Common Sense

In everyday life the set of accepted facts and beliefs we tend to take for granted are often referred to as common sense. Common sense is basically the name of all things everybody is expected to know of. Everybody has an understanding of this common sense but is there a way to define this common sense?

Common sense can be split up in two words, “common” and “sense”. “Common” here serves as the adjective that means “general”, “wide-spread” or “public” as it refers to all the people in a given culture or society. The word “sense” is more difficult to explain. “Sense” can directly be derived from the verb “to sense” and has various interpretations.

In the English language there is the expression “that is sensible”, meaning “that is well-reasoned/decided”. You can even look at the words “sense” and “sensibility” and next to each other they have different meanings. “Sense” on its own can mean both understanding as well as a feeling or emotion. The word “sensibility” can refer to the ability to reason or understand something well.

The easier way out seems to be to look at the verbs “to sense” and “to make sense”. The verb “to sense” literally means to feel. The verb “to make sense” means something else, namely to create understanding or to be reasonable, thus sensible. Based on the verb “to make sense”  common sense can be interpreted as common understanding or common consensus.

Common sense as a “common consensus” of accepted facts and beliefs is very interesting. Consensus is nothing more than a public or wide-spread agreement on facts or beliefs. Consensus is related to what is accepted in a given culture or society. This interpretation implies that common sense depends on what a majority of people choose to belief in a given culture or society.

There is a paradox to common sense though. Does common sense always make sense? Well, people can be wrong about accepted facts and beliefs. In that case what these people regard as common sense, does not make sense. The paradox of common sense additionally reveals how relative things can be depending on perspective. In short, common sense depends people and their perspective.

As simple as common sense may seem, it is rather complex…