Axel Constant

Axel Constant
The University of Sydney · Department of Philosphy

MA⋅MSc

About

40
Publications
37,244
Reads
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916
Citations
Citations since 2017
40 Research Items
916 Citations
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2017201820192020202120222023050100150200250300
2017201820192020202120222023050100150200250300
Introduction
I am a PhD candidate in the Philosophy of Biomedicine based at the University of Sydney. I work under the supervision of Paul Griffiths, Paul Badcock, Laurence Kirmayer, and Karl Friston. My published work is at the intersection of Evolutionary Biology, the Philosophy of Cognitive Science and Psychiatry, and Evolutionary Cultural Anthropology. My current work applies methods employed in Computational Psychiatry to theories in Cultural Psychiatry and Evolutionary Psychiatry.
Education
March 2019 - February 2023
The University of Sydney
Field of study
  • Philosophy
September 2017 - January 2019
University of Amsterdam
Field of study
  • Cognitive Science
September 2016 - September 2017
KU Leuven
Field of study
  • Philosophy

Publications

Publications (40)
Article
Full-text available
Cognitive niche construction is construed as a form of instrumental intelligence, whereby organisms create and maintain cause–effect models of their niche as guides for fitness influencing behavior. Extended mind theory claims that cognitive processes extend beyond the brain to include predictable states of the world – that function as cognitive ex...
Article
Full-text available
Philosophical writings on the free energy principle in the life sciences often give the impression that minimising free energy is sufficient for life. But minimising free energy is not a sufficient condition for life. In fact, one can perfectly well conceive of a system that actively minimises its free energy, and for this very reason moves inexora...
Article
Full-text available
We provide a proof of principle for an evolutionary systems theory (EST) of depression. This theory suggests that normative depressive symptoms counter socioenvironmental volatility by increasing interpersonal support via social signalling and that this response depends upon the encoding of uncertainty about social contingencies, which can be targe...
Article
Full-text available
This paper proposes an integrative perspective on evolutionary, cultural and computational approaches to psychiatry. These three approaches attempt to frame mental disorders as multiscale entities and offer modes of explanations and modeling strategies that can inform clinical practice. Although each of these perspectives involves systemic thinking...
Article
Full-text available
In evolutionary biology, niche construction is sometimes described as a genuine evolutionary process whereby organisms, through their activities and regulatory mechanisms, modify their environment such as to steer their own evolutionary trajectory, and that of other species. There is ongoing debate, however, on the extent to which niche constructio...
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents a version of neurophenomenology based on generative modelling techniques developed in computational neuroscience and biology. Our approach can be described as computational phenomenology because it applies methods originally developed in computational modelling to provide a formal model of the descriptions of lived experience in...
Article
Bruineberg and colleagues argue that a realist interpretation of Markov blankets inadvertently relies upon unfounded assumptions. However, insofar as their diagnosis is accurate, their prescribed instrumentalism may ultimately prove insufficient as a complete remedy. Drawing upon a process-based perspective on living systems, we suggest a potential...
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents an active inference based simulation study of visual foraging. The goal of the simulation is to show the effect of the acquisition of culturally patterned attention styles on cognitive task performance, under active inference. We show how cultural artefacts like antique vase decorations drive cognitive functions such as percepti...
Article
Full-text available
This paper proposes a formal reconstruction of the script construct by leveraging the active inference framework, a behavioral modeling framework that casts action, perception, emotions, and attention as processes of (Bayesian or variational) inference. We propose a first principles account of the script construct that integrates its different uses...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper, we introduce an active inference model of ant colony foraging behavior, and implement the model in a series of in silico experiments. Active inference is a multiscale approach to behavioral modeling that is being applied across settings in theoretical biology and ethology. The ant colony is a classic case system in the function of di...
Article
Full-text available
The idea that our perceptions in the here and now are influenced by prior events and experiences has recently received substantial support and attention from the proponents of the Predictive Processing (PP) and Active Inference framework in philosophy and computational neuroscience. In this paper we look at how perceptual experiences get off the gr...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper presents a version of neurophenomenology based on generative modelling techniques developed in computational neuroscience and biology. We call this approach computational phenomenology because it applies methods originally developed in computational modelling to phenomenology. The first section presents a brief review of the project to n...
Article
Full-text available
Over the last 30 years, representationalist and dynamicist positions in the philosophy of cognitive science have argued over whether neurocognitive processes should be viewed as representational or not. Major scientific and technological developments over the years have furnished both parties with ever more sophisticated conceptual weaponry. In rec...
Preprint
Full-text available
The idea that whatever we perceive now is influenced by whatever we perceived before lies at the core of Predictive Processing (PP) theories in philosophy and computational neuroscience. If this is so, then it becomes crucial to look at how perception, cognition and actions get off the ground from square one, in utero. Here we examine how humans se...
Article
Full-text available
We present a multiscale integrationist interpretation of the boundaries of cognitive systems, using the Markov blanket formalism of the variational free energy principle (FEP). This interpretation is intended as a corrective for the philosophical debate over internalist and externalist interpretations of cognitive boundaries; we stake out a comprom...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this paper is to leverage the free-energy principle and its corollary process theory, active inference, to develop a generic, generalizable model of the representational capacities of living creatures; that is, a theory of phenotypic representation. Given their ubiquity, we are concerned with distributed forms of representation (e.g., po...
Preprint
Full-text available
Philosophical writings on the free energy principle in the life sciences often give the impression that minimising free energy is sufficient for life. But minimising free energy is not a sufficient condition for life. In fact, one can perfectly well conceive of a system that actively minimises its free energy, and for this very reason moves inexora...
Preprint
Full-text available
In this paper, we introduce an active inference model of ant colony foraging behavior and implement the model in a series of in silico experiments. Active inference is a multiscale approach to behavioral modeling that is gaining purchase in theoretical biology and ethology. We simulate a well-known paradigm from laboratory ant colony behavioral exp...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper presents an active inference based simulation study of visual foraging and transfer learning. The goal of the simulation is to show the effect of the acquisition of culturally patterned attention styles on cognitive task performance, under active inference. We show how cultural artifacts like antique vase decorations drive cognitive func...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper presents an active inference based simulation study of visual foraging and transfer learning. The goal of the simulation is to show the effect of the acquisition of culturally patterned attention styles on cognitive task performance, under active inference. We show how cultural artifacts like antique vase decorations drive cognitive func...
Preprint
Full-text available
The aim of this paper is to leverage the free-energy principle and its corollary process theory, active inference, to develop a generic, generalizable model of the representational capacities of living creatures; that is, a theory of phenotypic representation. Given their ubiquity, we are concerned with distributed forms of representation (e.g., po...
Article
Wright and Bourke's compelling article rightly points out that existing models of embryogenesis fail to explain the mechanisms and functional significance of the dynamic connections among neurons. We pursue their account of Dynamic Logic by appealing to the Markov blanket formalism that underwrites the Free Energy Principle. We submit that this all...
Preprint
Full-text available
Wright and Bourkes compelling article rightly points out that existing models of embryogenesis fail to explain the mechanisms and functional significance of the dynamic connections among neurons. We pursue their account of Dynamic Logic by appealing to the Markov blanket formalism that underwrites the Free Energy Principle. We submit that this allo...
Preprint
Full-text available
The ubiquity and importance of narratives in human adaptation has been recognized by many scholars. Research has identified several functions of narratives that are conducive to individuals’ well-being and adaptation as well as to coordinated social practices and enculturation. In this paper, we characterize the social and cognitive functions of na...
Article
Full-text available
Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) presents a challenge to social and relational accounts of the self, precisely because it is broadly seen as a disorder impacting social relationships. Many influential theories argue that social deficits and impairments of the self are the core problems in ASC. Predictive processing approaches address these based on...
Preprint
This paper proposes a formal reconstruction of the script construct by leveraging the activeinference framework, a behavioural modelling framework that casts action, perception,emotions, and attention as processes of (Bayesian or variational) inference. We propose afirst principles account of the script construct that integrates its different uses...
Preprint
This paper proposes a formal reconstruction of the script construct by leveraging the active inference framework, a behavioural modelling framework that casts action, perception, emotions, and attention as processes of (Bayesian or variational) inference. We propose a first principles account of the script construct that integrates its different us...
Article
Full-text available
Recent theoretical work in developmental psychology suggests that humans are predisposed to align their mental states with those of other individuals. One way this manifests is in cooperative communication; that is, intentional communication aimed at aligning individuals’ mental states with respect to events in their shared environment. This idea h...
Article
Full-text available
The target article Thinking Through Other Minds (TTOM) offered an account of the distinctively human capacity to acquire cultural knowledge, norms, and practices. To this end, we leveraged recent ideas from theoretical neurobiology to understand the human mind in social and cultural context. Our aim was both synthetic — building an integrative mode...
Article
Full-text available
We review some of the main implications of the free-energy principle (FEP) for the study of the self-organization of living systems – and how the FEP can help us to understand (and model) biotic self-organization across the many temporal and spatial scales over which life exists. In order to maintain its integrity as a bounded system, any biologica...
Preprint
Full-text available
Work in developmental psychology suggests that humans are predisposed to align their mental states with other individuals. This manifests principally in cooperative communication, that is, intentional communication geared towards aligning mental states. This viewpoint has received ample empirical support. However, this view lacks a formal grounding...
Preprint
Full-text available
Over the last 30 years, intellectualist and dynamicist positions in the philosophy of cognitive science have been arguing over whether neurocognitive processes should be viewed as representational or not. Major scientific and technological developments over the years have furnished both parties with ever more sophisticated conceptual weaponry. In r...
Article
Over the last 30 years, intellectualist and dynamicist positions in the philosophy of cognitive science have been arguing over whether neurocognitive processes should be viewed as representational or not. Major scientific and technological developments over the years have furnished both parties with ever more sophisticated conceptual weaponry. In r...
Article
Full-text available
The processes underwriting the acquisition of culture remain unclear. How are shared habits, norms, and expectations learned and maintained with precision and reliability across large-scale sociocultural ensembles? Is there a unifying account of the mechanisms involved in the acquisition of culture? Notions such as ‘shared expectations’, the ‘selec...
Article
Full-text available
How do humans come to acquire shared expectations about how they ought to behave in distinct normalised social settings? This paper offers a normative framework to answer this question. We introduce the computational construct of 'deontic value'-based on active inference and Markov decision processes - to formalise conceptions of social conformity...
Chapter
Full-text available
We review some of the main implications of the free-energy principle (FEP) for the study of the self-organization of living systems – and how the FEP can help us to understand (and model) biotic self-organization across the many temporal and spatial scales over which life exists. In order to maintain its integrity as a bounded system, any biologica...
Article
Full-text available
Cognitive Gadgets offers a new, convincing perspective on the origins of our distinctive cognitive faculties, coupled with a clear, innovative research program. Although we broadly endorse Heyes’ ideas, we raise some concerns about her characterisation of evolutionary psychology and the relationship between biology and culture, before discussing th...
Article
Full-text available
This paper addresses the challenges faced by multiscale formulations of the variational (free energy) approach to dynamics that obtain for large-scale ensembles. We review a framework for modelling complex adaptive control systems for multiscale free energy bounding organism-niche dynamics, thereby integrating the modelling strategies and heuristic...

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