and representation

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In his (2014) paper, Jakob Hohwy outlines a theory of the brain as an organ for prediction-error minimization (PEM), which he claims has the potential to profoundly alter our understanding of mind and cognition. One manner in which our understanding of the mind is altered, according to PEM, stems from the neurocentric conception of the mind that falls out of the framework, which portrays the mind as “inferentially-secluded” from its environment. This in turn leads Hohwy to reject certain theses of embodied cognition. Focusing on this aspect of Hohwy’s argument, we first outline the key components of the PEM framework such as the “evidentiary boundary,” before looking at why this leads Hohwy to reject certain theses of embodied cognition. We will argue that although Hohwy may be correct to reject specific theses of embodied cognition, others are in fact implied by the PEM framework and may contribute to its development. We present the metaphor of the “body as a laboratory” in order to highlight what we believe is a more significant role for the body than Hohwy suggests. In detailing these claims, we will expose some of the challenges that PEM raises for providing an account of representation.
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Keywords: Active inference; active perception; embodied cognition; prediction-error minimization; representation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Publication date: May 18, 2016

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