– Philosophy exists in the space vacated by common sense, but this does not mean that we fill up that space with whatever contradicts common sense; it means that common sense becomes one source of hypotheses to be argued for or against. It becomes one voice among many, and not necessarily one that will have priority in any given case.
– Some non-negligible percentage of persons who read this post and the last one have been punching armchairs and keyboards in exasperation, screaming “What in the world do you mean by this ‘common sense’ – how is this even one thing!?!” Let’s list off some possible meanings: (a) the ‘intuitive concepts’ that Analytic philosophers talk about. (b) the ‘reasonable man’ standard used in legal cases. (c) the ‘man on the street’ idea, understood in a more or less intuitive way (d) the ‘man on the street’ idea, understood through things like polls, questionnaire responses, etc. (e) whatever is axiomatic, understood as axios, i.e. worthy of being a starting point of reasoning. (f) the Chestertonian sense of that which preserves sanity.
Leaving aside (f), none of these gives us any distinct philosophy or even would commend a philosophy to us. This true by definition for (a) and (d), and also for (b), which is a legal expedient. this leaves us with (c), but this is difficult to understand in a way that doesn’t reduce to (d) or (a) or with (e), which specifies only a starting point of reasoning, not a place that is necessary worth ending up at. cf also cryptonymous Bill’s comment on the last post.
– Stay for a moment on the ‘man on the street’ sense of common sense. If you live by this guy, you’ll die by him too. Sure, maybe he’ll agree that motion exists, but he’ll also say that not all lies are wrong, Euclid’s fifth postulate is self-evident, whatever man can do God can do just as well (see what Ockham does with this), matter and form, if real, are beings (which means Aristotle falls to Parmenides) that nothing can actually exist if its not actual (bye bye, prime matter) or, most importantly, that the practical life is more preferable than the life of theoretical understanding.
And once you start taking polls about what the common man believes, philosophy will become ridiculous, morality will lose all sharp distinctions, and you’ll be able to make more or less anything reasonable.
– The say A-T is “common sense” does not describe anything distinctive to it, but is simply a kind of marketing. You can’t find a sense in which A-T is common sense that wouldn’t also be true of Scotism or Pragmatism or even the more moderate strains of scientism (like Elliot Sober or John Searle).
– No philosopher has insisted more on being common sense than Berkeley, and no one is assumed (in my mind wrongly) to be further from it. The irony here contains an argument – Berkeley presses a crucial question about what exactly is evident, or given in common sense.
– The claim to common sense is, again, a sort of marketing that usually distorts the real issue in play. Take the dispute between Aristotle and Parmenides. Here, Aristotle is assumed to have the high-ground of common sense as the one who defends the reality of motion. But a close look makes the issue much more problematic: Parmenides, it turns out, wrote extensively about nature, but he assumed that to speak in this way was to follow “the way of mortal opinion”. So the issue between Aristotle and Parmenides turns out to be not whether we can give some account of mobile things, but whether this account rises to the level of episteme. Aristotle says yes, but both Parmenides and the 20th century scientist say no. Simialr things surface when we consider other obvious violations of common sense. No one is assumed to violate common sense more than Berkeley, but an actual reading of his texts shows us a man more zealous to keep himself in line with it than anyone.