Being Realist about Bayes, and the Predictive Processing Theory of Mind

Matteo Colombo, Lee Elkin, Stephan Hartmann

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    41 Citations (Scopus)


    Some naturalistic philosophers of mind subscribing to the predictive processing theory of mind have adopted a realist attitude towards the results of Bayesian cognitive science. In this article, we argue that this realist attitude is unwarranted. The Bayesian research programme in cognitive science does not possess special epistemic virtues over alternative approaches for explaining mental phenomena involving uncertainty. In particular, the Bayesian approach is not simpler, more unifying, or more rational than alternatives. It is also contentious that the Bayesian approach is overall better supported by the empirical evidence. So, to develop philosophical theories of mind on the basis of a realist interpretation of results from Bayesian cognitive science is unwarranted. Naturalistic philosophers of mind should instead adopt an anti-realist attitude towards these results and remain agnostic as to whether Bayesian models are true. For continuing on with an exclusive focus and praise of Bayes within debates about the predictive processing theory will impede progress in philosophical understanding of scientific practice in computational cognitive science as well as of the architecture of the mind.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)185-220
    Number of pages36
    JournalThe British Journal for Philosophy of Science
    Issue number1
    Early online date2018
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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