A theory of knowledge holding that whatever is intelligible is also sensible. Sensists make sense perception the primary function of the cognitive process, and regard memory, imagination, and reasoning as activities of the same faculty that receives external sense perceptions. They tend to regard man as differing from other sentient beings only in degree. Representative thinkers in this tradition include democritus, lucretius, T. hobbes, J. locke, D. hume, A. comte, A. Bain, James mill, T. reid, and H. spencer. Many contemporary schools of psychology also teach an implicit sensism. Examples would be the structuralist school, which equates ideas with images; the behaviorist, which identifies thought with tacit vocalization; the Gestalt, which views all intellectual acts as self-regulating cortical patterns; and the Freudian, which considers all human activities as emerging from instinct. G. E. Moore, B. russell, and logical positivists also implicitly hold a sensist theory of knowledge.
Most realists, taking into account the full spectrum of phenomena given to human experience, acknowledge that knowing involves an immaterial principle. They affirm a functional relationship between sensation and reasoning, but maintain also that a distinct faculty is necessary for the abstraction of universals from particulars. Thus they make a real distinction between the image of sense and the universal concept or idea. An abstract and universal character is not found in sensations or images, for these always represent particular concrete objects. The eye does not see color as such, abstracted; it sees this particular colored object existentially present. The common image of Locke and J. F. Herbart is an insufficient explanation of the universal idea, for conscious experience affirms that the image remains in some way concrete, possessing sense qualities. If the imagination represents an angle, it is a certain kind of angle, obtuse, right, or acute, whereas the concept of angle prescinds from every size and kind.
If man is regarded as a psychosomatic unity, his sense knowledge is merely a primary source of knowledge. Moreover, his intellect has a dynamic orientation to possess intelligible being, which is realized in its intentional possession of the forms of material realities.
See Also: phenomenalism; sense knowledge; knowledge, theories of.
Bibliography: m. j. adler, ed., The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World, 2 v. (Chicago 1952); v. 2, 3 of Great Books of the Western World 2:706–729. r. f. o'neill, Theories of Knowledge (Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1960. p. coffey, Epistemology, 2 v. (New York 1917; repr. Gloucester, MA 1958). f. van steenberghen, Epistemology, tr. m. j. flynn (New York 1949). r. e. brennan, Thomistic Psychology (New York 1956).
[m. m. bach]
"Sensism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sensism
"Sensism." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sensism
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.