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Multiscale integration: beyond internalism and externalism

Ramstead, MJD; Kirchhoff, MD; Constant, A; Friston, KJ; (2019) Multiscale integration: beyond internalism and externalism. Synthese 10.1007/s11229-019-02115-x. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

We present a multiscale integrationist interpretation of the boundaries of cognitive systems, using the Markov blanket formalism of the variational free energy principle. This interpretation is intended as a corrective for the philosophical debate over internalist and externalist interpretations of cognitive boundaries; we stake out a compromise position. We first survey key principles of new radical (extended, enactive, embodied) views of cognition. We then describe an internalist interpretation premised on the Markov blanket formalism. Having reviewed these accounts, we develop our positive multiscale account. We argue that the statistical seclusion of internal from external states of the system—entailed by the existence of a Markov boundary—can coexist happily with the multiscale integration of the system through its dynamics. Our approach does not privilege any given boundary (whether it be that of the brain, body, or world), nor does it argue that all boundaries are equally prescient. We argue that the relevant boundaries of cognition depend on the level being characterised and the explanatory interests that guide investigation. We approach the issue of how and where to draw the boundaries of cognitive systems through a multiscale ontology of cognitive systems, which offers a multidisciplinary research heuristic for cognitive science.

Type: Article
Title: Multiscale integration: beyond internalism and externalism
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11229-019-02115-x
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02115-x
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Keywords: Boundaries of cognition, Variational free energy principle, Externalism, Internalism, Enactive cognition, Embodied cognition, Markov blankets
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10076841
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