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This article seems to be attacking the problem from a rather anti-phenomenalist POV. Does anyone agree? Also, are there people who could be cited who use the reductio ad absurdum described here? My knowledge of this field is limited so I don't want to butt in too much, but as it stands, the article fails to take into account several things -- such as the fact that I, for one, don't have any actual *sensory* experience that proves that my own mind exists -- apart from the sensory experience I have of my hands and feet and my own interesting thoughts as I write them down. My knowledge of my own mind (I think?) comes from a set of qualia, not a set of concrete sensory perceptions. Hence if the only things that exist are bundles of sensory information, then my mind is just as likely or unlikely to exist as other peoples'. I'm not sure what to call that conclusion, but I don't think it's solipsism. Solemnavalanche 09:58, 22 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Furthermore, it seems to be wrote by someone in lecture format. The article needs cleaning up so it actually begins to read like an encyclopedia article.--Knucmo2 09:12, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

Two things[edit]

To me it also seems to be written in a anti-phenomenalism point of view.

Also, it fails to consider the Zen Buddhist point of view, that is very interesting and relevant to the discussion about reality, and especially in the case of what is real and what is in and out of one's mind. Conventional Buddhist lore can easily refute some of the author's arguments against this philosophical view.

I agree. This artcle seems to be taking a very negative stance on phenominalism. Alexander Wahl
I hope you don't take my disagreement too seriously, but you'd be making the same error as the anti-phenomenalists by discussing it from a Pro-Buddhist point of view. Quite interestingly, you refer to lore as being able to refute logical, painstaking arguments. Perhaps I don't need to explain further but, lore is simply cultural and folk traditions, not pertaining to knowledge as such. Inter alia, phenomenalism is a predominantly Western philosophy discipline. That is not to say Eastern philosophers arguments are invalid because of cultural divide, rather, that it is not as relevant to historical and contemporary discussions of a Western topic.--Knucmo2 09:17, 27 October 2005 (UTC)


Surely it is necessary to point out the flaws of any Philosophical standpoint in order to further develop the ideas. If we take a completely neutral opinion, we won't get anywhere. I don't see a problem with pointing out the results of phenomenalism, nor any of its antithesises, be it representative or naive realism.

The problems with this article are not that it points out the flaws of phenomenalism, but that it takes a stance and makes a conclusion about the subject. : (talk) 02:23, 27 September 2009 (UTC)


The book problem was added at the end without much explanation, and in the quantum world, this happens. 21:32, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

Another two things[edit]

The article is clearly searching for a way to refute phenomenalism, not trying to explain what it is - which is what it should do.

Also, if "one's mind is the only thing that exists", we clearly don't have to worry about any "book on the table before us", because neither our bodies, nor any tables or books exist.

Fmueller 17 October 2005

Assumed infallibility of Popper's doctrine[edit]

I hate to point out another flaw with this article, but I've noticed that this and a lot of other articles seem to judge a theory by whether it is pseudoscience or not by Popper's criterion of falsifiability. This doctrine is by no means infallible (if only anything Popper said was) and furthermore, it is not the only means by which science can be determined. Additionally, science could never explain the ultimate answer to knowledge and epistemology (sceptical I know, but sciences methods nor reasoning are 100% reliable, and 100% incorrigible simultaneously). Why judge a philosophy by its scientific credit unless you're a logical positivist (even they refuted the idea that all philosophy is reducible to science later on).--Knucmo2 09:31, 27 October 2005 (UTC)

Collective Conscience[edit]

What about the idea of a collective conscience, indeed today it is presented through the "information superhighway" including not only the internet and media but art music and other obscure entities. So what makes a good looking person? Can people recognize their likes and dislikes? The answer is "Yes, if the subject at hand appers appealing" What makes such a subject appealing, and in the case of the phenomenalist definition given: because the mind which exists, assigns those certain characteristics to such non-real entities outside the conscious mind of the thinker. Seems that the physical world and the mind affect each one another equally, yielding the illusion of collective consciousness, however that leads full circle to the idea that some-mind is controlling all.

What?--Knucmo2 23:29, 16 November 2005 (UTC)


It seems to me that this article is confusing phenomenalism and idealism. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't George Berkeley an idealist rather than a phenomenalist? The difference between the two may be slight, but it is there. Phenomenalism is the theory that material objects are bundles of actual or possible sensations, therefore removing the reliance on God. Doesn't that suggest Bishop Berkeley might not have been a phenomenalist? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bewilderedmuse (talkcontribs)

The distinction between phenomenalism and idealism is based on a common misunderstanding of idealism. According to phenomenalism, our experience of objects is actually an experience of sensations and the perceptions that are subsequently generated from sensations. Idealism says the same thing, but is erroneously believed to further categorically declare that there are no objects related to our sensations. This is untrue. Idealism merely claims that, if an object is related to our sensation, then the object can be known only in the way that it is the source of our sensation. Otherwise, the object is unknown to us, and is therefore nothing to us.Lestrade 14:56, 7 August 2007 (UTC)Lestrade
Unfortunately, that misstates idealism. Idealism is the view that objects do not exist independently of our mental, intellectual (or linguistic) processes. Idealists cash the latter out in various ways, but rarely in terms of sensations. An idealist does not necessarily believe that objects conform to "sensations" - if that means sensory experience. I agree with the Bewilderdmuse definition of phenomenalism.KD Tries Again 18:47, 7 August 2007 (UTC)KD

The words Idealism is the view that objects do not exist independently of our mental, intellectual (or linguistic) processes is a very eloquent and succinct statement of the common misunderstanding. In order to express idealism correctly, they should be modified to read Idealism is the view that objects do not exist, in the way that they are experienced, independently of our mental, intellectual (or linguistic) processes.Lestrade 19:26, 7 August 2007 (UTC)Lestrade

Nope. Kant certainly believed that, but Fichte, Schelling, Hegel and other idealists have not. It is not characteristic of idealists that they are committed to some kind of noumenal realm.KD Tries Again 20:05, 7 August 2007 (UTC)KD

The key to understanding idealism is to fully understand Berkeley's definition of the word "existence." For Berkeley, existence is the same as being perceived. In other words, to be is to be perceived. This is meant to be an exact equivalence. As a result, the word "exist" should never be used alone. It should always be said as "being perceived." In this way, the thought will be apprehended that objects are always perceived by an observer. If they are not perceived, they do not have existence as a perceived object and are therefore nothing to anyone. Therefore, there is no existence in itself or being as such. An object can only have existence for anyone by being a perceived object for a perceiving subject. Idealism does not have anything meaningful to say about an absolute object that is not perceived. In order to be an object, it must be a perceived object. According to Berkeley, " esse is percipi " (Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Pt. I, § 3). It must be understood that this is a complete, full equality. Phenomenalism is the same. It is no different from idealism. Neither of them attach any meaning to sentences that mention appearing things that do not appear.Lestrade 18:19, 8 August 2007 (UTC)Lestrade

Yes and no. That's a perfectly fair account of Berkeley, but Idealism doesn't begin and end with him. If you simply replace "Berkeley" with "Hegel", you'll see at once that it's an inaccurate account of Hegel's philosophy - he certainly was not committed to the view that to exist is to be perceived, especially if that implies sense perception. I don't recommend that we play the "not a true Scotsman" game and infer that Hegel, Fichte et al are thus not true Idealists. Wiki has to reflect the academic consensus, not radically alter it.KD Tries Again 14:59, 9 August 2007 (UTC)KD
It seems that there are a great many varieties of Idealism. The word "Idealism" signifies a multitude of concepts. That is why it is ambiguous. The Wiki article on Idealism should list all of the many varieties of Idealism in order to give an intelligible account of that topic. Luckily, the word "Phenomemalism" only signifies one concept: knowledge of objects that are perceived by animals according to the way that they stimulate animal sense organs. Postscript: I always thought that Hegel's Idealism was directly copied from Berkeley's Idealism. The only difference was that Hegel's Absolute was another name for Berkeley's God.User:Lestrade|Lestrade]] 22:55, 9 August 2007 (UTC)Lestrade
I agree about phenomenalism. As for Hegel copying Berkeley, one shouldn't overlook Hegel's devastating critique of empiricism.KD Tries Again 15:16, 10 August 2007 (UTC)KD

After empiricism's devastation by Hegel, it is a wonder that anyone could ever again believe that a person could learn anything at all from experience.Lestrade 00:38, 11 August 2007 (UTC)Lestrade

It's certainly a wonder that anyone, following Kant and Hegel, could believe that experience alone can be a source of knowledge.KD Tries Again 15:40, 17 August 2007 (UTC)KD

Phenomenalism/Idealism— Answered[edit]

Read the whole article. What it is saying is that both idealism and phenominalism are, in fact, ultimately reduceable to solipsism (which is true), and differ only in minor detail.. Moreover, solipsism is irrefutable, although (like so many philosophical viewpoints) not provable.

normxxx 00:49, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

Error in reductio ad absurdum argument[edit]

There is no premise that says other minds do not exist. The only thing that does not exist according to phenomenalism is actual matter.

Postulate that the universe as we experience it is describable by some huge set of vectors which minds can interpret as experiences occurring in a mind constructed multi dimensional space time non physical theater of the minds. These experiences include pleasure, pain, light, sound, taste, touch, and so forth. Each mind constructs the experience of this universe as it would be experienced by an individual in the universe.

As minds we can all share this set of vectors even though there is no physicality of any sort outside of that which our phenomenal experience suggests.

As everything experienced is mind generated from this set of vectors, the mind body problem disappears. The vectors themselves exist in the infinite set of real integers. Many universes are likely with many different minds to experience them, perhaps in many other ways than just as light, pain, pleasure, sound, and so forth.

The theater of the mind fools us into thinking that we have eyes which sometimes require glasses, and that we have optic nerves which can be damaged. The theater is marvellous, everything fits together as if there truly were a physical universe.

We turn out to just be one of the sets of integers in the set of real numbers which a mind can experience.

What is interesting is that nothing requires this to be so. So, if ever nothing existed, then this must be so. —Preceding unsigned comment added by WilliamHagerbaumer (talkcontribs)

I'm having trouble accepting what you are saying. You are saying that the only things that exist are minds and this set of time-space vectors, which the minds can draw information from. The contributions of each individual mind is also encompassed within this set of vectors, so that different minds can become aware of each other indirectly. It sounds like you are just replacing the words 'physical universe' with 'set of vectors'. Maybe I am missing something. You especially lost me when you say that 'we turn out to just be one of the set of integers'. I really don't understand how someone could believe themselves to be a set of vectors... You are aware of yourself thinking, therefore you exist as a thinking being, and therefore surely you can't simply be a number. Do you mean our influence on the universe is described as part of this set of vectors? Please elaborate, I'd like to understand this more. Averisk 04:31, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

Popper's woeful doctrine???[edit]

First of all, nonscience is not equivalent to pseudoscience. As Shakespeare said in Hamlet, Act I, scene 5. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreampt of in your philosophy."

Second, since the proposition is a statement of fact, it can only be disproved by a counterexample to which a majority of scientists subscribe. It may, indeed, be considered itself an insufficiently testable 'theory,' and hence only weakly scientific. But, as far as I now, no reputable scientist has ever even attempted to challenge it with a counterexample.

Karl Popper, a well known critic of Logical Positivism, published the book Logik der Forschung (Eng.:The Logic of Scientific Discovery) in 1934. In it he presented an influential alternative to The verifiability theory of meaning, defining scientific statements in terms of falsifiability. But Popper's concern was not with distinguishing meaningful statements from meaningless statements, but distinguishing scientific from metaphysical statements. He did not hold that metaphysical statements must be meaningless; neither did he hold that a statement that in one century was metaphysical, while unfalsifiable (like the ancient Greek philosophy about atoms), could not in another century become falsifiable, and thus scientific (by the 20th century atoms would become part of science).

I never disputed that, but I think your objections definitely result from my poor understanding of falsification. I didn't really have a grasp of Popper when I made that remark, as you can probably tell.

Third, I have not and will not address theology, which is not so easily written off...

"Additionally, science could never explain the ultimate answer to knowledge and epistemology..."

Science is not equivalent to all knowledge! Indeed, science is only concerned with a rather limited range of physical phenomena. Of the vast literature of this world, only a small part is devoted to "science." In particular science does not address such interesting subjects (i.e., they are ruled as strictly outside the realm of science) as epistemology, and metaphysics in general. Nor does it address that vast other literature which does not explicitly address itself to science.

True, but this is more an incautious use of language more than anything on my part. The Vienna Circle did truly believe that all discoverable truths about the world can be discovered by the methods of science. They believed that philosophy's task of discovering the world was left to the sciences, and since the sciences (especially at that time) were seemingly inventing new ideas and concepts at will, the logical positivists needed philosophers to elucidate and be extra careful about clarification of the concepts, and be careful about draw a line between what is factual, and thus what could possibly be a science, and what is subjective or emotive, and thus not scientific and non-meaningful. I am definitely with you that science does not constitute the whole body of knowledge, and what was meant by that assertion that the LP's were mistaken in thinking that it was. Hope this clears somethings up. --Knucmo2 16:19, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

P. S. Incidentally, I am not so unfavourable to Popper any more.

"...even they refuted the idea that all philosophy is reducible to science later on.

I am sure no logical positivist was so foolish as to make any such statement.

What they were perhaps best known for was the verifiability criterion of meaning, which asserts that a statement is meaningful if and only if it is empirically verifiable. However, this assertion cannot be verified empirically, so must itself be assumed to be metaphysical! One intended consequence of the verification criterion is that all non-empirical forms of discourse, including ethics and aesthetics, are not "literally" or "cognitively" meaningful, and so belongs to "metaphysics". Logical positivism was essential to the development of early analytic philosophy, and has since essentially been subsumed by it. normxxx 00:49, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

Metaphysics was a dismissive term used by the LP's to characterise synthetic statements. Since synthetic statements (they rejected the idea of synthetic a priori knowledge per Kant, naturally) didn't satisfy the criteria of being scientific they were empty claims to being truths or knowledge. As empiricists, they claimed the only knowledge to be held was the world of actual experience, and possible experience. --Knucmo2 16:19, 26 April 2006 (UTC)

Crucial Phrase[edit]

If a certain prepositional or adverbial phrase is added to the definition, then the meaning of Phenomenalism becomes very clear and understandable. For example:

  • In epistemology and the philosophy of perception, phenomenalism is the view that physical objects, as they appear to an observer, do not exist as things in themselves but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space.
Thus, physical objects as they appear to an observer are appearances to an observer? Where does this get us?
This gets us to an understanding that the statement is analytic. It also gets us to an important realization that we are not talking about the existence of objects apart from the way in which they appear to an observer. 16:32, 29 January 2007 (UTC)ViktorFrankensteen
  • In epistemology and the philosophy of perception, phenomenalism is the view that physical objects, as they are experienced by an observer, do not exist as things in themselves but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space.
  • In epistemology and the philosophy of perception, phenomenalism is the view that physical objects, in the way that they appear to an observing subject, do not exist as things in themselves but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space.
  • In epistemology and the philosophy of perception, phenomenalism is the view that physical objects, in the manner that they appear to an observing subject, do not exist as things in themselves but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space.
  • In epistemology and the philosophy of perception, phenomenalism is the view that physical objects, in the way that they are experienced by an observer, do not exist as things in themselves but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space.
  • In epistemology and the philosophy of perception, phenomenalism is the view that physical objects, in the manner that they are experienced by an observing subject, do not exist as things in themselves but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space.

The phrase is necessary because if objects are said to be phenomenal, then they are appearances that are observed by a subject. That observing subject's mind experiences the object as being in space and time, and also as having an effect on the observer, as well as on other observed objects.Lestrade 14:51, 10 January 2007 (UTC)Lestrade


In the "other critisisms" section, I suppose it may be too much to hope for, but might one include the critisism that phenomenalism is just plain silly?

I also think that the fact that people mainly agree on what the world looks like seems to indicate that there is someting common to people but independednt of each: the "real world". Could someone phrase this better and include it?

A judgment that assigns the predicate "plain silly" to phenomenalism is without value. Why is phenomenalism silly (absurd, ridiculous)? Also, conventional agreement on "what the world looks like" is not a criterion or standard of truth. This problem is not solved by a democratic opinion poll. It is solved by the thoughts of unique individuals. Many of the past common views of the world have been superseded.Lestrade 19:15, 20 May 2007 (UTC)Lestrade

Counterfactuals vs conditionals[edit]

To whoever wrote this part of the article:

"To see how he did this, note that C.I. Lewis suggested that the physical claim "There is a doorknob in front of me" necessarily entails the sensory counterfactual "If I should seem to see a doorknob and if I should seem to myself to be initiating a grasping motion, then in all probability the sensation of contacting a doorknob should follow." Of course, this statement itself contains references to physical objects which would have to be substituted by sense-data expressions, but the point is clear enough. Chisholm showed that the statement "There is a doorknob..." does not entail the counterfactual statement."

Is this to read "conditional" rather than "counterfactual"? CNK, June 27, 2007

I made the same observation: counterfactuals are defined by their inclusion of the subjunctive. The example given is just a conditional, not a counterfactual -- where this term means counter - factual, where states of affairs counter to facts are expressed in subjunctive terms! This needs to be changed, so I will change it. 01:33, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

This reduction fails to account for the so called "subjective idealism" of Berkeley. - He was by no means a solipsist, to Berkeley only the spirit existed. All things in the external world are indeed mere sense-data, but they do not only inhere in one's mind. Berkeley's philosophy is deeply spiritual - to him the things which we observe to be in the external world exist only so much as they are contained in God's mind. Rather then leading to solipsism, Barkley leads us to a kind of Spiritual Matrix.


Whoever wrote the above comment, its unnecessary. Interpretations of any idealism or solipsism or subjectivism can be argued without contradiction--this is why Wittgenstein described philosophy moving between solipsism, idealism, and realism--and that all are true. They can all be collapsed into each other. An idealist doesn't believe there is nothing we consider "external", just that it isn't a "real" externality. There are many ways to interpret this--that nothing "exists" without perception (Berkeley argued that to be is to be percieved), the externality isn't "real" (David Hume), or that all we see as "matter" is really mind or spirit (i don't think Hegel would say this, but at least he said "matter is false"). Also, the statement made in this article, that implies that phenomenalism can't talk about other minds existing, is clearly wrong--you could say that they exist, but just as your mind doesn't have a "place" relative to internality or externality neither do they. The problem Wittgenstein found was just that any interpretation of reality, whether idealistic, solipsistic, or realistic, are metaphysical and thus nonsensical. Brianshapiro


Im not sure the description of Kant's Transcendental Idealism is accurate/up to date. In this article the 'two world' world view is taken and a great deal of work has been undertaken recently to show the 'one world' view is in fact the only plausible stance (I think conclusively). In short, Kant didn't believe we were unable to interact with noumena - he thought we did and that this was fundamental to any experience; his problem with noumena was the idea that we could know them objectively/directly/purely. Kant was no phenomenalist. —Preceding unsigned comment added by ProcessAndReality (talkcontribs) 13:26, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

On Berkeley[edit]

I also thought Berkeley was an idealist. Wasn't Hume the first philosopher responsible for promoting phenomenalism?

There is a paper here published on Berkeley and phenomenalism have a read: (talk) 01:43, 17 December 2010 (UTC)

Long-standing bias[edit]

I came here to comment on the apparent bias against phenomenalism in this article, which seems in many places to simply state criticisms as correct in the article's own voice rather than stating merely that someone raised such-and-such criticism; the place this stood out to me most is the phrase that "Roderick Chisholm refuted...".

However, reading over the talk page here I see that similar objections have been made going way back to 2004, and they have not been addressed. I will attempt to address some of the issues with the article when I have more time later tonight, but I would appreciate any thoughts or comments on the state of the article and ways to improve it in the meanwhile. --Pfhorrest (talk) 17:27, 25 April 2011 (UTC)


Someone more knowledgeable than I ought to write something more extensive about how phenomenalism relates to Buddhism and other enlightenment schools (e.g., est) ... and it's more than a bit surprising that there's not even a mention of Martin Heidegger! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:46, 26 December 2011 (UTC)