Molyneux's Problem in the Scottish Enlightenment

Charles Bradford Bow* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article examines the “progress” of Scottish metaphysics during the long eighteenth century. The scientific cultivation of natural knowledge drawn from the examples of Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626), John Locke (1632–1704), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) was a defining pursuit in the Scottish Enlightenment. The Aberdonian philosopher George Dalgarno (1616–1687); Thomas Reid (1710–1796), a member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society known as the Wise Club; and the professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh University Dugald Stewart (1753–1828), contributed to that Scottish pattern of philosophical thinking. The question of the extent to which particular external senses
(sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) might be improved when others were damaged or absent from birth attracted their particular interest. This article shows the different ways in which Scottish anatomists of the mind resolved Molyneux’s Problem of whether or not an agent could accurately perceive an object from a newly restored external sense.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-41
Number of pages20
JournalHistorical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • common sense
  • empiricism
  • epistemiology
  • experimental education
  • Molyneux's Problem
  • natural language
  • Scottish enlightenment


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