Sensualism (from the Latin: sensus "feeling, sensation, sense"), which Rudolf Steiner counts among the twelve fundamental worldviews, is an epistemological direction that originated mainly in England and seeks to derive all knowledge exclusively from sensual perception. Rudolf Steiner assigns it the sign of Leo in the zodiac. Sensualism is a special form of empiricism, which is also based on experience, but is broader in scope and also includes knowledge from non-sensory sources, such as measuring instruments. In this sense, spiritual research based on systematic clairvoyant experience can probably also be classified as empiricism, but not as sensualism.
„One can say: Certainly, I hold 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 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.
But one can go further and say: We do have the world of phenomena around us. But everything that we believe to have in these phenomena in such a way that we have added it ourselves, that we have thought it ourselves, we have thought it into the phenomena. But only what the senses tell us is justified. - Notice that such a person who says this is not an adherent of phenomenalism, but he detaches from the phenomenon that which he believes comes only from the intellect and from reason, and he accepts as somehow announced by reality that which the senses give as impressions. This world-view can be called sensualism.“ (Lit.:GA 151, p. 42f)
- Rudolf Steiner: Der menschliche und der kosmische Gedanke, GA 151 (1990) English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
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