Common sense, based on a strict construction of the term, consists of what people in common would agree on : that which they "sense" as their common natural understanding. Some people (such as the authors of Merriam-Webster Online) use the phrase to refer to beliefs or propositions that — in their opinion — most people would consider prudent and of sound judgment, without reliance on esoteric knowledge or study or research, but based upon what they see as knowledge held by people "in common". Thus "common sense" (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. Another meaning to the phrase is good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.
Whatever definition one uses, identifying particular items of knowledge as "common sense" becomes difficult. Philosophers may choose to avoid using the phrase when using precise language. But common sense remains a perennial topic in epistemology and many philosophers make wide use of the concept or at least refer to it. Some related concepts include intuitions, pre-theoretic belief, ordinary language, the frame problem, foundational beliefs, good sense, endoxa, and axioms.
Common-sense ideas tend to relate to events within human experience (such as good will), and thus appear commensurate with human scale. Humans lack any common-sense intuition of, for example, the behavior of the universe at subatomic distances [see Quantum mechanics], or of speeds approaching that of light [see Special relativity]. Often ideas that may be considered to be true by common sense are in fact false.
According to Aristotle, the common sense is an actual power of inner sensation (as opposed to the external five senses) whereby the various objects of the external senses (color for sight, sound for hearing, etc.) are united and judged, such that what one senses by this sense is the substance (or existing thing) in which the various attributes inhere (so, for example, a sheep is able to sense a wolf, not just the color of its fur, the sound of its howl, its odor, and other sensible attributes.) It was not, unlike later developments, considered to be on the level of rationality, which properly did not exist in the lower animals, but only in man; this irrational character was because animals not possessing rationality nevertheless required the use of the common sense in order to sense, for example, the difference between this or that thing, and not merely the pleasure and pain of various disparate sensations. This also contributes to the understanding held by the Scholastics that when one senses, one senses something, and not just a diversity of sensible phenomena.
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