Synthese (2018) 195:2445–2458
S.I. : PREDICTIVE BRAINS
Getting into predictive processing’s great guessing
game: Bootstrap heaven or hell?
Daniel D. Hutto
Received: 2 July 2016 / Accepted: 21 March 2017 / Published online: 4 April 2017
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017
Abstract Predictive Processing accounts of Cognition, PPC, promise to forge pro-
ductive alliances that will unite approaches that are otherwise at odds (see Clark, A.
Surﬁng uncertainty: prediction, action and the embodied mind. Oxford University
Press, Oxford, 2016). Can it? This paper argues that it can’t—or at least not so long as
it sticks with the cognitivist rendering that Clark (2016) and others favor. In making
this case the argument of this paper unfolds as follows: Sect. 1 describes the basics of
PPC—its attachment to the idea that we perceive the world by guessing the world. It
then details the reasons why so many ﬁnd cognitivist interpretations to be inevitable.
Section 2 examines how prominent proponents of cognitivist PPC have proposed deal-
ing with a fundamental problem that troubles their accounts—the question of how the
brain is able to get into the great guessing game in the ﬁrst place. It is argued that
on close inspection Clark’s (2016) solution, which he calls bootstrap heaven is—once
we take a realistic look at the situation of the brain—in fact bootstrap hell. Section 3
argues that it is possible to avoid dwelling in bootstrap hell if one adopts a radically
enactive take on PPC. A brief sketch of what this might look like is provided.
Keywords Predictive processing · Cognitivism · Enactivism · Learning · Information
Predictive processing’s positive program
The Predictive Processing account of Cognition, PPC, is causing a real stir in phi-
losophy, psychology, and neuroscience. One of its main attractions is its apparently
Daniel D. Hutto
School of Humanities and Social Inquiry Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts,
University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia