What does the term "common sense" mean?

Common sense depends upon ones frame of reference. If you grew up around people that thought the earth was flat and were asked,“Is the earth flat?” Your response would be,“Of course that is common sense.” A broad education, what used to be referred to as a liberal education, along with some understanding of logic makes common sense more common. As the USA started emphasizing math and science while neglecting history, sociology, geography and other education subjects I have found sense to be less common. But then many people pride themselves on not needing to know things, ignorance is a badge of honor among some. Hand a map or even an app containing a map to many people and ask them to point out where they are right at that moment. You’d be shocked to find how many people don’t even know where they are located. We have people in congress that cannot find Yemen or Iran on a map but want to bomb them. Ask them to point out Wuhan in China. They talk a lot about it but they neither know its location or how many people live there. Many think it’s some podunk town in the boonies. Sense is not common.


Without knowledge there is no sense other than the most primitive.

Common sense is the thing you would have done if a girl wasn’t involved.


The Wikipedia article is a long one.

“Common sense” generally refers to an understanding of those things that one can directly observe. I wouldn’t say that everyone who once believed that the earth was the center of the universe lacked common sense, they simply accepted the conventional understanding of things beyond their senses. On, the other hand, one might show a lack of common sense by arguing against generally accepted scientific principles when one has little scientific knowledge or understanding to base the contrarian position on. Anyone who tries to build a perpetual motion machine by definition lacks common sense …

The way the term “common sense” gets used is too vague. In the case of the flat earth argument would be an appeal to tradition which is how the term is frequently used.

This entire discussion of ‘common sense’ is pretty much a proof that it’s a chimera of the imagination… before we get to what ‘is’ means maybe we can look at it as a tool with a function, more than it’s content. For example, A ‘hammer’ is an iron thing, of a particular shape, well actually it can be iron and a composite handle and the shape is not one shape but multiple but there’s iron there. Actually there’s a type of ‘hammer’ that is not really that iron-y, sand in a plastic shell that… well…

Once you get thru it all, you come to a more common and more appropriate definition. A hammer is a tool, to apply force to objects. Definition by function, rather than reduction.

So, what is ‘common sense’? A term or phrase, but don’t bother reducing it to deliberate on its ‘content’ or ‘makeup’. It’s function is all you need. ‘Common sense’… is a rhetorical device. You use it to correct someone (don’t you have any common sense), bring them to your views (just use your common sense!), or setup an innovative new approach when tradition is the objection (this solution to this new problem is not common-sensical).

The end.

Now let’s get back to American Exceptionalism and How it relates to Norwegian dining.


Common sense is evolutionary. What was common sense to the WW2 generation, having lived through the great depression, Rape of Nanking in 1937, German invasion in 1939, the attack on Pearl, the Holocaust, and the bombing of Nagasaki, is much different then the millennials or Gen Z’s [who, in my opinion, are totally lacking in said sense].

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I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression. Their brand of common sense dictated that you cleaned all the food on your plate.

If you were born in 1900 you were 14 when WW1 started and 18 when it ended with 22 million people killed. Later that year, the Spanish Flu pandemic hit and 50 million died from it by the time you turned 20.
When you turned 29, the Great Depression began and the world economy collapsed. It lasted until you turned 33. WW2 started 6 years later when you were 39.
When you turned 41, the US entered the war. By the time you reached 45, the war had killed 75 million people and the holocaust had exterminated 6 million.
At 52, the Korean war started and 5 million perished. At 64, the Vietnam war began and finally ended when you were 75.

We can get through this with our own brand of common sense.


Nicely stated. I hope some of my folks and grandfolks that went through all that rubbed off a small portion of common sense off on my hard head.

Common sense would say not to get involved in so many wars…

Upon further rumination, common sense doesn’t even exist. It’s a misguided concept because sense is completely subjective. Reading about MLB pitching ace Blake Snell drove this home. His annual salary is $10 million. He refuses to take a pay cut to play a shortened season this year due the virus. His common sense tells him it’s not worth the risk. Lots of folks think he has no common sense at all and that he’s a spoiled idiot. Their common sense tells them that if they were in his shoes they would jump at the chance to play for a couple of months for half of that $10 million. Their sense is only common in their peer group. He’s using his common sense and theirs is useless to him and his peers because they are not in his shoes.

The term is almost always used as JB says as a rhetorical device. Mostly it’s being claimed that people don’t have it.

As far as using common sense to solve problems, it has its limits.

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. Attributed to Albert Einstein


The limitations of common sense approach - The Synthesis


The limitations of this (and other) approaches can be grouped in three categories: extrinsic ones (the result of factors extraneous to experience), limitations of common sense as a social practice (ensuing from the way knowledge is shared and communicated) and intrinsic limitations.

Extrinsic limitations

Bias - insights based on personal experiences are difficult to distinguish from one’s preferences, desires or fears. They are often coloured by the character of the person and shis past. Also, there is a tendency to interpret these insights in such a way as to satisfy one’s needs and confirm existing beliefs, which may give rise to superstition and other unproductive ways of explaining reality. Even if this subjectivity is avoided, such insights are shaped by specific circumstances and may lack universality.

Dogmatism - when beliefs based on common sense become embedded in a particular cultural framework, they are very difficult to change and often become dogmatic.

Limitations of common sense as a social practice

Elusiveness - common sense is based on clues often too complex and subtle to be rationally explained and systematically described. This is why common sense, more than any other approach, finds its expression in narrative art (from myths and dramatisations to stories and films). However, such a way of knowledge transmission may be sometimes vague and not easily understood.

Intrinsic limitations

Limited scope - common sense is limited in scope. Not all aspects of reality are accessible to personal (even if collective) experiences. The far corners of the universe, the world of subatomic particles, or the processes in the living cell, are not within the reach of common sense. By the same token, an exploration of reality beyond the ordinary perception require a transcendence of typical personal experiences. Furthermore, some understandings can only be achieved by using logic and reasoning in a more systematic and strict way than common sense usually does.

Imprecision - common sense relies on ‘rule of thumb’ methods and, therefore, is not very precise. This often does not matter, but sometimes more exact methods are needed.

The above indicates that common sense is a valuable approach but not sufficient on its own, so it needs to be combined with other ones.


Urban dictionary gives a good definition of common sense.

Common sense is what I think others should know.

When you remove the tea kettle from the stove, it’s common sense to then turn off the burner.

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2nd chuckle of the day. And didn’t make it out to be a complicated discussion. Now that’s common sense.

Wisdom or folk wisdom might be a more accurate term.

I would think wisdom and common sense go hand in hand. However you want to describe it or say it doesn’t exist. JMHO

Way more folksy than wisdomy.

My mutt cleaned her plate today. Common sense, folksy, wisdom, or just hungry. She is pretty bright for a bear /mutt.

A cultural practice maybe?