What is common sense? 3 theories

Common sense is what we mean when we talk about the knowledge we all share. What we take as basic and obvious, conclusions we have come to almost automatically when trying to analyze what we perceive.

However, when it comes to the truth it’s hard to understand exactly what common sense is. We will talk about it in this article.

    What is common sense?

    There are several ways of philosophically defining what common sense is. Let’s see.


    For example, Aristotle attributed this to our ability to perceive almost identically the same sensory stimuli when they target our senses. When someone hears the crackle of a branch breaking, he perceives the same thing that anyone in his place would have perceived.

    In a way, this indicates that we all share this way of feeling the impact that the environment has on us, but only if we refer to the more specific and less abstract aspects of what we experience in our daily lives: the taste of coffee, view from balcony etc.

    However, as we will see, other thinkers have used the concept of common sense to claim that beyond the senses we all have a common psychological matrix that allows us to critically analyze various things and extract similar ideas. For example, if a truck is heading at full speed towards us, it is urgent to move away.

    René Descartes

    For this famous French philosopher, common sense is what he acts bridge between the rational and the immaterial being who according to him governed the body and the physical world, Composed of the human body and all that surrounds it in time and space.

    So, while common sense allows the spiritual being to know that there is a physical reality, at the same time the imperfect of this physical world does not make it directly understandable and that rationality is necessary to understand it. Common sense is therefore a basic notion that there are things that exist and things that happenBut it is very vague knowledge from which we cannot extract great truths capable of making sense of what is happening to us. The water is wet, the sun is shining … this kind of idea is one that would emanate from common sense.


      The pragmatist philosophy that emerged in the Anglo-Saxon world from the 19th century generated a whole series of thinkers who tend to regard common sense as simply a set of beliefs about the practical and fundamental aspects of everyday life and which are useful for developing in them. Thus, common sense is not defined so much by its proximity to the truth as by the consequences of believing in certain ideas.

      In theory, it is possible that an idea brings us closer to the truth and at the same time is of little use to us in order to live well and be happy, and in this case, one could argue that it constitutes common sense. In short, much of what is and is not common sense depends on the context, Because it makes us believe or not believe in certain things have different effects depending on the place and time in which we live. Like most of the people we live in in places that share many characteristics and rules, many of us share these ideas.

      The authority argument

      Sometimes it is obvious that the use of language serves not only to communicate ideas, but also to have an effect, to provoke phenomena. Using common sense to hold an idea can be used simply to put aside a belief or an opinion considered to be incontestable.

      This is, in practice, the only certainty we have about the nature of common sense: a rhetorical tool that serves to make it difficult for someone to question common ideas that many people naturally take as obvious. In short, a way to impoverish any debate, because the popularity of a belief does not imply that it is good, true or useful.


      Common sense is a concept we use every day to refer to knowledge that seems obvious, about which everyone should in theory be clear. However, the very fact of relating this idea to many everyday experiences is what makes the concept’s ability to explain human thinking less powerful.

      In other words, if the concept of common sense is problematic, it is because We take it for granted thinking that having similar experiences we all draw similar conclusions. As far as the truth is concerned, there is no guarantee that this is so.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bernstein, Richard (1983), Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics and Praxis.
      • Maroney, Terry A. (2009). “Emotional Sense as a Constitutional Right”. Revision of the Vanderbilt Act. 62: 851.
      • Sachs, Joe (2001), On Aristotle’s Soul and On Memory and Recollection, Green Lion Press.

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