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

Word Origin & History

common sense
14c., originally the power of uniting mentally the impressions conveyed by the five physical senses, thus “ordinary understanding, without which one is foolish or insane” (L. sensus communis, Gk. koine aisthesis); meaning “good sense” is from 1726. Also, as an adj., commonsense.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Related forms
com•mon-sense, com•mon•sense, adjective
com•mon•sen•si•cal, com•mon•sen•si•ble, adjective
com•mon•sen•si•cal•ly, com•mon•sen•si•bly, adverb

Common sense
Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”[1] Thus, “common sense” (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way

Common sense means paying attention to the obvious. This is not as easy as it sounds. We all have vivid imaginations, and we tend to get lost in our fantasies.

When fantasy replaces common sense, life becomes farcical and even tragic. Life is a series of ordinary events that follow the laws of logic and probability. These ordinary events are indifferent to our fantasies and require the careful, accurate navigation of 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.
Appeal to common sense is characteristic of a general epistemological orientation called epistemological particularism (The appellation comes from Roderick Chisholm.), which orientation is contrasted with epistemological methodism. The particularist gathers a list of propositions that seem obvious and unassailable and then requires consistency with this set of propositions as a condition of adequacy for any abstract philosophical theory. (An entry on the list, however, may be eventually rejected for inconsistency with other, seemingly more secure, entries.) Methodists, on the other hand, begin with a theory of cognition or justification and then apply it to see which of our pre-theoretical beliefs survive. Reid and Moore are paradigmatic particularists, while Descartes and Hume are paradigmatic methodists. Methodist methodology tends toward skepticism, as the rules for acceptable or rational belief tend to be very restrictive (for instance, being incapable of doubt for Descartes, or being constructible entirely from impressions and ideas for Hume). Particularist methodology, on the other hand, tends toward a kind of conservatism, granting perhaps an undue privilege to beliefs we happen to be confident about.

An interesting question is whether the methodologies can be mixed. For instance, it seems impossible to do logic, metaphysics and epistemology without beginning with some assumptions of common sense. However, particularism applied to ethics and politics often seems simply to entrench prejudice and other contingent products of social inculcation. Is there a way to provide a principled distinction between areas of inquiry where reliance on the dictates of common sense is legitimate (because necessary) and areas where it is illegitimate because it is an obstruction to intellectual and practical progress?

The topic of common sense raises interesting and important questions in a field closely related to epistemology and philosophy of language called “meta-philosophy”. Various questions might be raised in a meta-philosophical discussion of common sense: What is common sense? Supposing that a precise characterization of it cannot be given, does that mean appeal to common sense is off-limits in philosophy? Why should we care whether a belief is a matter of common sense or not? Under what circumstances, if any, is it permissible to advocate a view that seems to run contrary to common sense? Should considerations of common sense play any decisive role in philosophy? If not common sense, then should any other similar concept such as “intuition” play such a role? In general, are there “philosophical starting points”, and if so, how might we characterize them? Supposing that there are no beliefs we are willing to hold come what may, are there some we ought to hold more stubbornly at least?

Other uses Edit
Common sense is sometimes regarded as an impediment to abstract and even logical thinking. This is especially the case in mathematics and physics, where human intuition often conflicts with provably correct or experimentally verified results. A definition attributed to Albert Einstein states: “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
Matching Quote
“One thing is plain for all men of common sense and common conscience, that here, here in America, is the home of man. After all the deductions which are to be made of for our pitiful politics, which stake every gravest national question on the silly die, whether James or whether Jonathan shall sit in the chair and hold the purse; after all the deduction is made for our frivolities and insanities, there still remains an organic simplicity and liberty, which, when it loses its balance, redresses itself presently, which offers opportunity to the human mind not known in any other region.”
common sense


Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common
Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how

old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic

red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable

lessons as:

Knowing when to come in out of the rain;

Why the early bird gets the worm;

Life isn’t always fair; and maybe it WAS my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t

spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not

children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned

but overbearing regulations were set in place.

Reports of a 6 year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for

kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash

after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student,

only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for

doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining

their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get

parental consent to administer Calpol, sun lotion or a band-aid to a

student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and

wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments

became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received

better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself

from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for


Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman

failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a

little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and

Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son,


He is survived by his 3 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights; Someone

Else Is To Blame, and I’m A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was

gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the

majority and do nothing

Here are the Stellas for the past year:


Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.


Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles , California , won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didnt notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbors hubcaps.


Terrence Dickson, of Bristol , Pennsylvania , who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldnt re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut.Forced to sit for eight, countem, EIGHT days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowners insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this
kind of anguish.


Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stellas when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbors beagle – even though the beagle was on a chain in its owners fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the
time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.


Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, because a jury ordered a
Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.


Kara Walton, of Claymont , Delaware , sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000 …… oh, yeah, plus dental expenses.


This years runaway First Place Stella Award winner was: Mrs. Merv
Grazinski, of Oklahoma City , Oklahoma , who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game,having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway,crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owners manual that she couldnt actually leave the drivers seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her — are you sitting down? — $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit,
just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.


9 thoughts on “COMMON SENSE?

  1. I read a passage in Thomas Paine’s ” Common Sense.” “…A long habit of NOT thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT.” Profound thinking and way of stating that we can justify the statement, “WELL, IT’S ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY” (Inferring that ‘it’s law and unchangeable, or because it’s ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY, IT MUST BE THE RIGHT WAY. Liberal thought, if I may say so.

  2. well, yeah, common sense… when it comes to this issue I really find convincing the thoughts of Stanley Cavell and Hilary Putnam: that somehow skepticism feels inappropriate, but then it also seems to be wrong to dismiss skepticism, since we all experience it in our lives (mistrust, jealousy). this has something to do with the difference between acknowledgement and knowledge.

    concerning those more or less ridiculous court decisions it is Zizek who somehow points it our clearly. referring to the guy charging God (Acts of God, force majeure, circumstances beyond our control) respectively the church in face of some demolition done to his property due to some natural disaster (or something similar to this). this guy couldn’t stand on himself and life—he needed to make someone responsible.
    about the courts I’m not sure which rule they follow. however, I think their obedience is scary and this rule dangerous.

  3. Great blog about plain, “common sense”. Although the point about the “ten commandments”, are a little more than 2,000 years out of place. When, for followers of christianity were commanded, by Jesus of Nazereth. To “love one another as themselves and do unto others, as they would have done unto them”.

    The man Jesus, said my father commands that these are the new commandments. Known as the “Golden Rule”. They actually show up in other religions much older than christianity. Regardless, it is a good rule to live one’s life by and far less draconian than the ones referred to. I think the Golden Rule is much more about common sense anyway.

    The old testament, based on jewish scriptures. Is rather selective about the material contained and serves only as a context for the later writings. The jewish scriptures contain a lot of earlier Babylonian, Egyptian and Zoroastrian teaching and belief systems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s