Abstract: A recent study published in Nature Neuroscience purports to have answered a question posed to Locke in 1688 by his friend William Molyneux, namely, whether ‘a man born blind and made to see’ would be able to identify, immediately and by vision alone, objects previously known only by touch. The answer, according to the researchers – and as predicted by Molyneux, as well as Locke, Berkeley, and others – is ‘likely negative. The newly sighted subjects did not exhibit an immediate transfer of their tactile shape knowledge to the visual domain’. Since then, however, many commentators have argued that the answer is still not clear. Moreover, in the contemporary literature on Molyneux’s Question, and more generally on cross-modal perception and the individuation of the senses, it is sometimes hard to determine what question is being investigated. In this paper, I distinguish a number of different questions about the relation between visual and tactual perception that can arise when considering Molyneux’s problem.
Comment: Background reading on Molyneux's question and spatial perception.