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Commonsense

Common sense is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things, which is shared by ("common to") nearly all people, and can be reasonably expected of nearly all people without any need for debate. the everyday understanding of what common sense is derives from philosophical discussion, involving several european languages. related words in other languages include latin , greek (koinē aísthēsis), and french , but these are not straightforward translations in all contexts. similarly in english, there are different shades of meaning, implying more or less education and wisdom: "good sense" is sometimes seen as equivalent to "common sense", and sometimes not. "common sense" has at least two specifically philosophical meanings. one is a capability of the animal soul (greek psukhē) proposed by aristotle, which enables different individual senses to collectively perceive characteristics such as movement and size, which are common to all physical things, and which help people and other animals to distinguish and identify physical things. it is distinct from basic sensory perception and from human rational thinking, but works with both. the second special use of the term is roman-influenced and is used for the natural human sensitivity for other humans and the community. just like the everyday meaning, both of these refer to a type of basic awareness and ability to judge which most people are expected to share naturally, even if they can not explain why. all these meanings of "common sense", including the everyday one, are inter-connected in a complex history and have evolved during important political and philosophical debates in modern western civilisation, notably concerning science, politics and economics. the interplay between the meanings has come to be particularly notable in english, as opposed to other western european languages, and the english term has become international. in modern times the term "common sense" has frequently been used for rhetorical effect, sometimes pejorative, and sometimes appealed to positively, as an authority. it can be negatively equated to vulgar prejudice and superstition, or on the contrary it is often positively contrasted to them as a standard for good taste and as the source of the most basic axioms needed for science and logic. this began with descartes' criticism of it, and what came to be known as the dispute between "rationalism" and "empiricism". in the opening line of one his most famous books, discourse on method, he established the most common modern meaning, and its controversies, when he stated that everyone has a similar and sufficient amount of common sense (bon sens), but it is rarely used well. therefore a skeptical logical method described by descartes needs to be followed and common sense should not be overly relied upon. part i of the discourse on method. note: the term in french is "bon sens" sometimes translated as "good sense". the opening lines in english are "good sense is, of all things among men, the most equally distributed; for every one thinks himself so abundantly provided with it, that those even who are the most difficult to satisfy in everything else, do not usually desire a larger measure of this quality than they already possess. and in this it is not likely that all are mistaken: the conviction is rather to be held as testifying that the power of judging aright and of distinguishing truth from error, which is properly what is called good sense or reason, is by nature equal in all men; and that the diversity of our opinions, consequently, does not arise from some being endowed with a larger share of reason than others, but solely from this, that we conduct our thoughts along different ways, and do not fix our attention on the same objects. for to be possessed of a vigorous mind is not enough; the prime requisite is rightly to apply it. the greatest minds, as they are capable of the highest excellencies, are open likewise to the greatest aberrations; and those who travel very slowly may yet make far greater progress, provided they keep always to the straight road, than those who, while they run, forsake it." in the ensuing 18th century enlightenment, common sense came to be seen more positively as the basis for modern thinking. it was contrasted to metaphysics, which was, like cartesianism, associated with the ancien régime. thomas paine's pamphlet common sense has been described as the most influential political pamphlet of the 18th century affecting both the american and french revolutions. today, the concept of common sense, and how it should best be used, remains linked to many of the most perennial topics in epistemology and ethics, with special focus often being upon the philosophy of the modern social sciences.