AskDefine | Define exoteric

Dictionary Definition

exoteric adj : suitable for the general public; "writings of an exoteric nature" [ant: esoteric]

User Contributed Dictionary



From exōtericus, from ἐξωτερικός (exōtericos) "external", adjectival form of ἐξώτερος (exōteros) "outside".


  • /ˌɛksoˈtɛrɪk/, /%Ekso"tErIk/
  • Hyphenation: ex·o·ter·ic
    Rhymes: -ɛrɪk


  1. External; public; suitable to be imparted to the public; hence, capable of being readily or fully comprehended; — opposed to esoteric, or secret.
    • 1977, Gaynor Jones and Jay Rahn, "Definitions of Popular Music: Recycled," Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 11, no. 4. (Oct), p. 81,
      The grouping together of folk and elite might be termed relatively "esoteric," in contrast to the more "exoteric" popular forms.
  2. Of or pertaining to concepts having obvious practical application and that are not highly theoretical.



external, public
  • Korean: 대중적 (daejungjeok)
  • Russian: экзотерический, общедоступныйй
of or pertaining to concepts having obvious practical application
  • Russian: понятный

Extensive Definition

Exoteric refers to knowledge that is outside of and independent from anyone's experience and can be ascertained by anyone. It is distinguished from esoteric knowledge. Exoteric relates to "external reality" as opposed to one's own thoughts or feelings. It is knowledge that is public as opposed to secretive or cabalistic. It is not required that exoteric knowledge come easily or automatically, but it should be referenceable or reproducible.

Philosophical context

Most philosophical and religious belief systems presume that reality must be independent of what an individual makes of it. However, even before the days of Plato, a prominent alternate theory of knowledge insisted that the perceived outside reality is merely an internal fabrication of the observer and that it has no existence or substance outside the imagination of the observer. Thus, the reality we interact with is therefore merely a consensus we have reached; if we choose to imagine it otherwise, it will change. From this, one may conclude that anything labeled as "exoteric" is in fact "esoteric". When taken to its logical extremes, the result is solipsism, the notion that it's "all in our heads".

Religious context

The term exoteric is mostly used in conjunction with religions, such as Judaism, in which the teachings shift the believer's focus away from the exploration of the inner self and towards the adherence to rules, laws and an individual God. The term exoteric may also reflect the notion of a divine identity outside and different from the identity of a human, whereas the esoteric notion claims that the divine is to be discovered within the human identity. One step further, the pantheistic notion suggests that the divine and the material world is one and the same.

Other contexts

Exoteric also refers to knowledge that is outside the human perspective. For instance, "exoterically speaking, the human organism is highly organized matter, actively engaged in a fight against entropy. The human mind is a quality of the brain."


The prefix 'exo' has Greek roots and means "outer".

See also


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