David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 2 (4):255-280 (2003)
After more than three centuries, Molyneux's question continues to challenge our understanding of cognition and perceptual systems. Locke, the original recipient of the question, approached it as a theoretical exercise relevant to long-standing philosophical issues, such as nativism, the possibility of common sensibles, and the empiricism-rationalism debate. However, philosophers were quick to adopt the experimentalist's stance as soon as they became aware of recoveries from congenital blindness through ophtalmic surgery. Such recoveries were widely reported to support empiricist positions, suggesting that the question had found its empirical answer. Contrary to this common view, we argue that studies of patients recovering from early blindness through surgery cannot provide an answer. In fact, because of the very nature of such ophtalmological interventions it is impossible to test the question in the empirical conditions outlined by Molyneux. Thus we propose that Molyneux's question be treated as an early thought experiment of a specific kind. Although thought experiments of this kind cannot be turned into actual experimental conditions, they provide a conceptual restructuring of theories. Such restructuring in turn leads to new predictions that can then be tested by normal experiments. In accord with this interpretation, we show that Molyneux's question can be analyzed into a hierarchy of specific questions about vision in its phenomenal and sensory-motor components. Some of these questions do lead to actual experimental conditions that could be studied empirically
|Keywords||Blindness Empiricism Epistemology Perception Molyneux, W|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Brian R. Glenney (2013). Philosophical Problems, Cluster Concepts, and the Many Lives of Molyneux's Question. Biology and Philosophy 28 (3):541-558.
Similar books and articles
Michael J. Morgan (1977). Molyneux's Question: Vision, Touch, and the Philosophy of Perception. Cambridge University Press.
John Campbell (2005). Information-Processing, Phenomenal Consciousness and Molyneux's Question. In José Luis Bermúdez (ed.), Thought, Reference, and Experience: Themes From the Philosophy of Gareth Evans. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Janet Levin (2008). Molyneux's Question and the Individuation of Perceptual Concepts. Philosophical Studies 139 (1):1 - 28.
Judith Jarvis Thomson (1974). Molyneux's Problem. Journal of Philosophy 71 (October):637-650.
Martha B. Bolton (1994). The Real Molyneux Question and the Basis of Locke's Answer. In G. A. J. Rogers (ed.), Locke's Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Ralph Schumacher (2003). What Are the Direct Objects of Sight? Locke on the Molyneux Question. Locke Studies 3:41-62.
Janet Levin (2008). Molyneux Meets Euthyphro. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 8 (3):289-297.
Robert Hopkins (2005). Thomas Reid on Molyneux's Question. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 86 (3):340-364.
Steffen Borge (2007). Some Remarks on Reid on Primary and Secondary Qualities. Acta Analytica 22 (1):74-84.
Robert Hopkins (2005). Molyneux's Question. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (3):441-464.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads35 ( #49,146 of 1,101,125 )
Recent downloads (6 months)6 ( #44,290 of 1,101,125 )
How can I increase my downloads?