Departments

Common sense

I respect common sense, so long and so far as it is inconsistent. Of course consistency is good—consistency is the beginning and end of knowledge—only there is a kind of knowledge which is not useful because it is known to be right, but useful until it is known to be right. Beginning with principles we cannot deny, consistency brings us to conclusions we can hardly allow. Consistency always incurs surprise—surprise relative to common sense. Thus it is wrong to expect consistency to result in knowledge that is useful in those parts of life common sense sways. Surprise is conserved. We can begin with commonsense principles and end with surprising conclusions; or, if we wish to derive commonsense conclusions, in working backward we will arrive at surprising principles. This is why I avoid political systems. They begin with, they have as their attraction, commonsense conclusions I could no more disagree with than fail to think of myself. Of course I see and deplore the horrors of exploitation, the grotesqueness of consumption; of course I see and deplore the incompetence of government, the farce of bureaucracy. But I do not need an intellectual apparatus to retcon my condemnations into a scheme of history and human nature. Common sense is wisdom made fungible; you can no more think with common sense than you can eat money.