Predictive Processing and Metaphysical Views of the Self

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In recent years we have seen the rise of a new framework within the study of the mind, namely Hierarchical Predictive Processing (HPP). This framework essentially holds that the brain is a prediction machine constantly postulating perceptual models which are tested against incoming (sensory) information. At the same time, the notion of the minimal or core self has become very influential as a way of explaining, or explaining away, pre-reflective self-awareness. The four most widely discussed alternatives for thinking through the metaphysical implications the pre-reflective sense of self are the standard phenomenological view, the substance view, the no-self view and by now the relational view.
In this paper, it is our objective to rethink the notion of the sense of self in the context of HPP. Now, HPP is often held to be a unifying framework that offers a new integrated account of perception, cognition, imagination, and indeed the pre-reflective sense of self. We will show, however, that HPP has been taken to endorse rather too many different metaphysical accounts of self: that is, views about how we should regard the ultimate nature of self. What we need to do, if possible, is to use HPP to constrain the theories on offer. Here we focus upon two central constraints that we think HPP implies. These are, the mutability constraint and the multi-layereredness constraint. We argue that self-views laid out in terms of the HPP framework are usually – to some degree – located within the four standard metaphysical accounts of self. However, we find it worrisome that none of these views have problems in respecting the HPP constraints or requirements. The reason, or so we believe, is that even though HPP constraints the notion of self, it is metaphysically too lax. Therefore, we propose that an alternative view – namely the pre-reflective situational self view – is ontologically more adequate to fit the HPP framework.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Philosophy and Science of Predictive Processing
EditorsDina Mendonça, Manuel Curado, Steven S Gouveia
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781350099777
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020


  • Predictive processing
  • Self
  • Metaphysics


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