Dispositional versus epistemic causality

Minds and Machines 16 (3) (2006)
Noam Chomsky and Frances Egan argue that David Marr’s computational theory of vision is not intentional, claiming that the formal scientific theory does not include description of visual content. They also argue that the theory is internalist in the sense of not describing things physically external to the perceiver. They argue that these claims hold for computational theories of vision in general. Beyond theories of vision, they argue that representational content does not figure as a topic within formal computational theories in cognitive science. I demonstrate that Chomsky’s and Egan’s claims about Marr’s theory are false. Marr’s computational theory contains a mathematical theory of visual content, based on empirical psychophysical evidence. It also contains mathematical descriptions of distal physical surfaces and objects, and of their optic projection to the perceiver. Much computational research on vision contains these types of intentional and externalist components within the formal, mathematical, theories. Chomsky’s and Egan’s claims demonstrate inadequate study and understanding of Marr’s work and other research in this area. Computational theories of vision, by containing empirically based mathematical theories of visual content, to this extent present naturalizations of semantics.
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