Autopoiesis, free energy, and the life-mind continuity thesis



Publication Details

Kirchhoff, M. D. (2018). Autopoiesis, free energy, and the life–mind continuity thesis. Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science, 195 (6), 2519-2540.


The life-mind continuity thesis is difficult to study, especially because the relation between life and mind is not yet fully understood, and given that there is still no consensus view neither on what qualifies as life nor on what defines mind. Rather than taking up the much more difficult task of addressing the many different ways of explaining how life relates to mind, and vice versa, this paper considers two influential accounts addressing how best to understand the life-mind continuity thesis: first, the theory of autopoiesis (AT) developed in biology and in enactivist theories of mind; and second, the recently formulated free energy principle in theoretical neurobiology, with roots in thermodynamics and statistical physics. This paper advances two claims. The first is that the free energy principle (FEP) should be preferred to the theory of AT, as classically formulated. The second is that the FEP and the recently formulated framework of autopoietic enactivism can be shown to be genuinely continuous on a number of central issues, thus raising the possibility of a joint venture when it comes to answering the life-mind continuity thesis.

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