From AnthroWiki

Phenomenalism (Greekφαινόμενο(ν) phainomenon "visible, appearance"), which Rudolf Steiner counts among the twelve fundamental worldviews and which is not to be confused with phenomenology, is a term frequently used, especially in the 19th century, for those epistemological philosophical systems which assume that reality itself, the thing-in-itself in the diction of Immanuel Kant, but only its appearance can become the object of knowledge gained through experience. According to Steiner, the sign of Virgo corresponds to phenomenalism in the zodiac.

„One can say: Certainly, I adhere to the world that surrounds me all around. But I do not claim that I have a right to say that this world is the real one. I only know how to say that it appears to me. And I have no right to say anything more than: this world appears to me. I have no right to say anything more about it. - So there is a difference. One can say of this world that spreads out around us that it is the real world. But one can also say: I cannot speak of another world; but I am clear that it is the world that appears to me. I am not talking about this world of colours and sounds, which only comes into being because certain processes take place in my eye which show themselves to me as colours, that processes take place in my ear which show themselves to me as sounds, and so on, that this world is the real one. It is the world of phenomena. - Phenomenalism is the worldview that would be involved here.“ (Lit.:GA 151, p. 42)

Depending on whether an objective reality - precisely the thing-in-itself - is also assumed behind the phenomena, or whether reality at all is exhausted only in these phenomena of consciousness, a distinction can still be made between an objective and a subjective phenomenalism. The most prominent representative of the first school of thought was Immanuel Kant; Ernst Mach was a consistent adherent of subjective phenomenalism. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kant's great antipode, advocated pure phenomenalism:

„One can say, however, that precisely that knowledge of nature which today always boasts that it conceives of the phenomenon of nature in a pure way hardly succeeds in conceiving of the phenomenon of nature in a pure way, that is, in no longer penetrating it at all with the thought tissue of that which is made only in the concept, inwardly subjective. - All kinds of hypotheses are still being put forward about the external course of phenomena, not only justified but unjustified ones. But one person in more recent times has sharply emphasised, relatively early on, that this newer age must strive towards pure phenomena, towards pure phenomenology, with regard to the observation of external natural processes. And this was Kant's antipode Goethe. He demanded that the phenomena, the appearances, express themselves purely. He sharply emphasised that what takes place in the development of the intellect must remain quite distant from what is presented as a description of the phenomena and the phenomenal process itself. And Goethe repeatedly demands this pure phenomenalism in the sharpest, most admirable way.“ (Lit.:GA 76, p. 40)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.