Against Common Sense
Last few days 1 I was in a conversation with someone about something political. In most cases he would end the argument with “It’s common sense”. Though I agreed with the “common sense” my point was “common sense” was just the starting point of the debate and not how one ends the debate. But that debate ended with him saying “Common sense is not common”, which was also wrong usage of the phrase. “Common sense is not common” is popularly believed to mean “Someone has sense below common and hence an idiot” but actually means “everybody’s idea of common sense is different”.
Anyway let’s get back to what common sense means. Wikipedia defines common sense as
Common sense is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things that are shared by (“common to”) nearly all people and can reasonably be expected of nearly all people without need for debate
So basically something that is so generalised that anyone can get it and sometimes that generalised fact doesn’t need a debate. It needs more knowledge, debate and arguments if one want’s to dig deep to reach the “Sense” layer. If one thinks that the debate ends at the “Common Sense” layer then he is missing nuance; which is probably whats happening in today’s political discussions.
Politicians always appeal to “common sense” because that’s where one gets lots of votes. I haven’t seen any politician talking sense because there is a good chance that he will be misunderstood or ridiculed as most would think “Common sense is the best sense”. But it’s actually “common sense is the best sense they have”.
Let me give you an example while debating the privacy all politicians across the world 2 come with “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” or similar statement. It appeals to public’s common sense. But does it make sense? No one asks that question because then you need to get into subtle details, check them and then conclude. That’s a lot effort, needs time, makes you read or reach-out to knowledgeable people. Ultimately you might end up in the other side. Hence he reluctance to go beyond common sense.
So these days when someone brings up “Common Sense” facts as the greatest truth, I end the conversation.