Common Sense vs Logic

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Common Sense was a young woman of undetermined race, age, ethnicity, height, weight, area and volume. In fact, she was wholly nondescript and unremarkable save for one distinguishing feature: her inimitable way of insisting that everything was “just common sense.”

Whenever approached on a topic of opinion, she would state her own and by way of saying, “It should be obvious to everyone” would add, “It’s just common sense.”

The implication was: You should agree with her; she was, after all, Common Sense.
Common Sense was full of enough common sense (that is to say, she was full of herself) that she felt she could opine on anything. She knew precisely what was wrong with everything and went out of her way to protect people from their own misperceptions of the world.

If someone had the folly to see things differently, she would correct their views, argue away their opinions, and even comment on their personal hygiene habits should the situation call for it. After all, it was Common Sense.
Then there came Empirical Logic. Logic, like Common Sense, was a young woman who defied easy description. Her outstanding feature, however, was her penchant for Defining Terms. Prone to finding a better understanding of the world, she wanted people to use Operational Definitions and cite examples, research and findings.

Opinions were never enough for Empirical Logic; she needed facts.
It was a fateful day upon their meeting. Common Sense had taken the time to tell yet another group of people all that was wrong with their way of life when Logic happened by.
“And so you see, it is just common sense,” concluded Common Sense.
Intrigued, Logic asked, “What do you mean by `common sense’?”
“Simply stated, my ignorant friend,” said Common Sense, “it should be obvious to all those who can think.”
“But,” argued Logic, “there are many issues in which people disagree. Do they all lack common sense?”
“Of course,” said Common Sense.
“But is it not true that `common sense’ depends on having something in common, a common referent?” queried Logic.
“I do not know what you mean,” said Common Sense, twirling her hair.
“Well, all judgment depends on the context, knowledge and experience of the observer.” said Logic, “If I have nothing in common with you, we cannot share `common’ sense.”

“Of course you can,” said Common Sense. “Think of any instruction manual as an example. It might say, `When boating, use common sense. Have one life preserver for each person in the boat.’ Or `When towing a water skier, use common sense. Have one person watching the skier at all times’.”
“If it truly were common sense, there would be no need for the second sentence,” said Logic. “In this case, I submit that use of the term `common sense’ is best understood as `pay attention’ because the manual is instructing you in something with which you are unfamiliar. That is, there is nothing in common.”
“Well, in this case, it simply means you should think and be cautious,” said Common Sense.
“But what if you have something with which the person has no experience at all? What if it is something with which they lack the sophistication to think about?” asked Logic.
“Like what?” asked Common Sense.
“Science, for example has found many things that defy our experience of the natural world and thereby violate our common sense,” said Logic. “Most people cannot imagine how mountain ranges form because they have no experience with it. However, if you were to take a GPS tracker to the Himalayas, you could easily measure that they are rising at a steady rate even today.”
“But that is science!” said Common Sense. “I’m talking about day to day things like living your life.”
“Whenever people are operating with different experiences, we have different symbolic interactions and common sense is lost,” said Logic.
“Example?” demanded Common Sense.
“An American man meets an Arabic man and offers his hand in friendship for a handshake,” said Logic. “Is that appropriate?”
“Yes,” said Common Sense. “I would even call that Common Courtesy.”
“Should that American man extend the same courtesy to the Muslim man’s wife?” asked Logic.
“Of course,” said Common Sense. “He would not want to appear sexist.”
“But we have no common referent here,” said Logic. “And we have a different set of courtesies. Arabic men can touch another man in public. Arabic men and their wives are not allowed to touch each other in public. A man touching another man’s wife would be an insult.”

“Well… I didn’t know that,” said Common Sense.
“It’s not your fault,” said Logic. “It merely illustrates that you do not have that in common with each other.”
“But, still, it’s what most people believe,” said Common Sense.
“Most people in your experience,” said Logic. “Ask the Arabic man or woman, and they would say it is merely `common sense’.”
“A picture of a knife over a heart describes what?” asked Logic.
“Death? … a gang?” guessed Common Sense.
“No,” said Logic. “It means `patience’ or the ability to endure. To the Chinese, this is common sense.”
“But I’m not in China! I’m talking about what most people believe here!” screamed Common Sense, in a fit of exasperation.
“What you are describing is really an appeal to popularity,” said Logic. “This is suggesting that it is something that `everybody knows’ even though this is unexamined and untrue. This is called a False Consensus, which is the tendency for people to project their way of thinking onto other people.

That is, people assume that everyone else thinks the same way they do. This is actually not possible unless we have not just some things, but all things held in common.”
“But I’m talking about knowledge and using good judgment in general,” argued Common Sense, in her adamantly vociferous way .
“Knowledge and judgment are based on experience,” said Logic. “You are assuming there are experiences we should all have. You are ultimately confusing fact with opinion and valuating experience that we may or may not have.”
With sudden realization, Common Sense understood that she, in fact, did not exist. That she was, in fact, a construct of the valuation in a society that would often lead to falsehoods. And in a poof of Logic, she died.

She was survived by her sister, Non Sense.


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