Optimization and simplicity: Computational vision and biological explanation

Synthese 107 (3):293 - 323 (1996)
Abstract
David Marr's theory of vision has been a rich source of inspiration, fascination and confusion. I will suggest that some of this confusion can be traced to discrepancies between the way Marr developed his theory in practice and the way he suggested such a theory ought to be developed in his explicit metatheoretical remarks. I will address claims that Marr's theory may be seen as an optimizing theory, along with the attendant suggestion that optimizing assumptions may be inappropriate for cognitive mechanisms just as anti-adaptationists have argued they are inappropriate for other physiological mechanisms. I will discuss the nature of optimizing assumptions and theories. Considering various difficulties in identifying and assessing optimizing assumptions, I will suggest that Marr's theory is not purely an optimizing theory and that reaction to Marr on this issue prompts interesting considerations for the development of inter-disciplinary constraints in the cognitive and brain sciences.
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