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When Common Sense Isn't At All Common or Sensible

The concept of common sense is often equated with being practical or doing the most reasonable course of action on a given situation based on one's own experiences. Often, this trait is associated with resourcefulness and being able to adapt to any circumstance quickly.

However, if you think about it, "common sense" isn't always common neither does it make sense all the time. And there are also instances when you cannot infer something based on the information or data you have been given and attribute that to "common sense" since the outcomes may differ depending on the factors involved or on a case-to-case basis.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the common sense argument is that it is invariably supported by anecdotal evidence. For example, in a discussion about the weather, the economy, child-rearing, sports, what have you, how often do you hear some variation of “Well, it’s been my experience that [fill in the blank].”

The case against the concept of "common sense" is that our individual experiences can lead to different outcomes and to say that one would be able to understand what to do in a certain situation based on experience or in some cases, based on what people would normally do or ought to do is a bit rash, to put it mildly.

Of course, one would still need to carefully analyze the different factors in a situation and come up with the best course of action from there.

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. We can, and should, apply many of the basic principles of the scientific method (develop hypotheses, collect and analyze data, draw reasoned conclusions) in our daily lives and challenge the facile and sometimes harebrained ideas that our friends — and even some of our leaders — unthinkingly spout. That is the kind of sense that makes the most sense, however common or uncommon it might be.

(Image credit: geralt/Pixabay)


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