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The Literalist Fallacy & the Free Energy Principle: Model-building, Scientific Realism and Instrumentalism

Kirchhoff, Michael and Kiverstein, Julian and Robertson, Ian (2022) The Literalist Fallacy & the Free Energy Principle: Model-building, Scientific Realism and Instrumentalism. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Disagreement about how best to think of the relation between theories and the realities they represent has a longstanding and venerable history. We take up this debate in relation to active inference models based on the free energy principle (FEP) - a contemporary framework in computational neuroscience, theoretical biology and the philosophy of cognitive science. Active inference under the FEP is a very ambitious form of model-based science, being applied to explain everything from neurobiological structure and function to the biology of self-organisation. In this context, some find apparent discrepancies between the map (active inference models based on the FEP) and the territory (target systems) a compelling reason to defend instrumentalism about such models. We take this to be misguided. We identify an important fallacy made by those defending instrumentalism about active inference models. We call it the literalist fallacy: this is the fallacy of accepting or affirming instrumentalism based on the claim that the properties of active inference models based on the FEP do not literally map onto real-world, target systems. We conclude that a version of scientific realism about active inference models under the FEP is a live and tenable option.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Kirchhoff, Michaelkirchhof@uow.edu.au
Kiverstein, Julianj.d.kiverstein@amsterdamumc.nl
Robertson, Ianianrob@uow.edu.au
Keywords: Free energy principle; Active inference; Scientific realism; Instrumentalism; Model building; Idealisation; Approximation
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Depositing User: Dr Michael Kirchhoff
Date Deposited: 12 May 2022 04:06
Last Modified: 12 May 2022 04:06
Item ID: 20588
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Date: 11 May 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20588

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