Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Friday, 30 November 2012

Trying to make sense of the term 'common sense'

The term 'common sense' does not make sense. Particularly when making reference to human behaviour.

Humans are gifted with the ability to learn, memorize, and gather experience that should allow them to possess the "...natural ability to make good judgements and to behave in a practical and sensible way." In a gist, that is the basic character trait that the author of the phrase 'common sense' assumes every adult human should possess.

There is a limit to this definition. We have to assume that it should only apply to a human being confronted with 'common' day-to-day situations. We cannot assume that any human can possess the common sense that is expected of an astronaut.

Now let us turn to real life examples and my experience of driving on Tanzania's roads provides excellent examples.

Don't forget to read about the next news of a tragic road accident involving a passenger bus in Tanzania where the driver escapes serious injury. What you are likely to also read is that the driver of the ill-fated bus ran away from the accident scene. Why? Because he is running away from being prosecuted for reckless driving and causing the death and/or injury to his passengers. 'Common sense' (and perhaps this is only one of the very rare instances where the use of 'common sense' makes some sense) tells me and you that while driving recklessly with absolute disregard for the safety of his passengers the driver knew that he was driving recklessly and with absolute disregard for the safety of his passengers. We can safely assume this is the case because he runs away after the accident.

That he nevertheless exposes his passengers to the risk of injury and death even with prior knowledge ('common sense') that driving dangerously might produce those tragic consequences makes little sense of the phrase 'common sense.'

There are numerous other examples on the road, including overloading, overtaking on blind spots, driving fast in residential areas where humans who we assume to have 'common sense' show signs of having very little sense in how they behave.

There are many other examples in society that will produce the same conclusion: the phrase 'common sense' makes no sense at all.
Overspeeding was the cause of this bus, plying between Tarime and Mwanza, to veer off the road near Mwanza on 18th October 2012. Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported.
On a positive note, psychologist Daniel Willingham, while reviewing the book What Intelligence Tests Miss by Keith Stanovich, says that 'common sense' can be taught. To a bus driver who builds a reputation among passengers by how fast he drives from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza? I beg to differ.

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