A while back someone hit me with the “common sense” hammer and it inspired me to write a post about that phrase. That icky, horrid, club of a phrase.
Ok, so I just called it a hammer, and then I called it a club. This is because it seems to be one of those things (kinda like “trust” which is a rant unto itself) that exists more so that people can wield it as a weapon than because it has much in the way of merit on it’s own terms. The problem is that common sense has no consensus. Instead, it just seems to be any given individual’s set of assumptions that they think everyone else should agree with.
In many of my formative years “common sense” was the reason given for not explaining something to me and then punishing me for not knowing it. See, I was supposed to know the thing, because the thing is *common sense* donchaknow. So that made it my fault for not knowing.
I also get it – I still get it – in disagreements. A person will declare their view “common sense” and use that as a way to denounce my view without actually needing to address anything I say.
So when you add in things like how I view the world in a rather substantially different way from most people, and I am not exactly good at inferring information that hasn’t been stated, this “common sense” business gets all kinds of messy. I’ve noticed that I’ve started to have an immediate defensive reaction any time someone says that phrase. I view it as inherently dangerous, and little more than a weapon. My assumptions are different from yours. Your assumptions are different from some other person’s. Maybe that’s ok and we’d all be better off examining our assumptions and communicating our intent rather than relying on other people sharing our own concept of common sense.
Sometimes I see people talking about how common sense is becoming increasingly rare. Actually, I think I’ve heard people say that for pretty much my whole life. People who are older than me – can you remember a time when that wasn’t said? It just seems to be one of those things, like “kids today,” that people always say. Regardless, I think that’s another example of differing assumptions. Maybe “common sense” isn’t being lost, maybe it’s just that the broad assumptions people carry around with them are changing. And maybe, just maybe, that’s not a bad thing.
Personally, I want to dump the phrase “common sense.” Do we really need it anymore? I don’t think so.