A critical analysis of Markovian monism


Synthese, vol.199, no.3-4, pp.6407-6427, 2021 (Journal Indexed in SCI Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 199 Issue: 3-4
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11229-021-03075-x
  • Title of Journal : Synthese
  • Page Numbers: pp.6407-6427
  • Keywords: Free energy principle, Markovian monism, Fictional models, Mathematical models


© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. part of Springer Nature.Free Energy Principle underlies a unifying framework that integrates theories of origins of life, cognition, and action. Recently, FEP has been developed into a Markovian monist perspective (Friston et al. in BC 102: 227–260, 2020). The paper expresses scepticism about the validity of arguments for Markovian monism. The critique is based on the assumption that Markovian models are scientific models, and while we may defend ontological theories about the nature of scientific models, we could not read off metaphysical theses about the nature of target systems (self-organising conscious systems, in the present context) from our theories of nature of scientific models (Markov blankets). The paper draws attention to different ways of understanding Markovian models, as material entities, fictional entities, and mathematical structures. I argue that none of these interpretations contributes to the defence of a metaphysical stance (either in terms of neutral monism or reductive physicalism). This is because scientific representation is a sophisticated process, and properties of Markovian models—such as the property of being neither physical nor mental—could not be projected onto their targets to determine the ontological properties of targets easily.