PhiMiSci Special Issue: Molyneux’s Question Today
Guest Editors: Brian Glenney & Gabriele Ferretti
Few topics in the philosophy of perception have received more diverse scholarly attention than Molyneux’s question: would a person with blindness, able to identify cubes and spheres by touch, immediately identify these shapes by sight alone if suddenly able to see? This interest in Molyneux’s question is largely due to progress in vision science, ophthalmology, psychology, developmental science, comparative psychology, neuroscience, and related sub-disciplines in the cognitive sciences. What’s more, non-visual theories of perception, a renewed interest in multisensory work, as well as a rise in perception-adjacent issues in both philosophy and popular culture such as AI and VR make a special issue on Molyneux’s question all the more illuminating to interdisciplinary research on sensory modalities.
While many studies on Molyneux’s question attempt to resolve the puzzle, this special issue also asks for contributions that utilize Molyneux’s question to both clarify and criticize accounts of sensory perception, epistemology, mind, and metaphysics. The consideration of Molyneux’s question helps us to understand how our multisensory experiences and concepts relate to different functions of the mind, from perception and knowledge to cognition and imagination. Molyneux’s puzzle is not the finish line so to speak, but the starting point for increasing our understanding of the senses, how they relate to each other, and the external world.
Scopes and Themes
Themes for submission to this special issue include, but are not limited to, the following questions and debates in the quest not only for a resolution to Molyneux’s question today, but also its use as a starting point for understanding the mind.
- How might reinterpreting past answers, such as those by Locke or Berkeley, result in novel ways of understanding Molyneux’s question today and the relation between the senses?
- How does past work on other thought experiments in philosophy of perception, like Grice’s alien senses or Strawson’s auditory world, relate to Molyneux’s question?
- Must visio-centric accounts of perception, like relationalism or representationalism, reply with a “yes” to Molyneux’s question? And how does this question inform these philosophical stances? What are we to make of relationalism’s claim that sight and touch produce the same character of experience if directed at the same object? Does Molyneux’s question cause problems for representationalism’s prediction that touch and sight share the same content if their phenomenal character is distinct?
- How do recent accounts of olfaction, touch, etc. relate to Molyneux’s question? Can the question illuminate these debates today?
- Are there multiple ways to understand Molyneux’s question? Is there new formulations to propose from recent literature on perception? Or is there a single issue that is fundamental?
- How does Molyneux’s question relate to the claim that perception has a multisensory character, producing experiences unique to those from single modalities?
- Must a Molyneux-type empirical experiment use motion or action to produce reliable results?
- Does Molyneux’s subject need to rely on knowing-how? Or is it knowing-that? What might an answer to Molyneux reveal about the relationship between these two forms of knowledge?
- How can an answer to Molyneux be informed by accounts that demonstrate a relation between vision and action? Can Molyneux’s question become a test case for validating various kinds of action theories?
- Does Molyneux’s task require some cognitive penetration? Is Molyneux’s question informative for the debate on cognitive penetration then? What is the relation between cognition, perception and concepts in this respect?
- How do different theories of consciousness constrain an answer to Molyneux’s question?
- Are cataract surgery experiments the best way to test Molyneux question? Or might Sensory Substitution Devices or invasive surgical techniques or other technologies produce an experimental answer to Molyneux?
- Can an answer to Molyneux’s question produce novel insights for new technologies like simulations in VR or AI? Can Molyneux’s question be retold with VR devices?
- Might alternative subjects, like infants or animals like bees, produce a distinctive answer? What does this question teach us about minimal forms of cognition?
- How might we understand the condition of “immediacy” in Molyneux’s question? And what does this tell us about the epistemology of perceptual learning?
- Are there practical benefits to answering Molyneux’s question, like a deeper understanding of brain plasticity to create crossmodal exercises for the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury? Does this question illuminate the limits of brain plasticity?
- Does scientific methodology, like constructivism, pluralism, or perspectival realism, reveal novel strategies for answering Molyneux?
- Can a predictive processing approach suggest an answer to the question, or a novel way of addressing it?
- Can 4E approaches to cognition explain the problem of Molyneux under a new light?
- Can Molyneux’s question be retold with non-human robotic devices and their embodied grasping models?
Deadlines And Dates of Publication
Abstract Submission Deadline (500 Words + Bibliography): 15 November 2023
Notification of Abstract Acceptance (Editors review): 15 December 2023
Manuscript Submission Deadline: 15 May 2024
Reviews (2 blind reviews + Editors review) of Article Deadline: 15 August 2024
Revised Manuscript Submission including Guest Editors’ Introduction: 1 October 2024
Publication Date: 4th Quarter of 2024
Please, send your abstract by 15 November 2023 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Instructions for Author’s Submission: https://philosophymindscience.org/index.php/phimisci/about/submissions