Common sense

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This article refers to a broad form of understanding.

Aristotle:Aristotle observes that the common sense enables to be aware not only of our perceptions of colours and sounds, but also our failures to perceive, as when we find ourselves surrounded with darkness and silence.
Avicienna: Based on this principle of faculty differentiation Avicienna, then distinguishes between the power of common sense (or fantasia), which perceives sensible forms, and that of the estimative faculty, which perceives connotational attributes.
Marcus Aurelius, emperor and stoic philosopher, and an important influence upon the concept of "humanist" common sense: Mere common sense and logic tell us that Marcus Aurelius cannot have been innocent bystander at the anti-Christian events of his reign.
For the political tract Common Sense, see Thomas Paine.
For the rapper formerly known as "Common Sense", see Common (rapper).

Common sense, roughly speaking, is what people in common would agree: that which they "sense" in common as their shared natural understanding. Some use the phrase to refer to beliefs or propositions that in their opinion they consider would in most people's experience be prudent and of sound judgment, without dependence upon esoteric knowledge or study or research, but based upon what is believed to be knowledge held by people "in common".

Alphabetized by author or source:
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P -Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · Anon · External links

A[edit]

Alphabetized by author
  • Common sense should be renamed, cos nower days it's rare
    • Jamie Adenuga, aka JME, grime artist and rapper, from the song JME
  • Commonsense is the measure of the possible; it is composed of experience and prevision; it is calculation applied to life
    • Henri Fredrick Amiel, in “On the Art of Business” p.88
  • Aristotle observes that the common sense enables to be aware not only of our perceptions of colours and sounds, but also our failures to perceive, as when we find ourselves surrounded with darkness and silence.
  • Aristotle's thinking began with common sense, but it did not end there. It went much further. It added to and surrounded common sense with insights and understandings that are not common at all. His understanding of things goes deeper than ours and sometimes soars higher. It is, in a word, uncommon common sense.
    • Aristotle quoted by Pavel Gregoric in "Aristotle on the Common Sense"
  • Aristotle's thinking began with common sense, but it did not end there. It went much further. It added to and surrounded common sense with insights and understandings that are not common at all. His understanding of things goes deeper than ours and sometimes soars higher. It is, in a word, uncommon common sense.
  • Based on this principle of faculty differentiation Avicienna, then distinguishes between the power of common sense (or fantasia), which perceives sensible forms, and that of the estimative faculty, which perceives connotational attributes.
  • The faculty of memory Avicienna, which is arrayed in the posterior ventricle, has for Avicena the function of retaining the insensible connotational attributes in particular objects perceived by the estimative faculty to the relation between the retentive imagination and the common sense.
    • Avicienna quoted by Jon McGinnis, in Avicenna p.114

B[edit]

  • Common sense is the ability to see things as they are without prejudice and do things as they ought to be done without influence of any kind.
  • Common sense is an instinct given to man and enough of it is genius. Smartness is measured by the level of common sense one has, not by how much educated or knowledgeable he is.
    • Josh Billings, in “Thoughts for Meaningful Life” p.96
  • In its famous paradox, the equation of money and excrement, psychoanalysis becomes the first science to state what common sense and the poets have long known – that the essence of money is in its absolute worthlessness.

C[edit]

  • Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat.
    • Stuart Chase, quoted in S. I. Hayakawa's Language in Thought and Action (1952); this has sometimes become attributed to Hayakawa in later publications.
  • A weak mind with no common sense magnifies trifling things and cannot receive great ones.
  • Common sense is perhaps is the most equally divided, but surely the most underemployed, talent in the world.
    • Christiane Collange, in “Women Know Everything!: 3,241 Quips, Quotes, & Brilliant Remarks” p.230
  • Common sense is only the application of theories which have grown and been formulated unconsciously as result of experience.
    • Hardy Cross, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.423

D[edit]

  • Electric common sense will never be substituted for the face of someone, with his soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
  • Le bon sens est la chose du monde la mieux partagée; car chacun pense en être si bien pourvu, que ceux même qui sont les plus difficiles à contenter en toute autre chose n'ont point coutume d'en désirer plus qu'ils en ont.
  • Good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed, for everybody thinks he is so well supplied with it that even those most difficult to please in all other matters never desire more of it than they already possess.
  • ...unless the materials involved can be traced back to the material of common sense concern there is nothing whatever for scientific concern to be concerned with.
    • John Dewey in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.423
  • I don’t profess to be profound, but I do lay claim to common sense.
    • Charles Dickens, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.423

E[edit]

  • Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down by the mind before you reach eighteen.
    • Attributed to Albert Einstein in Mathematics, Queen and Servant of the Sciences (1952) by Eric Temple Bell
    • Paraphrased variant: Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
  • Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.

F[edit]

G[edit]

  • ...the physician would be even worse off than he is, if not for the occasional emergence of common sense which breaks through dogmas with intuitive freshness, or those flashes of insight for which talented diagnosticians are noted, or finally, an opportunity to make a biographical study of a patient, a luxury few physicians can enjoy and few patients can afford
    • Alexander Goldenweiser, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.423
  • Instinct is the nose of common sense in humans.
    • Daphne Gay Mme. de.Girardin, in “Thoughts for Meaningful Life” p.96
  • Science and common sense differ as cultivated fruits differ from wild fruits. Science sows its seeds of inquiry, and gathers the fruit. Common sense picks the fruit, such as it, is by the wayside. Common sense has no fields or orchards of knowledge.
    • Sir William Withey Gull, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.423

H[edit]

Douglas Hofstadter:...The ground floor of the structure is the ordinary common sense we all have, and the rules for building news floors are implicit in the ground floor itself. However, working it all out is a gigantic task, and the result is a structure that transcends mere common sense.
  • Common Sense and Education: The more you think you have of one, the less you think you need of the other.
  • Son, the phrase is self-contradictory; “sense” is never “common”.
    • Robert A. Heinlein, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.423
  • It is a strange irony that the principles of science should seem to deny the necessary conviction of common sense.
  • ...consider the very roots of our ability to discern truth. Above all (or perhaps I should say (underneath all) common sense is what we depend on… that crazily elusive, ubiquitous faculty we all have to some degree or other...if we apply common sense to itself over and over again, we wind up building a skyscraper. The ground floor of the structure is the ordinary common sense we all have, and the rules for building news floors are implicit in the ground floor itself. However, working it all out is a gigantic task, and the result is a structure that transcends mere common sense.
    • Douglas Hofstadter, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.424
  • What is common sense? That which attracts the least opposition that which brings most agreeable and worthy results.
    • E.W.Howe, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.424
  • Science, is I believe, nothing but trained and organized common sense, differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only so far as the guardsman’s cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields a club.
    • Henry Thomas Huxley, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.424

I[edit]

J[edit]

Common-sense contents itself with the reconciled contradiction, laughs when it can, weeps when it must, and makes, in short, a practical compromise, without trying a theoretical solution.
  • Common sense, the half-truths of a deceitful society, is honored as the honest truths of a frank world.
  • The original Marxist notion of ideology was conveniently forgotten because it inconveniently did not exempt common sense and empiricism from the charge of ideology.
  • Common-sense contents itself with the reconciled contradiction, laughs when it can, weeps when it must, and makes, in short, a practical compromise, without trying a theoretical solution.
    • William James, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.424

K[edit]

  • We know that the probability of well-established induction is great, but, when we are asked to name its degree we cannot. Common sense tells us that some inductive arguments are stronger than others, and that some are very strong. But how much stronger or how strong we cannot express.
    • John Maynard Keynes, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.424

L[edit]

  • One sees in this essay that the theory of probabilities is at bottom only common sense reduced to a calculus; it makes us appreciate with exactitude that which exact minds feel by a sort of instinct without being able oft-times to give a reason for it.
    • Piere Simon Laplace, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.424
  • A small overweight of knowledge is often a sore impediment to the movement of common sense.
    • Peter Mere Latham, in“Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.425
  • Gumption implies native wit or sound common sense often combined with initiative and drive … there is not a grain of intelligence in it. Nobody with great gumption than a gross hopper could go, sit and listen.
    • D. H. Lawrence, in “Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms: A Dictionary of Discriminated ...”p.722

M[edit]

  • 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, as quoted in LIFE magazine, Vol. 21, No. 6, (5 August 1946), p. 52; this has also been paraphrased as "It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office."
  • There exists at present a living body, which is my body... I am one of those philosophers who have held that that ‘the Common Sense view of the world’ is in certain fundamental features, wholly true.

N[edit]

  • At some level you have to use common sense over the law.
    • Joe Nicassio, in “Resurrecting America's Entrepreneurial Spirit: A Practical Approach for ...” p.69
  • The common sense of common men … has not been seriously affected by these still academic aberrations of our alleged wise men.
    • Niebuhr, in “Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms: A Dictionary of Discriminated ...”p.722

O[edit]

  • Common sense is not wrong in the view that is meaningful , appropriate and necessary to talk about the large objects of our daily experience…Common sense is wrong only if it insists that what is familiar must reappear in what is unfamiliar.

P[edit]

  • Common sense always speaks too late. Common sense is the guy who tells you you ought to have had your brakes relined last week before you smashed a front end this week. Common sense is the Monday morning quarterback who could have won the ball game if he had been on the team. But he never is. He's high up in the stands with a flask on his hip. Common sense is the little man in a grey suit who never makes a mistake in addition. But it's always somebody else's money he's adding up.


  • Misprize common sense at your peril is my motto.
  • The more elaborate our means of our common sense is, the less the common sense it becomes.

Q[edit]

  • By the Chinese, reasonableness is placed on a higher level than reason. For while reason is always abstract, analytical, idealistic, and inclined toward logical extremes, the spirit of reasonableness or common sense is always realistic;...

R[edit]

Theodore Roosevelt:I am a strong individualist by personal habit, inheritance, and conviction; but it is a mere matter of common sense to recognize that the State, the community, the citizens acting together, can do a number of things better than if they were left to individual action.
  • In the little corner of Umbria of which I am now writing there are samples of buildings so beautiful and so full of common sense that they give the lie to modern so-called utilitarian rubbish. It is amazing they are not copied, or at any rate that their great qualities as domestic architecture do not stimulate emulation and awaken some symptom of good taste in modern Italy.
  • I am a strong individualist by personal habit, inheritance, and conviction; but it is a mere matter of common sense to recognize that the State, the community, the citizens acting together, can do a number of things better than if they were left to individual action.
  • It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all try something.
  • Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bttling the common sense
    • Helen Rowland, in “Women Know Everything!: 3,241 Quips, Quotes, & Brilliant Remarks”.
  • Since the world is what it is, it is clear that valid reasoning from sound principles cannot lead to error; but a principle may be so nearly true as to deserve theoretical respect, and yet may lead to practical consequences which we feel to be absurd. There is therefore a justification for common sense in philosophy, but only as showing that our theoretical principles cannot be quite correct so long as their consequences are condemned by an appeal to common sense which we feel to be irresistible. The theorist may retort that common sense is no more infallible than logic. But this retort, though made by Berkeley and Hume, would have been wholly foreign to Locke's intellectual temper.
  • Common sense, however it tries, cannot avoid being surprised from time to time. The aim of science is to save it from such surprises.
    • Bertrand Russel, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.425

S[edit]

  • For the laboratory worker the most valuable asset is common sense and he must be able to bring to mind the possibilities of the production of various artifacts and results from trivial errors in technique.
    • Edwards Rhodes Stitt, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately”, p.426
  • Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.
    • Gertrude Stein, in “Women Know Everything!: 3,241 Quips, Quotes, & Brilliant Remarks”, p.230
  • Common sense is seeing things as they are and doing things as they ought to be.
    • Harriet Beecher Stowe, in “Women Know Everything!: 3,241 Quips, Quotes, & Brilliant Remarks”, p.230

T[edit]

Henry David Thoreau:There is absolutely no common sense, it is common non-sense.
  • Common sense will enhance your performance exponentially. Common sense will provide you with an incredible competitive advantage. Quite simply common sense will propel your career.
    • Ken Tanner, in “Common Sense: Get It, Use It, and Teach It in the Workplace” p.xvi
  • If we have a logical process, we are more apt to make logical choices. And good choices show good common sense.
    • Ken Tanner, in “Common Sense: Get It, Use It, and Teach It in the Workplace” p.82
  • In our sports-crazed society, not knowing that a field goal is worth three points will not only get you branded as lacking common sense, some people will think you are a subversive communist.
    • Ken Tanner, in “Common Sense: Get It, Use It, and Teach It in the Workplace” p.15
  • ...Common sense is the very antipodes of science.
  • There is absolutely no common sense, it is common non-sense.
    • Henry David Thoreau, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.426

U[edit]

V[edit]

  • Enlightened common sense sticks by the opaque truth and refuses to go behind the returns given by the triangle of facts.
    • Thorstein Veblen, in “Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations: A Collection of Approximately” p.426
  • On dit quelquefois: "Le sens commun est fort rare."
    • People sometimes say: "Common sense is quite rare."
      • Voltaire, "Common Sense," Dictionnaire philosophique portatif (1765)
      • The better known variant of this quote is "Common sense is not so common," said to be in the Dictionnaire philosophique entry "Self-Love"; but it is not found there.

W[edit]

Oscar Wilde:...that is one of the great secrets of life. Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
  • They were so full of common sense that they have been widely copied and commented upon all over the world. They did not present a single new idea — they simply brought back to memory a lost art — the art of taking your employes — not alone your superintendent and your foreman — your employees into your confidence enough to take them out of the class of machine tools and to put them into the class of intelligent human beings. This does not mean turn the shop over to them or put them on the board of directors — not a bit of it, simply tell the workers, your workers what they are doing, why they are doing it and what the results will be — stop treating them exactly as you do the mule that pulls the ash cart.
    • A. F. Greaves-Walker, on the writings of Boyd Cable, which bore the title "Tell the Workers", which he used for his own article in Brick and Clay Record, Vol. 55, Issue 10, (4 November 1919), p. 853
  • To act with common sense, according to the moment is the best wisdom and the best philosophy is to one’s duties, take the world as it comes submit respectfully to one’s lot; bless the goodness that has given us so much happiness with it; despise affectation.
  • ...that is one of the great secrets of life. Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.

X[edit]

Y[edit]

Z[edit]

Anonymous[edit]

  • There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.
    • Anonymous saying, dating back at least to its citation in Natural Theology (1836) by Thomas Chalmers, Bk. II, Ch. III : On the Strength of the Evidences for a God in the Phenomena of Visible and External Nature, § 15, where the author states: "It has been said that there is nothing more uncommon than common sense."; it has since become misattributed to particular people, including Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Common sense is the best guide for a good living. Intelligence is not measured by the ability to read or resolve abstract-equations quickly. Intelligence is the ability to use common sense and manage once life for happiness.
    • Anonymous, in “Thoughts for Meaningful Life” p.96
  • A good common sense is not in need of rules, regulations, and laws of governing, or signs of directing
    • Anonymous, in “Thoughts for Meaningful Life” p.96

External links[edit]

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