• synonyms


[fi-nom-uh-nl-iz-uh m]
noun Philosophy.
  1. the doctrine that phenomena are the only objects of knowledge or the only form of reality.
  2. the view that all things, including human beings, consist simply of the aggregate of their observable, sensory qualities.
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Origin of phenomenalism

First recorded in 1860–65; phenomenal + -ism
Related formsphe·nom·e·nal·ist, nounphe·nom·e·nal·is·tic, adjectivephe·nom·e·nal·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for phenomenalism

Historical Examples of phenomenalism

  • In other words, is Kants position subjectivism or phenomenalism?

    A Commentary to Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason'

    Norman Kemp Smith

  • In so far as subjectivism reduces reality to states of knowledge, such as perceptions or ideas, it is phenomenalism.

    The Approach to Philosophy

    Ralph Barton Perry

  • Similarly a phenomenalism, like that of Hume, takes immediate presence to sense as the norm of being and knowledge.

    The Approach to Philosophy

    Ralph Barton Perry

  • But he differs both from Malebranche and from Hume in that he develops his phenomenalism on rationalist lines.

  • Kants Critical position is more correctly described as phenomenalism than as subjectivism.

British Dictionary definitions for phenomenalism


  1. philosophy the doctrine that statements about physical objects and the external world can be analysed in terms of possible or actual experiences, and that entities, such as physical objects, are only mental constructions out of phenomenal appearancesCompare idealism (def. 3), realism (def. 6)
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Derived Formsphenomenalist, noun, adjectivephenomenalistically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for phenomenalism


1865 (John Grote), from phenomenal + -ism. Related: Phenomenalist.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper