Image from my retina’s photo shoot in 2006 labeled #1. Pink membrane with purple veins and a fiery yellow spot, like a burning sun, to the left side and a yellow amoeba-like figure creeping towards it. Endnotes for The Molyneux Man.

Chapter 7: The Molyneux Man (TPE Hyperlinked Endnotes)

The empirical impulse as philosophized and practiced by Galileo, Bacon, and Hooke (Chapter 5), and as poeticized by Milton (Chapter 6), came into fruition by the end of the seventeenth century culminating, perhaps, in the Essay on Human Understanding by John Locke. In that book we find the “Molyneux Man”—a theoretical man born blind and made to see—that provokes fundamental questions about innate knowledge and what it means to see. Following the philosophical construct of the Molyneux Man into the modern era we meet two blind men “made to see”: Virgil in Oliver Sacks’ case study “To See and Not See” and Mike May in the book Crashing Through. In both stories, the “gift” of sight turns out to be much more complicated than one might imagine.

 

Endnotes for “The Molyneux Man”

  1. From Aristotle’s De Anima (On the Soul).
  2. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II.I.2.
  3. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II.IX.8.
  4. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II.IX.8.
  5. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II.IX.8.
  6. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II.IX.8.
  7. Sacks, “A Man of Letters,” Kindle 984.
  8. Sacks, “A Man of Letters,” Kindle 997.
  9. Sacks, “A Man of Letters,” Kindle 997.
  10. Pollan, How to Change Your Mind,
  11. Pollan, How to Change Your Mind,
  12. Achromatopsia is the subject of Oliver Sacks’s The Island of the Colorblind.
  13. Gregory, Eye and Brain, 57–58.
  14. Gregory, Eye and Brain,
  15. Gregory, Eye and Brain, 5–6.
  16. I’ll be referring to the essay “To See and Not See” in Sacks’s collection An Anthropologist on Mars.
  17. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  18. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  19. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  20. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  21. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  22. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  23. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  24. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  25. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  26. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  27. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  28. Sacks, “To See and Not See,”
  29. Kurson, Crashing Through, 126–27.
  30. Kurson, Crashing Through,
  31. Kurson, Crashing Through,
  32. Kurson, Crashing Through,
  33. Glenney and Silva, The Senses and the History of Philosophy, “General ”
  34. Glenney and Silva, The Senses and the History of Philosophy, “General ”
  35. Glenney and Silva, The Senses and the History of Philosophy, “General ”

Bonus note from Aaron Kassoff, MD

Recently, I was delighted to receive a kind email from Dr. Aaron Kassoff, an ophthalmologist reader of There Plant Eyes which was as gratifying as it was corrective. I asked if I could share his explanation of the blind spot in this chapter and he agreed. I hope he will not mind that I also included his kind words:

A short message. I must tell you, as an Ophthalmologist, how enjoyable and enlightening reading There Plant Eyes has been as I am halfway through it. Your insights, no pun intended, have lent a more full understanding of visual loss and blindness than my 50 years of practice and many conversations with patients have given me.

I do have a comment regarding your presentation regarding the blind spot in vision as described on page 101 in the chapter, “The Molyneux Man.” The normal blind spot is termed a negative scotoma, one of which we are unaware, as you explain, as opposed to a positive scotoma, should it occur, of which one is aware. This plays no part in driving or other activity in the normal binocular individual. The blind spot, as you are no doubt aware, is located in the temporal visual field, lateral to the foveal central vision, in each eye. The nasal visual field of the other eye sees that area of the blind spot and therefore, binocularly there is no part of the visual field that is missing. Also, the blind spot in a car doesn’t refer to the blind spot in one’s vision related to the optic nerve area’s absence of retinal receptors, but rather to an area not seen in the rear view mirrors, where a passing vehicle is too far forward to be reflected in the mirrors and has not yet appeared in the driver’s peripheral field of vision. I hope that my explanation has been clear.

#ImageDescription: Image from my retina’s photo shoot in 2006 labeled #1. Pink membrane with purple veins and a fiery yellow spot, like a burning sun, to the left side and a yellow amoeba-like figure creeping towards it.

Expert description from Dr. Kassoff: “The image of your retina shows extensive change in the macular area, including close to the fovea. There are patchy hypo and hyperpigmented changes surrounding the central foveal area which may be unaffected. I’d love to know what your central vision was at that time. Further evaluation employing imaging such as OCT might have given more information but at that time, I suspect, classification on these conditions would have been more limited than it might be today.”

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