Molyneux's Dilemma


Molyneux’s problem1 is a thought experiment in philosophy concerning immediate recovery from blindness. It was first formulated by William Molyneux, and notably referred to in John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689). The problem can be stated in brief: if a man born blind can feel the differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he, if given the ability to see, distinguish those objects by sight alone, in reference to the tactile schemata he already possessed?

I knew you when I was blind. I knew your tears and for some of them, sadly, I was the source. I knew you laughs and for a while I was responsible for most of them.

I knew your sorrows and we shared them, thus becoming more bearable. I knew your voice from the endless summer nights, the smell of your hair, the smoothness of your skin, the deepness of your eyes, the touch of your hand, your lovely frowns. I knew your body, oh, so well. I knew your passion, your love, your dedication, your frustrations. I knew your dreams and for while I was a part of them.

I was blind and I knew you, the true you. Now that I can see, truly see, I’m terrified that I will not recognize you standing in front of me…

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