Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 31 May 2005

The nature of 'common sense' ...

A recent exchange of comments in an earlier post in this blog has got me thinking about what 'common sense' is. According to my dictionary (Shorter Oxford, for information) it includes the following:

'Common Sense'

1. An internal sense which was regarded as the common bond or centre of the five senses 1548.

2. Ordinary, normal, or average understanding. (Without this a man is foolish or insane.) 1535.
b. Good sound practical sense; general sagacity 1726.
c. A thing approved by common sense 1803.

3. The general sense of mankind, or of a community 1596.

4. Philos. The faculty of primary truths 1758.

Also attrib. (hyphened).

2. Common sense will not teach us metaphysics any more than mathematics JOWETT.
b. Rich in saving common-sense TENNYSON.
c. Is this common sense? MACKINTOSH.

4. Philosophy of common sense: the theory which accepts as the criterion of truth the primary cognitions of mankind. Hence Common-sensible a. possessing, or marked by, common sense; - bly adv.

Now, what does this all boil down to? It seems to me that, whatever 'common sense' is, it is not absolute; it is highly subjective and varies from culture to culture and country to country, over time. Whenever I write about this concept it will be based upon what I consider to be 'common sense', no doubt influenced by all sorts of prejudices and hang-ups that are part of me. These ideas of mine will sometimes, perhaps often, not be shared entirely or even partially by other people. Opinions are what they are - what I might consider unusual or perverse ideas may be seen as completely normal by some other people. I accept all of this. But this is a blog called Bill's Comment Page and when I use the phrase 'common sense' the basic understanding which underlies whatever I have written will be based upon my view of something at the time; whether such ideas of mine represent any kind of 'common sense' is hardly for me to judge, but it is probably for certain that these views will be influenced by my 'prejudices' and 'hang-ups'. How could it be otherwise? In any case, and to conclude this long and rambling mind-dump, I do not really see it as a requirement to confirm in laborious detail my definition of every word I use - people can take what I write here as they find it and form their own views as to the level of 'common sense' and/or 'prejudice' that my views represent. What more can I say?

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