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Jakob Hohwy: The predictive mind

Oxford University Press, 2013, (ISBN 9780199682737) 286 pp, Hardcover, £65

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    Clark (2015) seems to come close to endorsing this view. For example, he claims that states of the brain are action-oriented. That is, the brain’s internal model is geared towards “delivering a grip on the patterns that matter for the interactions that matter” (p5, italics in original) As a result, even high-level states of a PEM mechanism do not describe the world, that is, have anything like recognizably contentful properties. Yet Clark also sees this as entirely compatible with contentful talk. However, how or why this should be so is, in my opinion, much less clear.

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    It is worth pointing out that PEM is compatible with both externalist and internalist views about mentality. For example, Clark sees PEM as revealing those “key aspects of neural functioning that makes structuring our worlds genuinely continuous with structuring our brains and sculpting our actions” (2013, p194). Hence, PEM supports the situatedness of mentality, that is, it supports the view that the environment plays more than simply a causal role in underscoring human mentality. This is an externalist view. Hohwy, on the other hand, acknowledges that mind and world are “genuinely continuous”, but understands this as revealing the fragility of our perceptual inferences, and so as evidence of our attempts to compensate for such fragility. That is, we structure our environments and/or our engagements with those environments so as to optimize the incoming sensory signal i.e. make it more precise and so improve our internal predictions. This ensures that the situatedness of mentality is, pace Clark, confirmation of the brain’s seclusion from the hidden causes of the world. As such, the sensory boundary between brain and world is not malleable but rather “principled, indispensable, and epistemically critical” (Hohwy 2013, p239). In other words, PEM supports an internalist view.


  1. Clark, A. (2013). Whatever next? Predictive brains, situated agents and the future of cognitive science. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(3), 181–204.

  2. Clark, A. (2015). Predicting peace: The end of the representation wars. A reply to Michael Madray. In T. Metzinger & J. M. Windt (Eds.), Open mind: 7 (R). Frankfurt am Main: MIND group.

  3. Hohwy, J. (2013). The Predictive Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  4. Hutto, D., & Myin, E. (2013). Radicalising enactivism: Basic minds without content. Cambridge: MIT Press.

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Correspondence to Victor Loughlin.

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Loughlin, V. Jakob Hohwy: The predictive mind. Phenom Cogn Sci 16, 753–758 (2017).

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