THE COMMON SENSE APPROACH

Common sense is based on ordinary personal experiences (that are then shared). Although often neglected in scholarly writings, it is the most widely spread way of acquiring knowledge, skills and understanding. Common sense essentially uses heuristic methods that enable drawing intuitive insights or tacit knowledge from our experience. Because of such a nature, common sense is best expressed through narratives (myths, stories, articles, movies), although its vocal supporters sometimes come from other fields (e.g. mathematician Thomas Reid and philosopher George E. Moore).

 

SOME MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT COMMON SENSE

Common sense is less valid than other approaches - the success of science in particular has often led to a derogatory attitude towards common sense (sometimes labelled ‘folk psychology'). To show its apparent inferiority, the examples of people believing in the past that the Sun goes around the Earth or that the Earth is flat are often brought up. Common sense, indeed, can sometimes be wrong, but this cannot justify diminishing its value and importance. Most of the knowledge gained in such a way has at least a pragmatic validity. Other approaches, when they go against common sense, more often than not eventually appear to be mistaken. For example, during the reign of behavioural psychology many parents were indoctrinated to bring up children in the ‘scientific' manner, which appeared to be, at least in some instances, damaging for children and parents alike. Eventually, such ways of upbringing were abandoned and common sense prevailed again (even the wife of John Watson, who founded behaviourism, admitted that she was not a good behaviourist in this respect).

Common sense is simplistic - in fact, common sense is probably the most intricate approach of all. This is because it deals with non-linear, complex systems. Linear systems may be more precise, but they are inevitably simplifications and therefore not fully adequate in many situations.

Common sense is relativistic - common sense may, indeed, vary from individual to individual or from culture to culture to some extent, but it is often forgotten that what people share is much greater than what they do not. Common sense, stripped of its cultural idiosyncrasies, can be surprisingly universal. The differences are often the result of an adaptation to diverse (historical or present) circumstances.