How I Feel About: “Common Sense”

“Common Sense”

No One Has It.  It Doesn’t Exist.




If one were to look up this completely insipid phrase on the web, they’d probably get something like this:


Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”[1] Thus, “common sense” (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”.[2]

Whichever definition is used, identifying particular items of knowledge as “common sense” is difficult. Philosophers may choose to avoid using the phrase when using precise language…


We can get a definition for what is meant by the phrase, but whether it exists is what has been bothering me for about 10 years.  As stated above after giving a nicely written and general definition of the phrase, Mirriam-Webster went on to state: Whichever definition is used, identifying particular items of knowledge as “common sense” is difficult.


Well I’ll be damned.


Of course it’s difficult.  It’s frikkin’ impossible!  Simply put, what’s common for you won’t be common to the next person.  And sense isn’t something that’s taught.  It can only be learned from experience.  I’ve had this argument with several people in my travels and it has ended up two ways:  The listener stares off blankly thinking “Why did I ever use that phrase” and eventually thanks me for explaining it to them.  Or, I’ll end up frustrated because the chode just doesn’t get it.


I’ve often used the example:


A child from western Afghanistan [or someplace where electricity and other assets of modern technology are void] could be taken to an American military installation as a refugee.  He or she sticks their finger in an electrical socket.  Well damn… I guess they just didn’t have any common sense right?  To people with electricity, and who have plugged in electrical outlets know even if they’ve never been shocked that it’s not a good idea to stick a body part inside.  But to someone that doesn’t know… is it their fault?  Do they not have common sense?  Maybe to you they don’t.


But the person who went to pick up this refugee ended up shaking hands with the leader of the village with his left hand.  So he gets his ass beat, or killed.  Why?  Well, to Afghanis and many other Arabs shaking or waving with your left hand is extremely disrespectful.  Does that make him an idiot?  Or does it just mean the guy had no common sense.  No… he just didn’t know because he’s never been through it.


If there were such a thing as common sense, I’d be able to say that it’s at least a regional or profession-specific thing.  Everyone in Jersey knows you don’t pump your own gas.  But someone from New Mexico visiting there hops out of their rental car at a gas station and the attendant is sitting there shaking their head.  “Jeez… this guy has no common sense.”

Or, me being a cross-trained tech from the Aviation field to the Wheeled Vehicle side.  There are plenty of common knowledge issues such as cleanliness and safety that are worlds apart.  When you’re working on a truck it’s not uncommon to see debris, tools, trash and other things lying about as if there’s no consequence.  You may be working on a truck and find a wrench in the turret that looks as if it’s been there since WWII.  But in aviation… that shit doesn’t fly so to speak.  EVERYTHING is accounted for, everything is controlled.  If a small rag is left in the wrong place that aircraft can and will come down killing everyone inside.  In the hangar that’s common knowledge.  But I wouldn’t say someone else didn’t have common sense because they didn’t know that.


Someone could read this blog and learn something from EACH stanza.  It doesn’t mean they have no common sense… it just means they don’t know much about the laws of physics, Afghanistan, or aviation and vehicle maintenance.  That’s a far cry from saying that person doesn’t know the basic principles of living reasonably and safely isn’t it?


There’s no BASIS for “common sense”.  Never has been, never will be.  People come from too many back grounds for it to be a valid concept.

Which is why it KILLS ME when people use “common sense” in briefings, safety meetings, and or warning/instructional signs.





“Common sense would tell you…”


Every time I hear or see these things it makes me ask which day of school I missed all this information? Every briefing I’ve been in, in or out of the military where I’ve heard the instructor basically refer us to the “common sense manual” my hand has gone up.  And people never look at me the same afterwards… because I was the asshole that wanted him/her to do their fucking job instead of suggesting we all already have all the information, they’re just paid to tell us to recollect it.  It’s stored in our brain… in the “common sense” glands.

Continuing> If safety glasses are a part of this common sense thing, why the hell do you need a sign to tell everyone to wear them?  I’ve known professional skilled craftsmen that have drilled holes in themselves [eyeball, finger, hand, thigh] on the job.  Do you think he just forgot his common sense for a moment and decided drilling himself was the right thing to do?  Or was it an accident?


I could literally go on FOREVER with this.  But I’m on my lunch break, and common sense would tell me that writing all day would be a bad idea. K



I pray thee, STOP using this phrase.  It’s laziness, and it makes no sense.  If you really think back to every time you’ve used it you’ll wonder: what the fuck was I talking about? There was nothing COMMON about that knowledge at all.  And if there was… maybe he or she wouldn’t have done that.  Or, to stop using not having common sense as to why people do stupid shit.  Some people are just stupid.  Has nothing to do with this “common sense”. Or claiming that a certain group of people had no “common sense”.  I had to go off on a lady at the post office for that shit one time.  Apparently we, the costumers had no “common sense” because we were using our cell phones inside.  Yes… there was a sign [hint #1 it’s not common sense] but we ignored it because there’s no real reason why we shouldn’t be allowed to use our phones other than the fact that it annoyed the personnel there and moreover no one gives a shit about your “no cellphone” sign!  That’s not a lack common sense… that’s defiance and… maybe a lack of respect.

Be smart if possible… find an actual word, condition, or symptom to describe these things.  Nothing boils down to “Common Sense” because it doesn’t exist.


Sorry for the language,

Scream at me





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