Recognizing why vision is inferential

Synthese 200 (1):1-27 (2022)
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A theoretical pillars of vision science in the information-processing tradition is that perception involves unconscious inference. The classic support for this claim is that, since retinal inputs underdetermine their distal causes, visual perception must be the conclusion of a process that starts with premises representing both the sensory input and previous knowledge about the visible world. Focus on this “argument from underdetermination” gives the impression that, if it fails, there is little reason to think that visual processing involves unconscious inference. Here an alternative means of support for this pillar is proposed, based on another foundational challenge for the visual system: recognizing invariant properties of objects in the environment even though anything we encounter is never seen exactly the same way twice. Explaining how the visual system solves this invariance problem requires positing visual processes that exhibit many commonalities with inductive inference. Thus, this novel “argument from invariance” reveals one way in which visual processing clearly involves unconscious inference.



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Vision.David Marr - 1982 - W. H. Freeman.
The Predictive Mind.Jakob Hohwy - 2013 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Origins of Objectivity.Tyler Burge - 2010 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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