Thomas Reid on Molyneux's question

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (3):340-364 (2005)
Reid’s discussion of Molyneux’s question has been neglected. The Inquiry discusses the question twice, offering opposing answers. The first discussion treats the underlying issue as concerning common perceptibles of touch and vision, and in particular whether in vision we originally perceive depth. Although it is tempting to treat the second discussion as doing the same, this would render pointless various novel features Reid introduces in reformulating Molyneux’s question. Rather, the issue now is whether the blind can form a reasonable conception of visual appearances, a conception that would allow them to perform Molyneux’s task. In explaining why Reid thought they can, I draw on his account of primary quality concepts as independent of sensation; of concept possession as ability, not acquaintance with sensation; and of visual appearance itself as in key part a matter of the perception of a primary quality, visible figure. Thus the issue does not concern cross-modality, what vision has in common with touch; but how even what is central in vision is amodal, able to be grasped independently of any sensory mode. Reid’s second Molyneux discussion thereby forms a focus for the Inquiry’s central claims, and the rejection of the Ideal Theory they entail.
Keywords Epistemology  Perception  Touch  Vision  Molyneux, William  Reid, Thomas
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0114.2005.00231.x
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