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Perception (from Latinpercipere "to perceive, grasp, apprehend"; Greekαἴσθησις aísthēsis; GermanWahrnehmung) is the term Rudolf Steiner specifically uses in his Philosophy of Freedom to describe the objects of sensation as they are given to man through direct observation. According to common usage, however, the activity of perception itself is also called perception. Together, both the activity of perception and the thereby phenomenally experienced content of consciousness, the so-called percept, are also called perception. The perception of the outside world, for example through the sense of sight or the sense of hearing, is also called exteroception (from the Latinexter "outside" and recipere "to receive") and is distinguished from interoception (from the Latininter "in the middle, between"), which is directed at the inside of the body and includes proprioception, i.e. the perception of one's own body position and movement, and visceroception, the perception of internal organ activity.

Perceptions are not limited to the sensual world alone, but one can also speak of mental and spiritual perceptions in the same sense, e.g. when we perceive our own feelings or thoughts. Sensory perception is only a special case of perception in general.

Sensory perception

Main article: Sensory perception

Sensory perception erases all non-sensory, ideational contents. These can only be grasped by thinking - and in an extended sense by the spiritual view - and only together with perception give the whole reality.

„The senses are physical instruments. Their communications about things can thus only concern the physical in things. And this physical in things communicates to me in such a way that a physical process is excited in myself. The colour as a physical process of the outer world excites a physical process in my eye and in my brain. In this way I perceive the colour. In this way, however, I can only perceive that of the colour which is physical, sensual about it. Sensual perception eliminates everything non-sensual from things. Through it, things are stripped of everything that is non-sensual about them. If I then proceed to the spiritual, the ideal content, I only restore that which sensual perception has erased from things. Thus sensual perception does not show me the deepest essence of things; it rather separates me from this essence. Spiritual, ideal perception, however, reconnects me with this essence. It shows me that the things in their interior are of exactly the same spiritual essence as I myself. The boundary between me and the outer world falls away through the spiritual grasp of the world. I am separated from the outer world insofar as I am a sensuous thing among sensuous things. My eye and the colour are two different entities. My brain and the plant are two different things. But the ideal content of the plant and of the colour belong with the ideal content of my brain and of the eye to a unified ideal entity.“ (Lit.:GA 7, p. 42f)


  • Bernhard Kallert: Die Erkenntnistheorie Rudolf Steiners. Der Erkenntnisbegriff des objektiven Idealismus, Verlag freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart 1960, ISBN 978-3-7725-0612-3
  • Gerhard Hahn: Die Freiheit der Philosophie. Eine Fundamentalkritik der Anthroposophie, Licet Verlag Göttingen 1995, ISBN 978-3980422505
  • Hartmut Traub: Philosophie und Anthroposophie. Die philosophische Weltanschauung Rudolf Steiners - Grundlegung und Kritik, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 9783170220195
  • Jaap Gerhard Sijmons: Phänomenologie und Idealismus: Struktur und Methode der Philosophie Rudolf Steiners, Schwabe Verlag, Basel 2008, ISBN 978-3796522635
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References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
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Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
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Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.