What Descartes Taught Us About Common Sense
One of the greatest expressions of self-love is common sense. It is through the act of wise self-love, that we seek to be more efficient, effective, precise, productive, and more self-aware.
Today René Descartes is the source of the most common ways of understanding “common sense” as a widely spread type of judgment.
Descartes description of common sense has two related meanings:
1. The basic and widely shared ability to judge true and false, which he also calls raison (reason);
2. Wisdom, the perfected version of the first.
His idea is fundamentally that common good sense (and indeed sense perception) is not reliable enough for the new Cartesian method of skeptical reasoning. This concept of “Skepticism*” can be defined as any questioning attitude towards unobserved knowledge or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere. The Cartesian project sought to replace common good sense with clearly defined mathematical reasoning and was aimed at certainty, and not a mere probability. It was promoted further by people such as Hobbes, Spinoza, and others and continues to have important impacts on everyday life. Today Skepticism is often separated into categories, related to morality (right or wrong), religion (religious doubt), or the nature of knowledge itself.
This was powerful thinking and it changed the world and continues to do so to this day. The cartesian theory offered a justification for innovative social change achieved through the courts and administration, an ability to adapt the law to changing social conditions by making the basis for legislation “rational” rather than “traditional”.
For the extraordinary thinker, and for the person on the Wisdom Path, Descartes’ approach is no longer adequate — Just as his mathematical ideas are often limited when addressing questions in quantum physics. At some point for the committed student of wisdom, common sense is no more than an expression of love and compassion. The search for the means of expressing this becomes a core aspect of one’s personal discovery.
To paraphrase Lao Tzu, “The Common sense that can be rigidly and technically defined is not true common sense”.
Ultimately common sense may reflect the falling away of dogmatic ideas of what “is” and what “isn’t” so. Ultimately common sense can serve as a door to the workings of solution-based collective intelligence. It gives us a way to see what makes actually makes sense at any particular time whether it be common or uncommon.
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