vrijdag 7 december 2012

The Thing With Common Sense

Whatever definition you use for common sense, it usually refers to particular knowledge attributes which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. A regularly used statement for common sense is: "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

But what if everyone around you shares a belief which you don't? Does it make your opinion less true? Shouldn't you be acting on your thoughts then? Before science hit us with its truth, people thought the earth was flat. The possibility of falling of the edge of the world was common sense at the time. Thinking differently would have exposed you to mockery at the least, but more likely to facing the inquisition for blasphemy. Even to this day, your life can be in danger in some places where your beliefs, be it religious, ideological or simply political, are a minority.

How can you tell that common sense makes sense?

I don't think you can! Common sense is not always based on facts. Actually, it navigates quite often between science, pseudoscience or just popular belief. Between realism and idealism.

Why do we use it so rigorously?

Sharing beliefs gives us a sense of significance, comfort and security. The more we share, the more it takes refuge in our social DNA, as fundamental patterns of our behaviour.

Is that a bad thing?

Jein (this is a portmanteau of the German equivalent for 'yes' and 'no'). Many of our daily choices are made on our built-in automatic pilot, also known as our conscience or ethical compass. At times when you turn indecisive, a quick check with the majority opinion or what your peers are doing, can ease your passage through life. But that is also a pitfall. The use or at least the overuse of common sense seems to have two side effects you might consider as negative:

A low appetite for risk, causing us to rely on other people’s knowledge – or what we think they know - instead of evoking exploratory behaviour.

It involves past thoughts. Thoughts take time to manifest into the physical world. What is creating our reality today is in large a result of the thoughts we have been thinking or sharing with others a while ago.

Is there a way to practice common sense in forward decision-making for an unknown reality?

Of course. As I said, common sense navigates between realism and idealism, meaning that there are still individuals or collective thinkers who will continue moving beyond the frontiers of common reality or immediate possibilities, mostly for the better of society. They do not see common sense as a constant but rather as a variable in a complex formula. In fact, without this continuous challenge of what we think to know, we would not have evolved as a human race.

Where can I find these forward thinkers?

These individuals can be found in various parts of our community. They can be scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs, CEO’s or politicians. Even as a parent you may find yourself in a role where you will have to prepare your child not only for today’s reality but the future one as well.

What unites these people?

LEADERSHIP. Common sense can become a dangerous instrument if not in the hands of people who are fearless enough to challenge the status quo. Or when applied in a scientific manner without counterbalancing opposing views. A fearless leader will ask questions like these: 
  • How common is our common sense?
  • Why has it become common?
  • When did something else stop being common?
  • Is there a minority belief? And if so, what is it?
  • Do these opposing opinions need to be brought together?
  • Etc.

The Ultimate Question Being:

How do I ensure that our common sense can answer tomorrow’s questions?

What does your common sense tell you?

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