What was Molyneux's Question A Question About?

In Routledge Handbook on Molyneux's Question. London: Routledge (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Molyneux asked whether a newly sighted person could distinguish a sphere from a cube by sight alone, given that she was antecedently able to do so by touch. This, we contend, is a question about general ideas. To answer it, we must ask (a) whether spatial locations identified by touch can be identified also by sight, and (b) whether the integration of spatial locations into an idea of shape persists through changes of modality. Posed this way, Molyneux’s Question goes substantially beyond question (a), about spatial locations, alone; for a positive answer to (a) leaves open whether a perceiver might cross-identify locations, but not be able to identify the shapes that collections of locations comprise. We further emphasize that MQ targets general ideas so as to distinguish it from corresponding questions about experiences of shape and about the property of tangible (vs. visual) shape. After proposing a generalized formulation of MQ, we extend earlier work (“Many Molyneux Questions,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 2020) by showing that MQ does not admit a single answer across the board. Some integrative data-processes transfer across modalities; others do not. Seeing where and how such transfer succeeds and fails in individual cases has much to offer to our understanding of perception and its modalities.
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First archival date: 2020-03-12
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