Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-t7hbd Total loading time: 0.341 Render date: 2022-05-19T08:48:09.359Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }
Accepted manuscript

The Emperor's New Markov Blankets

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 October 2021

Jelle Bruineberg*
Affiliation:
Department of Philosophy, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, E-mail: jelle.bruineberg@mq.edu.au
Krzysztof Dolega
Affiliation:
Institut für Philosophie 2, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany, E-mail: krzysztof.dolega@rub.de
Joe Dewhurst
Affiliation:
Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany, E-mail: joseph.e.dewhurst@gmail.com
Manuel Baltieri*
Affiliation:
Laboratory for Neural Computation and Adaptation, RIKEN Centre for Brain Science, Wako City, Japan, E-mail: manuel.baltieri@riken.jp

Abstract

The free energy principle, an influential framework in computational neuroscience and theoretical neurobiology, starts from the assumption that living systems ensure adaptive exchanges with their environment by minimizing the objective function of variational free energy. Following this premise, it claims to deliver a promising integration of the life sciences. In recent work, Markov Blankets, one of the central constructs of the free energy principle, have been applied to resolve debates central to philosophy (such as demarcating the boundaries of the mind). The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we trace the development of Markov blankets starting from their standard application in Bayesian networks, via variational inference, to their use in the literature on active inference. We then identify a persistent confusion in the literature between the formal use of Markov blankets as an epistemic tool for Bayesian inference, and their novel metaphysical use in the free energy framework to demarcate the physical boundary between an agent and its environment. Consequently, we propose to distinguish between ‘Pearl blankets’ to refer to the original epistemic use of Markov blankets and ‘Friston blankets’ to refer to the new metaphysical construct. Second, we use this distinction to critically assess claims resting on the application of Markov blankets to philosophical problems. We suggest that this literature would do well in differentiating between two different research programs: ‘inference with a model’ and ‘inference within a model’. Only the latter is capable of doing metaphysical work with Markov blankets, but requires additional philosophical premises and cannot be justified by an appeal to the success of the mathematical framework alone.

Type
Target Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
6
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Emperor's New Markov Blankets
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Emperor's New Markov Blankets
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Emperor's New Markov Blankets
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *