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Andy Clark and His Critics$
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Matteo Colombo, Elizabeth Irvine, and Mog Stapleton

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190662813

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190662813.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 19 October 2021

Being a Beast Machine

Being a Beast Machine

The Origins of Selfhood in Control-Oriented Interoceptive Inference

(p.238) 17 Being a Beast Machine
Andy Clark and His Critics

Anil K. Seth

Oxford University Press

Throughout his career Andy Clark has shaped how scientists and philosophers think about the role of representation in action, perception, and cognition. In the latest iteration of this debate he has foregrounded the influential perspective of predictive processing, which sees perception as a process of action-oriented “best guessing” (inference) about the causes of noisy and ambiguous sensory signals and which involves the brain-inducing “generative” models of how hidden causes mediate the effects of actions on sensory signals. This chapter develops this position in the context of interoception (the sense of the body from within) and physiological regulation. A key idea here, which recalls twentieth-century cybernetic theory, is that interoceptive inference is targeted towards maintaining physiological homeostasis rather than inducing complete and accurate internal models of an external state of affairs. The chapter explores how this perspective helps connect control-oriented interoceptive inference to phenomenological properties of embodied selfhood and subjectivity. The upshot echoes (or perhaps subverts) a classic philosophical trope of the Enlightenment philosopher Julien de La Mettrie: to find the origins of our conscious selves in our nature as beast machines.

Keywords:   interoceptive inference, interoception, cybernetics, allostasis, selfhood, predictive processing

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