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April 30, 2005

Common Sense

I was watching one of the talking head's shows when some pundit woman said, "What I'm saying is that we should go back to 'common sense'". This immediately struck me as inappropriate. I immediately said, out loud, "Never trust anyone who is using 'common sense' as an argument."

Completely by coincidence I ran across this quote by Albert Einstein.

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

Perfect! The reason you shouldn't trust someone who uses common sense as a point of argument is because they are not only exposing their bias, but their ignorance of the existence of their own bias at the same time. There really is no universal common sense and if you believe you know what it is, you believe you are correct without bias, which is incorrect no matter what your point is... and that's just common sense!

Posted by wonko at April 30, 2005 03:02 PM

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Ummm...hmmm...not sure I agree with you here. My common sense is telling me different.

How do you describe that which is intuitive or innate. Those things that we seem hard wired to do? Can this be called common sense?

I do understand your point in that the same "common sense" doesn't exist for everybody. Although, with that which is inherant, could a singular set of rules called "common sense" exist? Careful not to answer to fast.

Posted by: obigabu at May 4, 2005 05:05 PM

I think we may have innate ideas, but we may also choose to interpret them differently. The Shiavo case was a perfect example. What is most striking about those visceral 'common sense' ideas is how adamant one group can be that their point of view IS that innate common sense you mentioned. Plenty of people talk about innate common sense. I'd go as far as saying 'common sense' to most people means, 'we can all agree'. Obviously, that is used in areas where we do not all agree. You can only come up with very generalized examples that we'd all call common sense, but we'd all disagree how that would be interpreted.

Posted by: Wonko at May 4, 2005 06:17 PM

I think you make an excellent point. I would also like to point out for the benefit of others reading this thread that you were very clear about the inappropriateness of 'common sense' as a point of argument. I think it's significant that you make this distinction. I know that nothing bothers me more than someone who doesn't know why they've taken a certain position.To say that something is "common sense" is a cop-out, not a reason. This is true even if you accept the existence of such a thing as common sense. There must still be a reason why the common sense approach is a good idea besides "it just is."

Posted by: Zack at May 12, 2005 06:58 PM

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