How to determine the boundaries of the mind: a Markov blanket proposal

Michael D. Kirchhoff, University of Wollongong
Julian Kiverstein, Universiteit van Amsterdam


We develop a truism of commonsense psychology that perception and action constitute the boundaries of the mind. We do so however not on the basis of commonsense psychology, but by using the notion of a Markov blanket originally employed to describe the topological properties of causal networks. We employ the Markov blanket formalism to propose precise criteria for demarcating the boundaries of the mind that unlike other rival candidates for “marks of the cognitive” avoids begging the question in the extended mind debate. Our criteria imply that the boundary of the mind is nested and multiscale sometimes extending beyond the individual agent to incorporate items located in the environment. Chalmers has used commonsense psychology to develop what he sees as the most serious challenge to the view that minds sometimes extend into the world. He has argued that perception and action should be thought of as interfaces that separate minds from their surrounding environment. In a series of recent papers Hohwy has defended a similar claim using the Markov blanket formalism. We use the Markov blanket formalism to show how both of their objections to the extended mind fail.


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