The free-energy principle states that all systems that minimize their free energy resist a tendency to physical disintegration. Originally proposed to account for perception, learning, and action, the free-energy principle has been applied to the evolution, development, morphology, anatomy and function of the brain, and has been called a postulate, an unfalsifiable principle, a natural law, and an imperative. While it might afford a theoretical foundation for understanding the relationship between environment, life, and mind, its epistemic status is unclear. Also unclear is how the free-energy principle relates to prominent theoretical approaches to life science phenomena, such as organicism and mechanism. This paper clarifies both issues, and identifies limits and prospects for the free-energy principle as a first principle in the life sciences.
Keywords Adaptation · Free energy · Life · Mechanism · Organicism
This article addresses the following problems: What is a mechanism, how can it be discovered, and what is the role of the knowledge of mechanisms in scientific explanation and technological control? The proposed answers are these. A mechanism is one of the processes in a concrete system that makes it what it is — for example, metabolism in cells, interneuronal connections in brains, work in factories and offices, research in laboratories, and litigation in courts of law. Because mechanisms are largely or totally imperceptible, they must be conjectured. Once hypothesized they help explain, because a deep scientific explanation is an answer to a question of the form, “How does it work, that is, what makes it tick — what are its mechanisms?” Thus, by contrast with the subsumption of particulars under a generalization, an explanation proper consists in unveiling some lawful mechanism, as when political stability is explained by either coercion, public opinion manipulation, or democratic participation. Finding mechanisms satisfies not only the yearning for understanding, but also the need for control.
Keywords: explanation; function; mechanism; process; system; systemism
This paper explains what has long been missing across domains and levels of analysis: (1) the life-blind inner logic regulating contemporary paradigms of “rationality” and “scientific method”; (2) the reasons why these regulators of thought select for unforeseen consequences of ecological, social and economic collapse; and (3) the principle of life-ground consistency which corrects this systemic incoherence of thought regime.
KEYWORDS: academy, collapse, collective choice, full coherence principle, game theory, life and money sequences of value, mechanism, global market, rationality, scientific method, truth