Common Sense: a normal human being learns it all effortlessly in childhood

I am going to pretend Cecil just didn’t say that.

Not only are there plenty of people who learn many things that are “common sense” the hard way, such as “wear your seatbelt” being scoffed at until after laws were passed making not doing it potentially cost you a few dollars, but there are plenty of 40 year olds who lack common sense.

As an attorney and a psychologist, I would like to remind you of all the warning labels that appear upon products that make many of us chuckle. Those are there because someone didn’t know that. But not just because someone didn’t know that. Because someone didn’t know that and a judge or jury decided that not knowing that was reasonable enough to give the someone a bunch of $$$ from the company failing to put the warning on the product.

But let’s not get too proud of ourselves, here amongst the smarterest people around. How many of us, without the warning, would have found out the hard way that you shouldn’t put metal in the microwave oven?

How many of us saw that warning label and still decided to see what would happen?

One person’s common sense is another’s “who knew that?”

And hopefully, of those so inclined, we were no longer children when we learned that, really, you should not drink the whole bottle of vodka. You know what I mean, not the airplane size.

tinyurl goes to column.

Well, using tinyurl for that purpose certainly goes against common sense.

Albert Einstein

The term “common sense” is used in several ways. Sometimes it refers to just the knowledge that any human being acquires at birth or at least the knowledge that a human being acquires from observation of the world regardless of what society one lives in. Sometimes it refers to knowledge that any member of a particular society acquires over his life in that society which is not acquired by all members of other societies but is instead derived from the unstated beliefs of his own society. Cecil is using it in something closer to the first sense, while you’re using it in something closer to the second sense. Sometimes it appears to mean nothing but the speaker asserting that he knows things that others don’t because they are stupid in certain ways. You might want to read the Wikipedia article on common sense, which shows how varied the senses are that philosophers use for the term:

Historically, “common sense” means a good many things. See C. S. Lewis’s Studies in Words.

“Common Sense”, as I think it is commonly used, simply means all of the very basic life’s lessons (particularly, regarding safety) that are so commonly encountered that everyone learns those things very young, hence we perceive those lessons as stuff that “everybody knows”.

But it’s very culture dependent. In the modern industrialized world, our houses almost all have slot-like holes in the wall that look like this. We all just know that you should never stick a knife into one of these holes because it isn’t a knife sharpener.

We also know better than to run into the street without looking both ways because our mommies and daddies have beaten that into our heads at a very young age. (Actually, a great many dogs seem to know this also.)

A primitive Hottentot would probably not know these things, and we might think that he is stupid and lacking in “common sense” for not knowing such obvious things. But he probably knows all kinds of things that we don’t know, like how to safely use a dart blow-gun and what things in the jungle are dangerous to touch. Our Hottentot would certainly think that a modern anthropologist, visiting in his village, is very stupid and lacking in “common sense” for not knowing that kind of stuff.

The problem with some people is the term “common sense” gets applied to the exact way they do things. I hear it over used by less educated, less intelligent people who need to qualify themselves by constantly telling everyone how much common sense they have. Furthermore, common sense is the modus operandi of those who lack the intelligence and/or discipline to apply more complicated or vigorous reasoning to a situation.

In context, Cecil is paraphrasing someone else’s arguments. If he has paraphrased inaccurately then complain about that. Otherwise, take it up with John Searle.

Common sense is very easy to define:

I have it, and if you do something differently than the way I would do it, you don’t.

Much better way of putting it:)