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What is common sense? 3 theories

What is common sense? 3 theories

July 14, 2024

Common sense is what we mean when we want to talk about the knowledge we all share. What we consider basic and evident, conclusions to which we arrived almost automatically when trying to analyze what we perceive.

However, at the moment of truth it is difficult to understand exactly what is common sense . We will discuss this in this article.

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What is common sense?

There are several ways to define philosophically what is common sense. Let's see them


For example, Aristotle attributed it to our capacity to perceive in an almost identical way the same sensory stimuli when they target our senses. When someone hears the crack of a branch when it breaks, is perceiving the same thing that any other person would have perceived instead .

In a certain sense, this indicates that we all share that way of feeling the impact that the environment has on us, but only if we are referring to the more specific and less abstract aspects of what we live in day to day: the taste of coffee , the views from a balcony, etc.

However, as we will see, other thinkers used the concept of common sense to argue that beyond the senses, we all have a common psychological matrix that allows us to critically analyze several things and extract similar ideas from this. For example, if a truck is speeding towards us, it is urgent to move away.

Rene Descartes

For this famous French philosopher, common sense was that which acts bridge between the rational and immaterial being that according to him governed the body, and the physical world , composed of the human body and everything that surrounds it in time and space.

Thus, while common sense allows the spiritual being to know that there is a physical reality, at the same time the imperfect of this physical world makes it not directly understandable and that rationality is needed to understand it. Common sense is, well, a basic notion that there are things that exist and things that happen , but it is a very vague knowledge from which we can not extract great truths capable of giving meaning to what happens to us. The water wets, the sun shines ... that kind of ideas are those that emanate from common sense.

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The pragmatist philosophy that emerged in the Anglo-Saxon world from the nineteenth century has generated a whole series of thinkers who tend to argue that the common sense is simply a set of beliefs about practical and basic aspects of everyday life and that are useful to develop in they. Thus, common sense is not defined so much by its proximity to the truth, as by the consequences of believing in certain ideas.

In theory, it is possible that an idea brings us closer to the truth and that at the same time it is not very useful for us to live well and be happy and, in that case, it would be debatable if it constituted common sense. Definitely, much of what is or is not common sense depends on the context , because it makes believing or not believing in certain things have different effects depending on the place and time in which we live. Since most people live in places that share many characteristics and rules, much of us share those ideas.

The authority argument

Sometimes we forget that the use of language not only serves to communicate ideas, but also have an effect, cause phenomena. Appealing to common sense to sustain an idea can be used, simply, to leave out of discussion a belief or opinion that is considered unquestionable .

This is, in practice, the only certainty we have about the nature of common sense: a rhetorical tool that serves to make it difficult for someone to question widespread ideas that many people consider naturally obvious. In short, a way to impoverish any debate, given that the popularity of a belief does not imply that it is good, true or useful.


Common sense is a concept that we use daily to refer to pieces of knowledge that seem obvious, that in theory everyone should be clear. However, the fact that we relate this idea to many day-to-day experiences is what makes the ability of the concept to explain the way of thinking of the human being not very powerful.

In other words, if the concept of common sense is problematic, it's because we take it for granted to think that by living similar experiences, we all draw similar conclusions from them. When it comes to the truth, there is nothing that guarantees us that this is the case.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bernstein, Richard (1983), Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis.
  • Maroney, Terry A. (2009). "Emotional Common Sense as Constitutional Law". Vanderbilt Law Review. 62: 851.
  • Sachs, Joe (2001), Aristotle's On the Soul and On Memory and Recollection, Green Lion Press.

Top 10 Psychology Theories That Defy Common Sense (July 2024).

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