Is Locke’s answer to Molyneux’s question inconsistent? Cross-modal recognition and the sight–recognition error

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 49 (5):670-688 (2019)
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Molyneux’s question asks whether someone born blind, who could distinguish cubes from spheres using his tactile sensation, could recognize those objects if he received his sight. Locke says no: the newly sighted person would fail to point to the cube and call it a cube. Locke never provided a complete explanation for his negative response, and there are concerns of inconsistency with other important aspects of his theory of ideas. These charges of inconsistency rest upon an unrecognized and unfounded assumption that seeing entails recognition. Locke’s negative answer to Molyneux’s question is consistent with his other philosophical commitments.



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Anna Vaughn
Sacred Heart University

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References found in this work

Perceiving: A Philosophical Study.Roderick M. Chisholm - 1957 - Ithaca,: Cornell University Press.
Seeing And Knowing.Fred I. Dretske - 1969 - Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.
The Blue and Brown Books.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1958 - Philosophy 34 (131):367-368.

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