Knowledge from One’s Moral Nature
The term refers to knowledge derived from the functioning of the mind, which, in contrast to “knowledge from one’s senses,” transcends knowledge obtained through the sensory organs. Zhang Zai was the first to differentiate between”knowledge from one’s senses” and “knowledge from one’s moral nature.”Confucian scholars of the Song Dynasty felt that people gained knowledge about the world in which they lived in two ways. Knowledge obtained from seeing and hearing was “knowledge from one’s senses,” whereas knowledge obtained through moral cultivation of the mind was “knowledge from one’s moral nature.” “Knowledge from one’s moral nature” was not reliant on the sensory organs; it transcended “knowledge from one’s senses” and was fundamental knowledge about the world in which one lived.
Knowledge from one’s senses comes from contact with external objects and is not knowledge from one’s moral nature. Knowledge from one’s moral nature does not come from sensory perceptions. (Zhang Zai: Enlightenment Through Confucian Teachings)