Abstract

The assumption that action and perception can be investigated independently is entrenched in theories, models and experimental approaches across the brain and mind sciences. In cognitive science, this has been a central point of contention between computationalist and 4Es (enactive, embodied, extended and embedded) theories of cognition, with the former embracing the “classical sandwich”, modular, architecture of the mind and the latter actively denying this separation can be made. In this work we suggest that the modular independence of action and perception strongly resonates with the separation principle of control theory and furthermore that this principle provides formal criteria within which to evaluate the implications of the modularity of action and perception. We will also see that real-time feedback with the environment, often considered necessary for the definition of 4Es ideas, is not however a sufficient condition to avoid the “classical sandwich”. Finally, we argue that an emerging framework in the cognitive and brain sciences, active inference, extends ideas derived from control theory to the study of biological systems while disposing of the separation principle, describing non-modular models of behaviour strongly aligned with 4Es theories of cognition.

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