Luke Kersten – The Status of Markov Blankets: An Abstracta Realist Proposal

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for June, 11th, at 12:00 (CET). Our guest will be Luke Kersten (University of Edinburgh). We will discuss a draft paper:The Status of Markov Blankets: An Abstracta Realist Proposal.

 This paper takes up a recent challenge to the use of Markov blankets in the context of demarcating the boundaries of cognition, what I call the “status problem”. The status problem says that while it makes sense to think of Markov blankets as either a methodological tool for investigating cognitive systems or an ontological category for determining the boundaries of systems, it does not make sense to think of them as both. The status problem generates a dilemma, either: i) Markov blankets are a purely formal tool, in which case they do not help to demarcate the boundaries of the cognition, or ii) they denote an ontological category, in which case they do help to demarcate the boundaries of cognition but only at the cost of taking on controversial metaphysical assumptions. After surveying potential responses, I argue that progress can be made on the status problem by reconceptualising Markov blankets as ‘abstracta’. This, I suggest, enables one to not only provide an answer to the status problem, but also avoid the dilemma.

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