The Non-­‐Redundant Contributions of Marr’s Three Levels of Analysis for Explaining Information Processing Mechanisms

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Bechtel, William; Shagrir, Oron
preprint description
Are all three of Marr’s levels needed? Should they be kept distinct? We argue for the distinct contributions and methodologies of each level of analysis. It is important to maintain them because they provide three different perspectives required to understand mechanisms, especially information processing mechanisms. The computational perspective provides understanding of how a mechanism functions in broader environments that determine the computations it needs to perform (and may fail to perform). The representation and algorithmic perspective offer an understanding of how information about the environment is encoded within the mechanism and what are the patterns of organization that enable the parts of the mechanism to produce the phenomenon. The implementation perspective yields an understanding of the neural details of the mechanism and how they constrain function and algorithms. Once we adequately characterize the distinct role of each level of analysis, it is fairly straightforward to see how they relate.