Is Locke’s Answer to Molyneux’s Question Inconsistent? Cross-modal Recognition and the Sight–recognition Error

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Molyneux’s question asks whether someone born blind, who could distinguish cubes from spheres using his tactile sensation, could recognize those objects if he received his sight. Locke says no: the newly sighted person would fail to point to the cube and call it a cube. Locke never provided a complete explanation for his negative response, and there are concerns of inconsistency with other important aspects of his theory of ideas. These charges of inconsistency rest upon an unrecognized and unfounded assumption that seeing entails recognition. Locke’s negative answer to Molyneux’s question is consistent with his other philosophical commitments.