Molyneux's Question: The Irish Debates

In Brian Glenney Gabriele Ferretti (ed.), Molyneux’s Question and the History of Philosophy. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 122-135 (2020)
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William Molyneux was born in Dublin, studied in Trinity College Dublin, and was a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society (DPS), Ireland’s counterpart to the Royal Society in London. He was a central figure in the Irish intellectual milieu during the Early Modern period and – along with George Berkeley and Edmund Burke – is one of the best-known thinkers to have come out of that context and out of Irish thought more generally. In 1688, when Molyneux wrote the letter to Locke in which he posed the now famous question about a man born blind made to see, he was an active member of the DPS and was on familiar terms with several other key figures in Irish philosophy at the time. For the most part, Irish thinkers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries answered “no” to Molyneux’s question of whether a blind man made to see could distinguish, by sight alone, between a cube and a sphere.

Author Profiles

Manuel Fasko
University of Basel
Peter West
Northeastern University London


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