Molyneux’s Problem

Three Centuries of Discussion on the Perception of Forms

  • Marjolein Degenaar

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages 1-11
  2. Pages 13-15
  3. Pages 17-23
  4. Pages 113-125
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 135-156

About this book


Suppose that a congenitally blind person has learned to distinguish and name a sphere and a cube by touch alone. Then imagine that this person suddenly recovers the faculty of sight. Will he be able to distinguish both objects by sight and to say which is the sphere and which the cube?
This was the question which the Irish politician and scientist William Molyneux posed in 1688 to John Locke. Molyneux's question has intrigued a wide variety of intellectuals for three centuries. Those who have attempted to solve it include Berkeley, Reid, Leibniz, Voltaire, La Mettrie, Condillac, Diderot, Müller, Helmholtz, William James and Gareth Evans. This book is the first comprehensive survey of the history of the discussion about Molyneux's problem. It will be of interest to historians of both philosophy and psychology.


Denis Diderot George Berkeley Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Hermann von Helmholtz John Locke Julien Offray de La Mettrie Molyneux’s Problem Voltaire William James William Molyneux eighteenth century perception of forms psychology Étienne Bonnot de Condillac

Authors and affiliations

  • Marjolein Degenaar
    • 1
  1. 1.Erasmus University RotterdamThe Netherland

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Print ISBN 978-0-7923-3934-2
  • Online ISBN 978-0-585-28424-8
  • Series Print ISSN 0066-6610
  • Buy this book on publisher's site