No yes answers to Molyneux


Those who have defended a positive answer have been accused of reframing the question, abstracting away from the situation intended by Molyneux, or ignoring the empirical literature. Leibniz’s answer, for example, allowed the Molyneux patient time to consider and the resources of rational deliberation to be able to identify the cube and sphere. This proposal involves an abstraction away from the situation as described by Molyneux and reported by Locke:Suppose a Man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a Cube, and a Sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and t’other, which is the Cube, which the Sphere. The positive solution to the Molyneux problem is not possible if one conceives of perception as a passive sensory experience. Indeed, if we think of perception in this way, then the empirical evidence, as usually interpreted, would entirely undermine the positive answer.

Publication Title

Molyneux’s Question and the History of Philosophy