phenomenalism


phe·nom·e·nal·ism

noun \-nə-ˌli-zəm\

Definition of PHENOMENALISM

1
:  a theory that limits knowledge to phenomena only
2
:  a theory that all knowledge is of phenomena and that what is construed to be perception of material objects is simply perception of sense-data
phe·nom·e·nal·ist \-list\ noun or adjective
phe·nom·e·nal·is·tic \-ˌnä-mə-nə-ˈlis-tik\ adjective
phe·nom·e·nal·is·ti·cal·ly \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

First Known Use of PHENOMENALISM

circa 1865

phenomenalism

noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

View that statements about material objects are reducible to statements about actual and possible sensations, or sense-data. According to phenomenalists, a material object is not a mysterious something “behind” the appearances presented in sensation. If it were, the material world would be unknowable; indeed, the term matter is unintelligible unless it somehow can be defined by reference to sensations. In speaking about a material object, then, reference must be made to a very large system of possible sense-data, only some of which (if any) are ever actualized. Thus the statement “There is a fire in the next room” would be analyzed as a series of hypothetical statements such as “If one were to enter the next room with one's eyes open, one would see a bright light of a yellowish orange colour.” Some philosophers have objected that it is difficult to remove all references to material objects from the hypothetical statements to which material-object talk is supposedly reducible. See also George Berkeley.

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