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Between pebbles and organisms: weaving autonomy into the Markov blanket

Journal Article


Abstract


  • The free energy principle (FEP) is sometimes put forward as accounting for biological self-organization and cognition. It states that for a system to maintain non-equilibrium steady-state with its environment it can be described as minimising its free energy. It is said to be entirely scale-free, applying to anything from particles to organisms, and interactive machines, spanning from the abiotic to the biotic. Because the FEP is so general in its application, one might wonder whether this framework can capture anything specific to biology. We take steps to correct for this here. We first explicate the worry, taking pebbles as examples of an abiotic system, and then discuss to what extent the FEP can distinguish its dynamics from an organism���s. We articulate the notion of ���autonomy as precarious operational closure��� from the enactive literature, and investigate how it can be unpacked within the FEP. This enables the FEP to delineate between the abiotic and the biotic; avoiding the pebble worry that keeps it out of touch with the living systems we encounter in the world.

Publication Date


  • 2021

Citation


  • van Es, T., & Kirchhoff, M. D. (2021). Between pebbles and organisms: weaving autonomy into the Markov blanket. Synthese, 199(3-4), 6623-6644. doi:10.1007/s11229-021-03084-w

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85102079239

Web Of Science Accession Number


Start Page


  • 6623

End Page


  • 6644

Volume


  • 199

Issue


  • 3-4

Place Of Publication


Abstract


  • The free energy principle (FEP) is sometimes put forward as accounting for biological self-organization and cognition. It states that for a system to maintain non-equilibrium steady-state with its environment it can be described as minimising its free energy. It is said to be entirely scale-free, applying to anything from particles to organisms, and interactive machines, spanning from the abiotic to the biotic. Because the FEP is so general in its application, one might wonder whether this framework can capture anything specific to biology. We take steps to correct for this here. We first explicate the worry, taking pebbles as examples of an abiotic system, and then discuss to what extent the FEP can distinguish its dynamics from an organism���s. We articulate the notion of ���autonomy as precarious operational closure��� from the enactive literature, and investigate how it can be unpacked within the FEP. This enables the FEP to delineate between the abiotic and the biotic; avoiding the pebble worry that keeps it out of touch with the living systems we encounter in the world.

Publication Date


  • 2021

Citation


  • van Es, T., & Kirchhoff, M. D. (2021). Between pebbles and organisms: weaving autonomy into the Markov blanket. Synthese, 199(3-4), 6623-6644. doi:10.1007/s11229-021-03084-w

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85102079239

Web Of Science Accession Number


Start Page


  • 6623

End Page


  • 6644

Volume


  • 199

Issue


  • 3-4

Place Of Publication