Professor Mark Paterson's new book: Seeing With the Hands: Blindness, Vision and Touch after Descartes

Seeing with the Hands: Blindness, Vision and Touch After Descartes by Professor Mark Paterson has now been published by Edinburgh University Press.

From the publisher's website:

The "man born blind restored to light" was one of two foundational myths of the Enlightenment, according to Foucault. With ophthalmic surgery in its infancy, the fascination with blindness and what the blind 'see' once their vision is restored remained largely hypothetical. Was being blind, as Descartes once remarked, like 'seeing with the hands'? Did evidence from early ophthalmic surgery resolve debates about the relationship between vision and touch in the newly sighted? Has the standard representation of blind figures in literature been modified by recent autobiographical accounts of blind and vision impaired writers and poets?

As this book shows, much interest in the philosophy and psychology of blindness was prompted by the so-called 'Molyneux Question' which Irish scientist Molyneux asked of English philosopher Locke in 1688. The question concerns 'sensory substitution', the translation between vision and touch, which would effect practical outcomes for the blind, including the development of Braille, the first school for the blind in Paris, and even present day Tactile-Visual Sensory Substitution (TVSS) technologies. Through an unfolding historical, philosophical, and literary narrative that encompasses Locke, Molyneux, and Berkeley in Britain, and Diderot, Voltaire, and Buffon in France, this book explores how the Molyneux Question and its aftermath has influenced attitudes towards blindness by the sighted, and technologies for the blind and vision impaired, to this day.