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For other uses of this term, see common sense (disambiguation).
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One meaning of the term common sense (or as an adjective, commonsense/common-sense or as an adverb, commonsensical) on a strict construction of the term, is what people in common would agree; that which they "sense" in common as their common natural understanding. Some use the phrase to refer to beliefs or propositions that in their opinion they consider would in most people's experience be prudent and of sound judgment, without dependence upon esoteric knowledge or study or research, but based upon what is believed to be knowledge held by people "in common". The knowledge and experience most people have, or are believed to have by the person using the term.
Whatever definition is considered apt, identifying particular items of knowledge that are "common sense" is more difficult. Philosophers may choose to avoid using the phrase where precise language is required. Common sense is a perennial topic in epistemology and widely used or referred to by many philosophers. Some related concepts include intuitions, pre-theoretic belief, ordinary language, the frame problem, foundational beliefs, endoxa, and axioms.
Common sense ideas tend to relate to events within human experience, and thus commensurate with human scale. Thus there is no commonsense intuition of, for example, the behavior of the universe at subatomic distances or speeds approaching that of light.
* 1 Philosophy and common sense
* 2 Other uses
* 3 Projects to collect common sense
* 4 See also
Philosophy and common sense
There are two general meanings to the term "common sense" in philosophy. One is a sense that is common to the others, and the other meaning is a sense of things that is common to humanity.
The first meaning was proposed by John Locke in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. This interpretation is based on phenomenological experience. Each of the senses gives input, and then these must be integrated into a single impression. This is the common sense, the sense of things in common between disparate impressions. It is therefore allied with "fancy", and it is opposed to "judgment", or the capacity to divide like things into separates. Each of the empiricist philosophers approach the problem of the unification of sense data in one's own way, giving various names to the operation. However, all believe that there is a sense in the human understanding that sees commonality and does the combining. This is the "common sense".
Two philosophers are most famous for advocating the other meaning of "common sense", the view (to state it imprecisely) that common sense beliefs are true and form a foundation for philosophical inquiry: Thomas Reid, G. E. Moore.
The Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid, a contemporary of Hume and the founder of the so-called Scottish School of Common Sense, devotes considerable space in his Inquiry and the Intellectual Powers developing a theory of common sense. While he never gives a definition, per se, he does offer a number of so-called "earmarks" of common sense (which he sometimes calls "principles of common sense"), such as
* principles of common sense are believed universally (with the apparent exceptions of some philosophers and the insane);
* it is appropriate to ridicule the denial of common sense;
* the denial of principles of common sense leads to contradictions.
Of course, each of these is stated and explained by Reid much more carefully than is done here.
The British philosopher G. E. Moore, who did important work in epistemology, ethics, and other fields near the beginning of the twentieth century, is famous for a programmatic essay, "A Defence of Common Sense". This essay had a profound effect on the methodology of much twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy. In this essay, Moore lists several seemingly very obvious truths, such as "There exists at this time a living human body which is my body.", "My body has existed continuously on or near the earth, at various distances from or in contact with other existing things, including other living human beings.", and many other such platitudes. He argues (as Reid did before him) that these propositions are much more obviously true than the premises of many philosophical claims which entail their falsehood (such as the claim that time does not exist, a claim of A. N. Whitehead's).
Both Reid and Moore, individually, are famous for appealing to common sense to refute skepticism.