1st Edition

Molyneux’s Question and the History of Philosophy

Edited By Gabriele Ferretti, Brian Glenney Copyright 2021
    370 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    370 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In 1688 the Irish scientist and politician William Molyneux sent a letter to the philosopher John Locke. In it, he asked him a question: could someone who was born blind, and able to distinguish a globe and a cube by touch, be able to immediately distinguish and name these shapes by sight if given the ability to see?

    The philosophical puzzle offered in Molyneux’s letter fascinated not only Locke, but major thinkers such as Leibniz, Berkeley, Diderot, Reid, and numerous others including psychologists and cognitive scientists today. Does such a question represent a philosophical puzzle or a problem that can be solved by experimental tests? Can vision be fully restored after blindness? What is the relation between vision and touch? Are the senses linked through learning or bound at birth?

    Molyneux’s Question and the History of Philosophy is a major collection of essays that explore the long-standing issues Molyneux’s problem presents to philosophy of mind, perception and the senses. In addition, the volume considers the question from an interdisciplinary angle, examines the pre-history of the question, and aspects of it that have been ignored, such as perspectives from religion and disability.

    As such, Molyneux’s Question and the History of Philosophy presents a set of philosophically rich, empirically informed, and scientifically rigorous original investigations into this famous puzzle. It will be of great interest to students and researchers in philosophy, psychology, and the cognitive sciences including neuroscience, neurobiology and ophthalmology, as well as those studying the mind, perception and the senses.

    Part I: Historical Advances in Molyneux’s Question

    Introduction to Part I

    1. Epicureanism and Molyneux's Question

    Giulia Scalas

    2. Molyneux, Mysticism, Empiricism, and Independent Thinking

    Lenn E. Goodman

    3. A Spinozistic Answer to Molyneux's Question

    Daniel Schneider

    4. Amo on Molyneux's Question

    Chris Meyns

    5. Margaret Cavendish and Molyneux’s Question: Patterning, Perception, and Touch

    Marcus P. Adams

    6. Dmaris Masham and Molyneux’s Question: What Response would Masham have given?

    Anna Vaughn

    7. Molyneux’s Question: The Irish Debates

    Manuel Fasko and Peter West

    8. Molyneux’s Question at the Erasmiaans Gymnasium, Rotterdam

    Marjolein Degenaar

    9. Molyneux's Vision

    Nicholas J. Wade

    Part II: Ethical Advances in Molyneux’s Question

    Introduction to Part II

    10. The Cult of the Born Completely Blind Man, Revisited

    Simon Hayhoe

    11. The Molyneux Cult

    Georgina Kleege

    Part III: Empirical Advances in Molyneux’s Question

    Introduction to Part III

    12. Molyneux's Question and the Semantics of Seeing

    Berit Brogaard, Bartek Chomanski and Dimitria Electra Gatzia

    13. Molyneux's Question and Neuroscience of Vision

    Valeria Occelli

    14. No Yes Answers to Molyneux

    Shaun Gallagher

    Part IV: Philosophical Advances in Molyneux’s Question

    Introduction to Part IV

    15. Molyneux’s question and interpersonal variations in multimodal mental imagery among blind subjects

    Bence Nanay

    16. Molyneux’s Question and Perceptual Judgments

    Josefa Toribio

    17. Action at First Sight

    Gabriele Ferretti

    18. Molyneux’s Question and Somatosensory Spaces

    Tony Cheng

    19. Molyneux’s Question on LSD

    Brian Glenney

    20. What Was Molyneux’s Question a Question About?

    Jonathan Cohen and Mohan Matthen


    Gabriele Ferretti is a NOMIS Fellow at the Eikones – Center for the Theory and History of the Image at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

    Brian Glenney is Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Program at Norwich University, USA. He is co-editor of The Senses and the History of Philosophy (Routledge, 2019).