Common sense

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term common sense means the simple, experiential and generally shared understanding of humans or their natural judgment .


The term “common sense” is clearly distinguished from the term “ common sense ” in today's common usage . Although both look back on the same word origin and in the 18th century z. Some of them were used synonymously, today common sense stands above all for common sense, and common sense primarily stands for solidarity .

Common sense can be viewed as a form of natural judgment. Since he judges on the basis of concepts, it is neither an emotion nor an intuition .

In the end there have been several approaches to consider different nuances of meaning of common sense , common sense, judgment, etc. under the designation common sense in context and thus anew.

Other related terms are sensus communis ; natural judgment, common understanding and common human reason; Common sense, common sense, horse sense, and lay sense.


Common sense has three aspects: First, the notion of “normal sense”, an average judgment that does not take methodological detours and is not clouded in its judgment by doctrines or prejudices ; secondly, an empirically working mind that makes concrete, clear judgments on the basis of everyday (life) experience and is more oriented towards practical application than abstract theory ; thirdly, the idea of ​​an understanding of things generally shared by mature people, which in its judgments takes into account the (real and possible) judgments of all others.

Common sense generally refers not only to a form of mind , but also to its judgments. The latter have manifested themselves in many proverbs and popular wisdom . As a concrete, pragmatic mind, it is often used in opposition to the abstract, speculative expert mind . Science and common sense hold great prejudice against one another, although they depend on one another.

Often “common sense” is misused as a phrase . The bad habit of falsely invoking him has contributed greatly to his devaluation.

The term contains many fundamental contradictions: It describes both a skill and a knowledge, functions as a sense of truth, but is also easily fallible, is sometimes considered critical, sometimes conservative, represents an important pre-understanding, but also tends to be prejudiced. Its use is particularly beneficial where it is familiar.

Concept history

The term common sense comes as a sense of community , the French counterparts bon sens and sens commun and the English common sense to the Latin term sensus communis back. This is a translation of the term coined by Aristotle koine aisthesis - an inner sense located in the heart, which summarizes and assesses the various information of the individual senses.

The conceptual tradition of common sense knows many shades of meaning, including inner sense, common sense, natural judgment, sense of community, common knowledge, opinion of the crowd (in the sense of Greek doxa ).

The term itself was only used more frequently in German in the 18th century. The term experienced a great boom under the influence of the Scottish common sense philosophy . At the end of the 18th century it asserted itself against synonyms such as common sense, common sense, etc. and is increasingly differentiated from common sense.

The German popular philosophy, which is also called the philosophy of common sense , makes a major contribution to the appreciation of common sense . It experienced its heyday during the High Enlightenment , from about 1750 to 1780. Main representatives include Moses Mendelssohn , Johannes Nikolaus Tetens , Johann Georg Heinrich Feder , Christoph Meiners and the early Kant.

Immanuel Kant set the course for further development. At first he was clearly a popular philosopher himself, but later on - after his polemical criticism of the abuse of common sense by some popular philosophers - the Enlightenment remained a great advocate of common sense. For him, healthy (human) understanding is "common understanding, as far as it judges correctly." To possess this is a gift from heaven. In everyday life it is often more useful than scientific knowledge. Kant formulates three maxims for the successful use of common sense:

  1. "Self-thinking"
  2. "Think in place of each other"
  3. "Always think in unison with yourself"

In metaphysics , common sense is useful for Kant as a touchstone of the speculative use of reason and as a starting point for questions of pure reason. In general, however, the following applies here: "In metaphysics, the appeal to the sayings of the common understanding is completely inadmissible everywhere, because no case can be presented in concreto here."

In Kant's moral philosophy , common sense is given the highest recognition. When it comes to questions of morality, the latter often judges more correctly than science. Therefore it serves here as a starting point and guide for the scientific consideration of those.

In Kant, the judgment of taste is also closely linked to common sense. The faculty, characterized by the passing of subjective but generally shared judgments, is in his analogy with the idea of ​​aesthetic common sense.

The philosophy in general, Kant a watchdog role to the healthy / common sense: they should protect him and over "wake that common sense remain a Healthy Mind". In addition, she has the knowledge of the upper faculties ( theology , law , medicine ) "to bring down to common sense".

The German idealism is no friend of common sense. Fichte and Schelling , but above all Hegel, are extremely negative. Common sense only tells trivial truths. Hegel identifies the expressions "inspiration, revelation of the heart, ... common sense, common sense, public spirit" and sees in them an aversion of reason to itself ( misology ).

Karl Marx judged even more polemically : Common sense is a form of historical stupidity and an instrument of the ruling class.

Even Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche express themselves negatively.

In the Anglo-Saxon-speaking area, however, “common sense” enjoys consistently high recognition. American pragmatism - especially the Critical Commonsensism of Charles Sanders Peirce - and the defense of common sense by George Edward Moore should be mentioned . In Germany, the philosopher Hermann Lübbe (* 1926) in particular repeatedly pointed out the great importance of common sense or common sense.

Question about existence

Since human thinking is shaped by cognitive distortions , fallacies and individual or cultural experiences (so-called internal institutions), the existence of “common sense” is often negated. It is often pointed out that man is a "fallible being" and therefore tends to think irrationally .

Even experiences and assumptions that are made universally can be interpreted differently:

  • the assumption that people see through the fact that light from their eyes scans the environment.
  • the assumption that the earth is flat .
  • the assumption that the earth has a higher gravitational pull to the moon than the moon has to the earth.
  • conspiracy theories

For example, common sense is a set of contexts that a person thinks are universally known but are not.


  • Christoph Binkelmann, Nele Schneidereit (ed.): Thinking for the people? Popular philosophy before and after Kant. Königshausen & Neumann. Würzburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-8260-5716-8 .
  • Article common sense . In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy Volume 3, pp. 243–247.
  • Article Sensus communis . In Historical Dictionary of Philosophy 9, pp. 622–675.
  • Helga Körver: Common Sense. The development of an English key word and its meaning for the English intellectual history, especially during the period of classicism and romanticism. Bonn 1967.
  • Helga Albersmeyer-Bingen: Common Sense. A contribution to the sociology of knowledge. Berlin 1986.
  • Robert Nehring: Critique of the Common Sense. Common sense, reflective judgment and common sense - the sensus communis in Kant . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010.

Individual evidence

  1. See e.g. B. David Steindl-Rast: Common Sense: The wisdom that connects everyone , Munich 2009.
  2. See also Nehring, Critique des Common Sense , Berlin 2010, pp. 22 ff., 47 ff.
  3. See Nehring, pp. 20 ff., Especially pp. 25, 29.
  4. See Nehring, p. 14.
  5. See Nehring, p. 14.
  6. Cf. Art. Sensus communis, in HWPh Vol. 9, p. 622 ff.
  7. See Nehring, p. 31 ff.
  8. Cf. Körver, Common Sense , Bonn 1967, p. 212 ff. And Albersmeyer-Bingen, Common Sense , Berlin 1986, p. 22 ff.
  9. Cf. Art. Popularphilosophie, in HWPh Vol. 7, p. 1093 ff. And Nehring, p. 78 ff., 244 ff.
  10. (Especially in Critique of Pure Reason and Prolegomena (1783) )
  11. See Kuehn, Manfred: Scottish Common Sense in Germany, 1768–1800. A Contribution to the History of Critical Philosophy, Kingston Montreal 1987 and Nehring, pp. 78 ff., 244 ff.
  12. AA 4, 369 .
  13. See Nehring, p. 47 ff.
  14. AA 5, 294f .
  15. See AA 9, 57 , AA 8, 219 .
  16. AA 9, 79 .
  17. See AA 9, 79 , AA 4, 391 .
  18. See AA 5, 27 , AA 5, 36 f.
  19. See AA 5, 237 ff. , AA 5, 293 ff.
  20. See AA 15, 173 f. , AA 9, 57 ff.
  21. Cf. Hegel: Phenomenology of Spirit, works ed. Glockner 3, 64.
  22. Encyclopedia (1830) § 63. Cf. also works ed. Glockner 18, 36.
  23. Cf. Marx: Die moralisierende criticism and criticizing morality , in: MEW 4, 1974, p. 331 ff.
  24. The world as will and conception II, 19, in: Works ed. Frauenstädt / Hübscher 3, 233; z. B. Musarion edition 10, 384f.
  25. See Nehring, p. 31 ff.
  26. Common sense. In: RationalWiki. Retrieved May 14, 2017 (English).