Knowledge from One’s Senses
The term refers to knowledge derived from contact between externalities and one’s sensory organs such as the ears and eyes, in contrast to “knowledge from one’s moral nature.” 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 acquired knowledge about the world in which they lived in two ways. Knowledge obtained from seeing and hearing was “knowledge from the senses,” which was an essential part of human knowledge. However, it was not a complete picture, nor could it provide an understanding of the original source or ontological existence of the world.
Knowledge from one’s senses is not knowledge from one’s moral nature. It comes from contact with external objects and not from the inner workings of the heart. (Writings of the Cheng Brothers)