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69 Posts

Posted - 24 Mar 2008 :  06:54:01  

Jacques Maritain in his book, "Introduction to Philosophy" has a whole chapter on Common Sense and the necessity of Common Sense for Philosophy. There can not be true Philosophy without the concomitmant of Common Sense.

He writes: "Common sense therefore may be regarded as the natural and primitive judgement of human reason, infallible, but imperfect in its mode". (pg 86)

"But if by common sense we understand only the immediate apprehension of self-evident first principles..."

Now, in psuedo-Aristotle's "Virtues and Vices", (Loeb volume #285 or Aristotle's Loeb XX) is this: "Memory and experience and acuteness are each of them either a consequence or a concomitant of wisdom." I think the word "experience" is this word "έμπειρία". My question, is this "Common sense" in the Greek? I can't find anything in Younge's English/Greek Lexicon except this, "Without common sense" άναίσθητος. Before this they have "Gifted with vigor, or acuteness of sense and it is ευαίσθητος.

But are these the meanings/words that Jacques Maritain means?

What this world is suffering most is the LACK of common sense. It comes from a connection to nature that most people don't have. Furthermore, many errors of modern philosophy, I think, stem from this lack of common sense.

What is the Greek word for "common sense", the American Agrarian sense? The Philosophical Sense? Are they different/same?

And where is this found?



615 Posts

Posted - 24 Mar 2008 :  10:45:50  


Hi Wheeler,

I'm afraid I can't help you on this. It is only a vague impression that I have that "common sense", κοινὴ λογική, as we say in modern Greek, is not something that was of such a great interest for the ancients. Already Homer reproaches his contemporaries for being "infantile and peasants, caring for nothing but only for ephemeral matters". For the ancients the wise man was rather an exception, a deviation from "common sense" more than a compliance with it. But search Aristotle's Politics, where he says that the people of a city rule better together, because, even if each of them alone is not very capable, together they become as one man with a greater thinking.

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69 Posts

Posted - 24 Mar 2008 :  10:54:55  


Jacques Maritain begins the chapter this way:

" Before we know things with a scientific or perfect knowledge by reflecting upon them and by their causes, we know them imperfectly (unscientific knowledge, the knowledge of everyday life). We must remember that we are obliged not only to begin with this unscientific knowledge of everyday life; we must be content with it to the end, improving it more or less by study and reading, in that enormous number of cases where science in the strict sense is unattainable".

"Ordinary knowledge consists for the most part of mere opinions or beliefs, more or less well founded. But it implies a solid kernel of geniune certainties in which the philosopher recognizes in the first place data of the senses (for example, that bodies possess length, breadth, and heighth), secondly, self evident axioms (for example, 'the whole is greater than the part', 'every event has a cause', etc.), and thirdly, consequences immediately deducible from these axioms (proximate conclusions). These certainties which arise spontaneously in the mind when we first come to the use of reason are thus the work of nature in us, and may therefore be called an endowment of nature as proceeding from the natural perception, consent, instinct, or natural sense of the intellect. Since their source is human nature itself, they will be found in all men alike; in other words, they are common to all men. They may therefore be said to belong to the common perception, consent, instinct, or to the 'common sense' of mankind."

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69 Posts

Posted - 24 Mar 2008 :  11:04:52  


Thanks George for your response.

I want to continue a little more with Jacques Maritain since most people will not have this book readily available:

"The great truths without which man's moral life is impossible--for example, knowledge of God's existence, the freedom of the will, etc., belong to this domain of common sense, as consequences immediately deducible (proximate conclusions) from primary data apprehended by observation and first principles apprended by the intellect. All men, unless spoiled by a faulty education or by some intellectual vice, possess a natural certainity of these truths."

It is interesting to note that A.H.J. Greenidge, M.A., in A Handbook of Greek Constitutional History, writes that Sparta and Britain had the same form of government BECAUSE OF common sense! "History has shown that such forms of government (speaking about mixed government) are suited to a commonsense non-idealistic people: the Phoenicians of Carthage, the Dorians of Greece, Romans, and Englishmen have all developed this type of polity" (pg 76);

"Common sense, NON-idealistic people". He is making a link to commonsense and the style of government. We all know that the Romans were terribly a "Common sense" people; very pragmatic.

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69 Posts

Posted - 26 Mar 2008 :  16:48:10  


Well a friend of mine e-mailed me this:

""Common sense came into use via the scholastic sensus communis. If I recall correctly, this was a sense that integrated all the other senses, and does not connote the same thing that "common sense" connotes today. My first instinct was to link the modern connotation with "phronesis," the virtue of prudence as outlined in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. A brief google search on the words "sensus communis phronesis" also reveals "koine dynamis" as a possible translation of the Scholastic sense of the word. "It is phronesis, Gadamer says, which forms the background of Vico's idea of sensus communis, and not the koinai dunamis, the common sense of which St.Thomas speaks."

This is apparently from John D. Schaeffer's SensusCommunis, but Google Books also indicates it has the title beginning "The Rhetoric of interpretation..." Somehow I also ended up on p. 20 of a Google books edition of Gadamer's Truth and Method, which also discusses Vico, Aristotle, and the sensus communis. Gadamer suggests "koinai ennoiai", a stoic concept, as a concept connoting common sense. Our concept of common sense was influenced by Scottish philosophers of the 18th and 19th centuries. See the relevant volume of Copleston's History of Philosophyfor more on them."

"Koinai ennoiai"--a stoic concept. I find this interesting.

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