Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Common Sense

"common sense
sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence." - From

What is "common sense"? What seems to me to be common sense is often not what the other person sees as common sense. "Common sense" is what works for you in your day-to-day life. It is based on your physical senses and your experiences and is what allows you to function when faced with a problem to solve. But..... It isn't always factually correct. Sometimes specialized knowledge or training steps in where "common sense" fails. There are even cases where, when faced with a problem that requires specialized knowledge, "common sense" responses can get you killed.

The Theory of Relativity, Quantum Theory, and (apparently) biological evolution by natural selection violate "common sense" for most people. That is because common sense is extremely limited by your own personal experiences.

Because we don't experience travel through space at large percentages of the speed of light, relativity seems counter to our common sense perceptions.

Because we don't experience the incredibly tiny universe of the subatomic particles, quantum effects do not fit our notion of common sense.

Because our lives do not span geologic time scales, we have trouble with the concept of deep time in which natural selection causes species to change until a new species exists.

And - because we exist in a seething maelstrom of statism that is accepted as "the way it has always been done", anarchism seems to violate most peoples' notion of common sense.

"Common sense" has its place, but it also has its limitations. Use it when it works; accept the truth when it fails. Don't rely on it as a crutch in place of thinking and learning.