IS IT COMMON TO LOSE COMMON SENSE? This morning I ran across a memory post on Facebook and it seems as applicable or even more in this world of he said, she said, or they said. or anonymous said. I am posting it here and then I will give you my additional thoughts on this subject.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes common sense:
Definition of common sense
: sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts She’s very smart but doesn’t have a lot of common sense. rely on common sense for personal safety
Common Sense Is Neither Common nor Sense
Common sense, defined as “sound judgment derived from experience rather than study,” is one of the most revered qualities in America. It evokes images of early and simpler times in which industrious men and women built our country into what it is today. People with common sense are seen as reasonable, down to earth, reliable, and practical.
But here’s the catch. Common sense is neither common nor sense. There’s not a whole of sound judgment going on these days (though whether it is worse than in the past, I can’t be sure), so it’s not common. If common sense was common, then most people wouldn’t make the kinds of decisions they do every day. People wouldn’t buy stuff they can’t afford. They wouldn’t smoke cigarettes or eat junk food. They wouldn’t gamble. And if you want to get really specific and timely, politicians wouldn’t be tweeting pictures of their private parts to strangers. In other words, people wouldn’t do the multitude of things that are clearly not good for them.
And common sense isn’t real sense, if we define sense as being sound judgment, because relying on experience alone doesn’t usually offer enough information to draw reliable conclusions. Heck, I think common sense is a contradiction in terms. Real sense can rarely be derived from experience alone because most people’s experiences are limited.
In fact, I think that so-called common sense is a fallacy that has been foisted on us by our culture of ideology (any ideology that wants to tell us what we should think and do) that prefers us to be stupid, ill informed, and poor decision makers. Sorry to get a bit political here, but common sense is even used as an ideological cudgel by conservatives in which so-called coastal elites lack common sense and, as a result, are out of touch with “real Americans” who apparently have an abundance of common sense. But, if we use our elected representatives as examples (though I can’t vouch for how representative they actually are), I think it’s safe to say that unsound judgment, that is, the absence of common sense, doesn’t discriminate based on political ideology.
The word common, by definition, suggests that common sense is held by a large number of people. But the idea that if most people think something makes sense then it must be sound judgment has been disproven time and time again. Further, it is often people who might be accused of not having common sense who prove that what is common sense is not only not sense, but also completely wrong. And, by the way, common sense is often used by people who don’t have the real knowledge, expertise, or direct experience to actually make sound judgments.
The unfortunate reality is that trusting common sense, in point of fact, causes us to make poor rather than sound judgments. Perhaps the biggest problem with common sense is that it falls prey to the clear limits of personal experience. Or, we don’t even have any actual experience in the matter and rely simply on what we believe to be true or have been told is true, what we might label “faith-based sense” (in the broadest sense of the word faith). For example, when you’re having a discussion about just about anything that requires taking a stand, for example, the weather, the economy, raising children, sports, what have you, how often do you hear some variation of “Well, it’s been my experience that [fill in the blank]” and the person then draws a conclusion based on said experience? And how often is that conclusion wildly at odds with the facts? More often than not in my experience (though, of course, my experience may be insufficient to draw a truly sound conclusion).
I think we need to jettison this notion of the sanctity of common sense and instead embrace “reasoned sense,” that is, sound judgment based on rigorous study of an issue (which also includes direct experience). Of course, we can’t do an in-depth scientific study of every issue for which we need to draw a conclusion or make a decision. We can’t, in the formal sense, do a review of the literature that includes relevant theories and the scientific findings to date, prepare detailed hypotheses, design a formal methodology, collect data, and employ complex statistical analyses from which we draw conclusions. But we can, and should, apply many of these basic principles of the scientific method in more informal ways to our daily lives.
In conclusion of the breakdown of what we older people have referred to a common sense may be more realistically described as ‘REASONED SENSE” and it may be less common than any of us want to admit.
I will leave you with this LIVE LIFE, LOVE LIFE, LIVE AND LOVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST by appreciating and understanding that life sometimes makes no sense, common or reasoned, at all.
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