Molyneux's Problem Solved

Imagine a person blind since birth, who can distinguish a metal cube from a sphere by means of his sense of touch. If this person was suddenly able to see, and he was shown the cube and the sphere, but not allowed to touch them, would he be able to tell the cube from the sphere just by looking at them? Would he be able to identify by vision what he already knew by touch?

This philosophical problem known as Molyneux's problem was phrased by William Molyneux, a friend of John Locke, and has been debated ever since. Those of Empiricist camp, such as Locke, Molyneux and Berkeley, believed the answer to be No, while those of more Rationalist persuasion, such as Synge, Lee and Leibniz answered it in Yes.

And now, scientists are claiming to have finally solved this problem by means of actual experiment. This thought-experiment was transformed into an actual experiment on five totally blind patients, aged eight to seventeen, who by means of surgery were given full capacity of sight.

Based on the results, the answer to Molyneux's question is in negative. Ex-blinds cannot identify by vision alone what they previously knew by touch alone.

Comments

F. said…
Interesting.
Komal said…
Awesome. I love it when genuinely empirical questions are solved through the proper method.