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common sense isn't

 
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Thousands of times I have heard people refer to another that they have no common sense.  Every single time, I think less of the person with "common sense" on their lips.  What they really mean is that they feel a powerful need for a master/slave relationship with the other person needing to adopt the knowledge and values of their new master.  And then to be an obedient chump.

First, by utter definition of the phrase, if "common sense" were truly common, then the bits that make up "common sense" would be known by everybody.  Therefore:




if "common sense" is common, then why would anybody ever use the phrase "common sense"




Second, when somebody is chastising another for lack of "common sense" then the tidbit of information that is apparently lacking tends to be something rather obscure.  So uttering the phrase "common sense" is a bit like saying "neener neener, I know something you don't know!"

Use of the phrase "common sense" is a shaming tactic, nothing more.


 
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I always liked Terry Pratchett's view point on it. 'Common sense' was almost synonymous with nonsense in his stories. If characters were using informed, reasoned, good judgment it was always something else.
 
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I mostly agree with you Paul, the phrase is used wrong all the time.  And I also agree with Cassie Becker, or rather Pratchet's view: it is a synonym of nonsense, or at least it often is, and that seems to be a better definition for what passes for common sense these days.  

Second, when somebody is chastising another for lack of "common sense" then the tidbit of information that is apparently lacking tends to be something rather obscure.

 Not necessarily so.  Here's where I differ slightly with you, Paul, and with the Pratchet definition.  In the eye of the chastiser, that knowledge which is lacking is staring the people right in the face, and yet they are blind to it.

I use the phrase sometimes... I think it's because the things that I think are common sense things or ideas, are perhaps not embraced by others, even though I believe these things should be embraced by everybody, and if not I would like it to be so, since it would be for the common good.  And I think that the people who say this are not necessarily saying "neener neener, I know something you don't know!", but rather, "I really wish that everybody knew this, or practiced this", with the perhaps hidden snarky question of "Why don't you get it?   It's staring you in the face!" As an example, I think that purifying water just to shit in it, and then flush it into and poisoning the downstream water system is completely contrary to 'common sense', but if I was to breach the subject of this with legislators, or most common people, I would likely find that my thinking is not common at all; in fact the common thinking on the topic is that shitting in purified water is completely normal, acceptable, sane, and expected.  Their view is literally common sense in that the group mind has accepted it's value and definition, and yet my view, I would think should be common sense, and if the people were to really pick up what I was laying down, then they too would see the sense in it.

To further Pratchet's law of this 'sense', at present common sense is a very dangerous thing in thousands of ways.  Look at the planet.  Look at our elected leaders.  The thing that passes as common sense completely opposes a safe and pure planet, and these people (really??) have been given power over our world's affairs.  If what I deem to be common sense, or what you, Paul, deem to be common sense (which might be slight variances of one another), actually was common sense (in that it was commonly accepted knowledge), then Permies would be funded like a University, and our leaders would be benefiting the common people, and the (ECO)nomy.  

What you have, Paul, contrary to all this common sense malarky(speech or writing designed to obscure, mislead, or impress; bunkum), is Uncommon Sense.  Uncommon  Sense is that which perceives the world as clearly not presently functioning well, and knows that the solutions for changing that functioning for the better are remarkably simple.    

 
Roberto pokachinni
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If we look at the common sense definitions:

1.) sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts

2.)sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.

3.)the ability to use good judgment in making decisions and to live in a reasonable and safe way

4.)the ability to use good judgment and make sensible decisions

5.)Common sense is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things that is shared by ("common to") nearly all people and can reasonably be expected of nearly all people without need for debate.

6.)Good sense and sound judgement in practical matters

7.)Sound judgment not based on specialized knowledge.

 
We see that with the above seven definitions the central gist running through them is that those who use the term 'common sense' feel that there is a common ability to notice discrepancies in all functions of society or other affairs without special knowledge, and discern the best course of action to take to make things function best.  Perhaps at it's foundation, as such, the very definition is critically flawed.  The specialized knowledge, lets call it permaculture for common ground and our purposes, should be 'common sense', but it isn't.  

We would like Permaculture to be common knowledge, and therefore common sense, but to the masses it is specialized knowledge.    

My favorite is from the Urban Dictionary: Common sense is what -I- think others should know.

 
paul wheaton
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The definition of "common sense":  If you cannot behave the way I behave, I will say that you have no common sense.

 
paul wheaton
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Logically, it is not possible to utter "common sense" to express that somebody knows more or less than other people.
 
paul wheaton
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There is no such thing as "common sense."  If there were, we would not have any reason to use the phrase.   People use the phrase "common sense" as a cheap tool to shame other people into some twisted form of compliance.  The phrase teaches me a great deal about the person saying it and nothing about the person they are pointing at.

 
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Dreamers don't rely on common sense.
 
paul wheaton
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I think I made it even shorter:


People who wield the phrase "common sense" are desperately trying to shame obedience from others.


Yeah, much better.


 
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Unfortunately,  the english language is full of such phrases. The end result is to shut down purposeful communication. And those on the receiving end are too often conditioned to back down.

I once encouraged a key employee to leave my organization because the employee would assault subordinates with the phrase,  "What gives you the right ....." it the "common sense" phrase with a twist.
 
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I know a person who is exceptionally smart.  The kind of person you wonder if there is anything they don't know.  In a good and amazed way, not a snotty jealous way.  Over the course of  our friendship I have offered bits of advice, or a simple solution to a minor problem that got the reaction of course, why didn't I think of that.  My inner thought was this person lacks common sense.  I have never said it our loud.  I certainly didn't mean it in a condescending way, lord knows this person is way smarted then I.  My thinking is more that they see things on a different plane, or perception than I, or maybe there brain is so busy working out the complicated, the simple alludes them.  I'm on the fence here.  If you make this statement to someones face, I think you ether aren't very nice, or need to improve your communication skills.  On the other hand I understand this phrase.  The common every day things that most of us understand are hard or allude these people, it doesn't make them less in my book, strange enough often they are more.  I guess it is how you interpret the the meaning of the phrase, and how you use it.
 
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:I know a person who is exceptionally smart.  The kind of person you wonder if there is anything they don't know.  In a good and amazed way, not a snotty jealous way.  Over the course of  our friendship I have offered bits of advice, or a simple solution to a minor problem that got the reaction of course, why didn't I think of that.  My inner thought was this person lacks common sense.  I have never said it our loud.  I certainly didn't mean it in a condescending way, lord knows this person is way smarted then I.  My thinking is more that they see things on a different plane, or perception than I, or maybe there brain is so busy working out the complicated, the simple alludes them.  I'm on the fence here.  If you make this statement to someones face, I think you ether aren't very nice, or need to improve your communication skills.  On the other hand I understand this phrase.  The common every day things that most of us understand are hard or allude these people, it doesn't make them less in my book, strange enough often they are more.  I guess it is how you interpret the the meaning of the phrase, and how you use it


This is the type of scenario I thought of too. More broadly, we all seem to have certain blind spots in our thinking/knowledge that cause us to overlook things in certain areas of life. I think of a very good friend of mine who seems hell bent on making very painful choices in romantic relationships. He seems to lack common sense around romantic relationships. Or me, I definitely lack common sense around organizing/storage and am very greatful for the people in my.life (most of whom mysteriously possess this power I don't have) who see my storage mess and steer.me.straight.
Common doesn't mean universal or ubiquitous. I find the concept of common sense useful in problem solving in a farm/garden context. I start by saying/thinking "what's the common sense solution to this problem" and then work out from there.
 
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well...partly agree. SOME people do this, the shame culture is very widespread, sadly.

but i have definitely been told many times that i have no common sense, and it was not meant as a shaming tactic. like my gramma would often say this to me, and it was more of a - i worry about you with your head in the clouds !  and/or funny, like in a context, where i would talk about also sorts of stuff that seemed (to me) extremely vital and profound, philosophizing  and talking about less tangible things, but then miss the obvious simple stuff right in front of me.

so yeah shaming culture sucks, agreed, sometimes people do this, among MANY other things, to always be pushing those shaming vibes, agreed...but there are some of us that this could be a relevant and important point.
i definitely can get so abstract, thinking out the big picture stuff.... and think and talk often about things that seem very ungrounded or idealistic to people, while missing the simple and obvious in front of me.

of course, i would say...theres more meaning and purpose to this big picture stuff, these intangibles...than it is acknowledged...but people's lack of being able to see this may well be somewhat my fault for not communicating it well enough to understand the significance...or it may be partly that people look for ways to dismiss and undervalue that which they dont understand, or whatevers...

but can take the critique...and see why someone could say this. the sort of person who so busy looking at the stars and "head in the clouds" that they are tripping over everything on the ground...maybe could use to ground out more in simpler more straight forward communication...
 
Robert Ray
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I agree that "common sense" is weilded as a bat sometimes. Once the q-tip insertion gets so deep in the ear it hurts you have gone too far. Is that common sense or is that a lesson? I haved used it so often with my daughter as she was growing up I'm not sure in that context it was wrong. Fill the glass to the very top with milk because I'm thirsty, I'll spill some on the way, maybe filling it twice is better. Is that common sense or forward thinking?
 
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This thread really hits home right now. So many people are swinging the phrase "common sense" everywhere, and it they wield it as a weapon to attack those who they disagree with. It makes my heart so sad.
common-sense-isn-t-paul-wheaton-quote-permaculture.jpg
Common sense isn't.
Common sense isn't.
 
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If anyone has been a victim of the common sense phrase in a shaming way, then I'd suggest that they are definitely moving in the wrong circles. Where I live its used as an encouragement to look for the logic. Use common sense, would be said to us as children as an instructional phrase - meaning that we were asked to stop and think things all the way through - look for consequences as well as results.

Saying that someone has no common sense, is an indicator to others that someone might need help in certain areas, or that their judgement may not be able to be trusted in some things. My hubby's boss has absolutely no skill in character judgement - he leaves the hiring and firing to my husband. Boss says, "I have no common sense when it comes to people, I can't tell a con man from a saint". He's not shaming himself, he's stating a fact. Many people have blind spots, and lack what is generally otherwise common sense in some areas.

It's not meant to be shaming, it's meant to be a warning, or an encouragement/admonishment to look further than you are.

Any phrase at all can be used in a shaming way, if the intent is there... are we to stop speaking altogether?

There seems to be a wave of extreme sensitivity overcoming the world these days. People will take anything out of context and attack it, when they are feeling vulnerable and wish to lash out.

Let's not always assume that people mean the worst when they use 'common' sayings and expressions. After all, if someone is being nasty to you, it's generally easy enough to pick up on, and they needn't use special phrases to do it. "Hello", "Good Morning" and such daily phrases can be nasty enough, if said with the attending mannerism or tone.

Isn't it common sense to build something from a non flammable material if you don't wish it to burn in a high fire risk area? Many people would agree... and yet there is the constant parade of (in the minority) people who build from highly flammable materials, and want to cry when the shed burns down.

Because the non flammable material didn't , and a direct quote from a real person here "look as pretty". I would suggest this person didn't have common sense... not because of what they built with - that's a choice - but when they wanted to be histrionic about it afterwards, having been repeatedly warned. And not having said building insured. I hope that most people, would commonly have enough sense to not make this mistake of confusing the unusual with the impossible. Hopefully they would have enough sense to ameliorate the risk they're taking, insofar as its possible to do so. And in this case, the scenario wasn't all that unusual.

Not everything is said with intent to harm, sometimes its from sheer exasperation, and we're all prone to that.

Shaming culture does exist, but because some use it that way, it doesn't necessarily follow that all do. Don't blame the phrase, blame the nasty little so-and-so that used it that way.



 
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