Today, I want to talk about common sense arguments: what they are, why they are hated, and how they provide wisdom to individuals.
Table of Contents
- What Are Common Sense Arguments?
- The Undervaluation of Common Sense
- The Problem with Overvaluing Expertise
- Three Ways To Embrace and Apply Common Sense
- 1) Acknowledging the flaws and biases within specialized systems
- 2) Unlearning the stigma associated with common sense and recognizing its inherent wisdom
- 3) Implementing common sense arguments in daily life and evaluating the outcomes
- The Limits of Common Sense
What Are Common Sense Arguments?
“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” – Thomas Edison
Common sense arguments are simple ideas that show smart thinking in everyday situations.
An example of a common sense saying is, “If you can’t resist doing something for three weeks, then you’re addicted to it.” My assertion isn’t peer-reviewed, well-researched, and backed by mountains of data. This is simply a gut feeling from experience, pain, and observation.
Such arguments are crucial to the development of the individual because they are accessible and clear. You don’t have to go to college and take advanced courses on addiction to understand the truth of my statement. Additionally, such a statement is not difficult to understand or perceive. You can try to overcomplicate what I said, but my intentions are clear. What I want you to derive from my statement and the challenges inherited from it are easy to grasp.
The Undervaluation of Common Sense
Despite common sense arguments’ evident universality and value, elites typically look down on such “low-brow” reasoning. Why is this?
Firstly, they want to have a monopoly on knowledge. Being the group that defines what is true has immense moral, political, and societal value. You can easily garner power if you’re the one who decides when a country should go on lockdown, for example, or how dangerous guns are.
Secondly, the elites hate people being free. Common axioms tear away at the power structure the elites have. When Jimbo has access to excellent knowledge, he doesn’t need the elites or the ruling classes. He doesn’t need an overeducated sociologist to tell him about addictions when a pithy saying reveals the wisdom for him. Such wisdom frees people from the elites and their sense of self-importance.
Lastly, common sense usually invalidates elites’ conclusions and beliefs. For example, it’s common sense that fatherlessness contributes to personal failure for individuals. This reality hits the black community hardest of all. However, how do elites respond to such common sense? They say the failings in the black community are white supremacy, not black people’s refusal to form cohesive familial units on a wide scale. The argument about fathers disproves the elites’ hyper-focus on white nationalism and other pointless boogie men. While issues in the black community are complex, we have to concede these issues arise mostly from self-infliction, not from external dangers that have no serious hold on our culture.
The Problem with Overvaluing Expertise
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.” – Thomas Paine
When we overvalue expertise, we forget the human element in the people above us.
For example, many common sense observations about COVID-19 were roundly mocked, punished, and denied by the elites and ruling classes. Nearly all of these observations were proven correct. Here are some examples:
- You shouldn’t trust a rushed vaccine as it might be dangerous or doesn’t provide the protection people need.
- Herd immunity would provide just as much protection for society as vaccines and boosters. Herd immunity carries fewer political, moral, and societal concerns and abuses than a mandated vaccine.
- Many public and healthcare officials are potentially abusing their power because there is no clear check on their authority.
- It is wiser to quarantine the old and infirm instead of the young and healthy.
- We can’t stall and hope to restart the economy without bloat, corruption, and inefficiencies.
In each instance, the “low-brow” common sense approach proved correct. The experts proved incorrect in many instances. We can grant them grace and say they didn’t have all the details. However, such incompetence and failure show the value of common sense arguments and the failures of relying solely on authority and expertise.
Expertise is just as corruptible as any other concentration of power. Power corrupts (another observation), and people in academia, the entertainment industry, the media, and the government are as susceptible to corruption as anyone else.
Thus, local knowledge, while not infallible, provides competition against the tyranny of expertise.
Three Ways To Embrace and Apply Common Sense
Most authorities, from the government to parents and church, rely on devaluing common sense and elevating expertise. Therefore, you must do three things to learn how to value common sense.
1) Acknowledging the flaws and biases within specialized systems
We start with a simple acknowledgment that those in positions of power, influence, and expertise are human.
Humans abuse others, and power can corrupt us. A guy in a lab coat utilizing “the science” is not an angel but a flawed person like the rest of us.
Therefore, don’t worship those in power. They will not share their power or spoils with you. They will often abuse and belittle you.
2) Unlearning the stigma associated with common sense and recognizing its inherent wisdom
“Common sense is the most widely shared commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it.” – Rene Descartes
Secondly, unlearn the idea that common sense is low-brow. Similar to tradition, localized wisdom has much to teach us.
Honest people will challenge your beliefs without mockery and threats. The elites do not do this. They threaten, belittle, and mock. Such behavior shows the innate anger and desire to abuse anyone who won’t fall in line.
3) Implementing common sense arguments in daily life and evaluating the outcomes
Thirdly, take any common axiom arguments you know and apply them. The proof is in the results. Your life should improve if you live with a “common sense” mindset. If it does, then the wisdom in your observations will hold.
For example, the saying “you can’t consume more than you make” helped me see the evils of government money-printing and debt. The government propaganda and lies could not bury such a reality. Therefore, I learned more about the evils of inflation and the horrors of the Fed.
Additionally, applying this saying gave me the responsibility to get out of debt and secure my finances. Now, I am debt-free, and my money works for me.
The Limits of Common Sense
“In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic. But I do not repine, for I am a subject of it only by force of arms.” – H.L. Mencken
I want to be clear: I’m not saying expert opinions are always wrong. For example, my anti-spanking position comes from reading academic works and intellectual arguments. If I had stayed strictly within “common sense,” I would think hitting children is good.
Additionally, common sense observations are usually limited to local concerns or cultural opinions. These observations might not translate from one culture to another. I’m fairly confident the French have common axioms that have no application for the average American.
As always, we want to avoid oversimplifying issues. Expert opinions can sometimes provide a deeper understanding of issues that common sense might oversimplify, such as how childhood greatly impacts adulthood. Common sense arguments can also be influenced by cultural biases or lack of information, undermining their effectiveness.
My frustration comes from the inability to admit that localized, timeless wisdom can sometimes beat out sanitized academic arguments. Experts are flawed and human like we are. They are susceptible to corruption. We have to have a bulwark against their imperfect natures.
Therefore, seek a balance. I have opinions on the government shutdowns for COVID-19 because I read the evidence. But I also had common sense knowledge about how the government operates and the destruction it can cause.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
- What common sense arguments have you heard throughout your life? Did following them improve your well-being?
- Besides COVID-19, where else did experts get the facts wrong? What were the consequences? What were the consequences of you not fully agreeing with them?
- What are you doing to prevent yourself from being victimized by “expert” opinion?
- Reflect on a situation where your common sense led you to a correct conclusion and another where it might have misled you. Write down these experiences and analyze what factors influenced your judgment in each case.
- Always critically analyze the media. Think about what narratives they are trying to tell you, who benefits from them, and the consequences if you don’t follow them.
Please remember it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
Refer to the linked articles and studies throughout this post for detailed evidence and case studies supporting these views.
*Image credit to Unsplash