# Molyneux's problem

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Toasted, Mar 3, 2005.

1. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK
There is a blind man, who has been blind from birth and has never had the power of sight. He has in his possesion two objects, a metal sphere and a metal cube. He spends a lot of time just sitting there and running his hands all over them, so he knows their form quite well to touch.

These two objects are taken away from him, and put them at the other end of the room to where he is sitting.

If we suddenly restore the power of sight to him would he be able to tell which was which that he had been feeling?

AMMENDUM

When the objects are taken from him, he is not allowed to touch them again.

2. ### Freaky Fender

May 27, 2001
Saunderstown, RI
Yes. Wouldn't he be able to tell which is which because one would be pointy?

3. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK
But if he had never been able to see, how would he know what 'pointy' looked like?

4. ### FolmeisterKnowledge is Good - Emile FaberSupporting Member

May 7, 2003
Tomball, Texas
Sure. Right after he walked over and picked them up. He's blind, not stupid. Is the guy blind from birth? If so he may have some initial trouble since the whole world is new to him, but he would figure it out. If not, he knows visual geometries already. No, if all he could do was sit on them. . . . .

5. ### Freaky Fender

May 27, 2001
Saunderstown, RI
Wouldn't he be able to know which one would be point from the feeling? Wouldn't one FEEL straight, and it has to LOOK straight?

6. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK

Also:

AMMENDUM

When the objects are taken from him, he is not allowed to touch them again.

7. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK
Yes, but since he was blind from birth, he wouldnt be able to visualise in his head the shapes. He has no perception of the world, and cannot therefore 'imagine' the shapes simply by touching them.

This means that when they are taken away from him would his memory of how the shapes felt be translateable to how they look, considering that he has never looked before.

This is a question of perception.

8. ### Trevorus

Oct 18, 2002
Urbana, IL
See, this is intersting. He has no "visual library." He has feeling as a reference. But if you close your eyes, and someone hands you something you have never felt before, would you recognize it? I think you wouldn't. It's all in the frame of reference.

9. ### Josh Ryan- that dog won't hunt, Monsignor.Supporting Member

Mar 24, 2001
In that case no.

10. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK
That my standpoint aswell - but why do you say no?

11. ### Sock Justice

Jan 22, 2002
I suppose you have to factor in his education and life experiences, unless the only thing he does is sit and fondle his objects.

My best friend throughout high school happened to be blind from birth, and if you asked him to draw a line, a circle, or a square, he could. He understood the concept of visual form, I believe, even though he didn't live in the sighted realm.

I guess you could argue he only knew these things because someone described them to him, and he was really just imitating without true understanding, but I think that idea is probably bogus. Visually impaired people understand a lot more about the sighted world than people usually give them credit for.

12. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK
I think that you would be able to imagine what it would look like if you opened your eyes. I think this because you already have your brain trained to take data from your main senses and make perceptions based upon this data. Your brain, because it has X number of years of comparing visual and 'touch' data would, i think, be able to give you a fairly accurate perception of what a foreign object looked like.

Where Moylineux was coming from was that is this perception - the way we make visualise objects in our head, innate or is it something that we learn?

13. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK
Its an exploration of a philosophical idea. For these purposes, only the things that i said in the original post are true. The man did just 'sit and fondle objects' all his life. And he only fondled two.

14. ### Against Will

Dec 10, 2003
Big Sound Central
Unless there was some sort of short time limit imposed on him, I think he would be able to tell.

He would get used to the sensation of sight rather quickly and start to understand the lines and shades and forms of the visual world. He would see that the cube is a construction of many lines all running perpendicular to one another, the lines end at a definate point on the cube he could translate that in his brain to the sensation he felt whilst feeling the cube. Running his hand along and then having it end definately. Whereas the sphere possesses no such abrupt end and is seemingly continuous line with no real end and he could translate that in his head as with the cube.

15. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK
So you think that perception of the visual world is something that we are born with - It is innate?

I think that he wouldnt be able to tell the difference visually, because he has no reference matter for the data that his hands have given him and the data that his eyes are giving him. I think that this reference between the two is something that we learn as we grow up, and our perception of the world increaces.

16. ### Against Will

Dec 10, 2003
Big Sound Central

I think when confronted with an intense experience, people will overcome the initial shock and then try and understand this new experience they are having. He would try and break down this new experience in reference to experiences he's had previously in his life. The cube is a definate shape with clear boundaries, the sphere is less definite. You could confuse a point on a sphere for another point, where as you could not confuse a vertex on a cube with the line of a cube. You could translate one as have a stopping point and another as having no stopping point (but I'm getting into geometry now).

In a way, yes, I'm saying it is innate that people will try to break down a new experience and understand it through breaking it down. However, they will do so by using references from past experiences. So it is a combination of innateness and what you already know, the blind man already has had experience with the cube and sphere and he can use those as reference.

17. ### Toasted

May 26, 2003
Leeds, UK
But he only has reference, if he has been able to "see" in his head, what he has been feeling with his hands.

Thats the real question Molyneux was getting at.

18. ### Bryan R. TylerTalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002Staff MemberAdministratorGold Supporting Member

May 3, 2002
Connecticut
If the man had any sense, he could make a reference from the knowledge he has. He may have never seen, but he knows the feel of each object, and therefore knows the shape his hand makes when touching them-curved for the sphere and angled for the cube. He would simply have to remember what position his hands were in to fit each object, then hold them up to each object at a distance and see which line up. He may have never seen his hands before, but he has the knowledge of the proper way to hold them for each object, and can make his first visual assumption using the knowlegde he knows to be true.

19. ### canopener

Sep 15, 2003
Isle of Lucy
You wouldn't "restore" his sight, since he has never had it to begin with.

20. ### SomecallmeTim

A nit has indeed been picked.