Mario Villalobos, Pedro Maldonado, Rodrigo Vergara, Sergio Vicencio-Jimenez
It is still elusive to explain the emergence of behavior and understanding based on its neural mechanisms. One renowned proposal is the Free Energy Principle (FEP), which uses an information-theoretic framework derived from thermodynamic considerations to describe how behavior and understanding emerge. FEP starts from a whole-organism approach, based on mental states and phenomena, mapping them into the neuronal substrate. An alternative approach, the Energy Homeostasis Principle (EHP), initiates a similar explanatory effort but starts from single-neuron phenomena and builds up to whole-organism behavior and understanding. In this work, we further develop the EHP as a distinct but complementary vision to FEP and try to explain how behavior and understanding would emerge from the local requirements of the neurons. Based on EHP and a strict naturalist approach that sees living beings as physical and deterministic systems, we explain scenarios where learning would emerge without the need for volition or goals. Given these starting points, we state several considerations of how we see the nervous system, particularly the role of the function, purpose, and conception of goal-oriented behavior. We problematize these conceptions, giving an alternative teleology-free framework in which behavior and, ultimately, understanding would still emerge. We reinterpret neural processing by explaining basic learning scenarios up to simple anticipatory behavior. Finally, we end the article with an evolutionary perspective of how this non-goal-oriented behavior appeared. We acknowledge that our proposal, in its current form, is still far from explaining the emergence of understanding. Nonetheless, we set the ground for an alternative neuron-based framework to ultimately explain understanding.