A new theory is taking hold in neuroscience. It is the theory that the brain is essentially a hypothesis-testing mechanism, one that attempts to minimise the error of its predictions about the sensory input it receives from the world. It is an attractive theory because powerful theoretical arguments support it, and yet it is at heart stunningly simple. Jakob Hohwy explains and explores this theory from the perspective of cognitive science and philosophy. The key argument throughout The Predictive Mind is that the mechanism explains the rich, deep, and multifaceted character of our conscious perception. It also gives a unified account of how perception is sculpted by attention, and how it depends on action. The mind is revealed as having a fragile and indirect relation to the world. Though we are deeply in tune with the world we are also strangely distanced from it. The first part of the book sets out how the theory enables rich, layered perception. The theory's probabilistic and statistical foundations are explained using examples from empirical research and analogies to different forms of inference.The second part uses the simple mechanism in an explanation of problematic cases of how we manage to represent, and sometimes misrepresent, the world in health as well as in mental illness. The third part looks into the mind, and shows how the theory accounts for attention, conscious unity, introspection, self and the privacy of our mental world.
Oxford University Press
December 13, 2013
About the author
Jakob Hohwy is a philosopher engaged in both conceptual and experimental research. He works on problems in philosophy of mind about perception, neuroscience, and mental illness. At the same time, he collaborates with neuroscientists and psychiatrists, conducting experiments that put philosophical ideas to the test and that bring philosophical concerns into the lab. Hohwy completed his PhD at the Australian National University, his Masters degree at St Andrews University in Scotland, and his basic philosophy training in Denmark. He has set up the Philosophy and Cognition lab in the Philosophy Department at Monash University in Melbourne.
How does your brain generate accurate perceptual experiences? How does it initiate action? How does it do virtually everything else it does? Jakob Hohwy's book provides an ambitious, controversial answer ... I predict that Hohwy's book will be an important part of the discussion. Jona Vance, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews This is a wonderful and deep book. I have heard it said that it heralds a paradigm shift in cognitive neuroscience and perhaps neurophilosophy. It is an eloquent and accessible synthesis of recent advances in theoretical neurobiology, as they apply to the human brain and mind. I confess that I had thought about writing a book addressing the more technical themes but having read The Predictive Mind, I feel curiously complacent and content, because this book says everything that needed to be said and much more. Karl Friston, University College London Every now and then a book appears that looks set to be a milestone in the interdisciplinary study of mind. This is one of those rare and import