Thursday, April 06, 2017

Common Sense and its Tyrannical Alternatives

Before reading Common Sense Nation, I had never heard of the philosopher Thomas Reid, the intrepid discoverer of Common Sense. Prior to him, no one had any or knew what it was. It was as if the whole world were populated by MSNBC hosts.

All insultainment aside, Reid founded a school of thought known as common sense realism. Right away you can see why this wouldn't appeal to the tenured, as their whole mystique is based upon the essentially gnostic idea that they possess some special knowledge inaccessible to the rest of us. Therefore, common sense realism blows their cover and reveals them as the phonies and frauds they are.

Nevertheless, academia has been dining out on this anti-intellectual fraud for half a century, although there are signs their bubble is in the process of bursting.

I can't pretend to be an expert -- or, as usual, can only pretend to be -- but based upon what I've read so far, it almost appears to me that common sense realism represents a kind of return of Aristotelian-Thomist principles into the Protestant world via the side door. According to Prof. Wiki, Reid enumerated

a set of principles of common sense which constitute the foundations of rational thought. Anyone who undertakes a philosophical argument, for example, must implicitly presuppose certain beliefs, such as "I am talking to a real person," and "There is an external world whose laws do not change," among many other positive, substantive claims.

Hey, that's what I always say! (Speaking of people who discover new ideas that Aquinas thought of 700 years ago.) The point is, the very possibility of rational discourse presupposes various implicit principles that cannot not be, on pain of rendering rational discourse strictly impossible. Likewise,

For Reid, the belief in the truth of these principles is not rational; rather, reason itself demands these principles as prerequisites, as does the innate "constitution" of the human mind. It is for this reason (and possibly a mocking attitude toward Hume and Berkeley) that Reid sees belief in the principles of common sense as a litmus test for sanity.

Ditto! Which is why, for example, the American Psychological Association is not a promoter of sanity, but rather, a proponent and enabler of personal and collective insanity.

For example, like everyone else on the left, they are curiously obsessed with a normalization of sexual deviancies that couldn't be more anithetical to the natural law.

Reid observed that "before men can reason together, they must agree in first principles; and it is impossible to reason with a man who has no principles in common with you." Sure, you can do other things with such people. That's what relatives are for. It's just that they are "not fit to be reasoned with."

Anyway, it turns out that this proponent of common freaking sense and rudimentary sanity was a huge influence on the founders. For Reid, what he calls common sense is the very power in us that renders understanding possible.

Think about that one: when you understand something, it is because understanding is possible in principle. Therefore it is appropriate to ask: by virtue of what principle(s) is understanding possible?

I haven't actually thought this through in a completely systematic way, because I am not a systematic guy. More of an intuitive guy. But as I've said all along, one headrock principle surely must be that the world is intelligible to intelligence. If not, then we're all done here except for bloviating pretexts for the Power Grab.

For Reid, "self-evident truths are true and discoverable by us because of the constitution of our human nature." In its absence, "we would lack access to the foundational truths we require to be able to reason..."

The following passage caught my eye, because it too is a point I have often belabored: self-evident truths -- our innate cosmic principles -- are not arrived at by logic per se, but are the very basis of logic.

In other words, a thing cannot be true merely because it is logical, but rather, logical because true; obviously Truth is higher than logic -- one reason why Truth manifests in any number of extra- or translogical ways.

Again, the truths we are discussing are not "conclusions" but perceptions; we don't shine the light of intelligence upon them, because they are that light. Analogously, although the moon gives off light, you wouldn't use the light of the moon to try to illuminate the sun. For those of you living in Rio Linda, reason is the moon, truth the sun.

Everything we are discussing today goes to the News of the Day, i.e., the struggle over the Supreme Court. The Founders wrote our Constitution in such a way that any person using his God-given common sense could understand it.

But that just won't do for the Leftist Guild of Pasty-Faced Gnostic Pettifoggers. They have special insight into the evolving principles that undergird the constitution. Which is to say, no principles at all.

9 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

But that just won't do for the Leftist Guild of Pasty-Faced Gnostic Pettifoggers. They have special insight into the evolving principles that undergird the constitution. Which is to say, no principles at all.

Well, there is one principle they can't help following: "Do what thou wilt." With an asterisk that this rule only applies to those on the inside. For everyone else, the rule is, "Do what we say."

4/06/2017 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Sometimes I just want to pound these dopes' heads against a concrete floor while asking if it's real or a social construct.

There are always axioms, assumptions, and givens, and the vast majority of stuff that is disparaged as "just tradition" is tradition because it has worked for thousands of years.

4/06/2017 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos some of the anonymous comments from earlier this week, Bookworm has a takedown of a similar set of arguments posted on Twitter recently.

Of course, anyone with a lick of common sense should already know these things...

4/07/2017 06:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Outstanding post. I'd never even heard of that blogger. Is she always that clear, incisive, and non-polemical?

4/07/2017 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Intelligent commenters, too.

4/07/2017 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

She's usually pretty good. I don't always agree with her, and sometimes she rambles, but she puts a lot of thought into things and often has an interesting perspective. I'm surprised you haven't heard of her - Ace links her a lot. She was a great source of meme pictures in the run-up to the election, too.

4/07/2017 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/10/2017 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"I can't pretend to be an expert -- or, as usual, can only pretend to be -- but based upon what I've read so far, it almost appears to me that common sense realism represents a kind of return of Aristotelian-Thomist principles into the Protestant world via the side door."

Ditto & yep on that. I came across Reid very late in the game, just a few years ago, via some recorded lectures by an Aristotelian professor of philosophy and psychology, Daniel N. Robinson. Although it was surprising and interesting to find Reid, I haven't read that much of him, as instead of feeling 'wo!' On reading him, I mostly felt 'well, duh', but that's probably only because I already came up by that Aristotelian-Thomist back stair. I've been meaning to get back to him though, as Pragmatism's C.S. Peirce liked him a lot, which might not be Reid's fault, but....

4/10/2017 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"...self-evident truths -- our innate cosmic principles -- are not arrived at by logic per se, but are the very basis of logic."

Absolutely. Logic doesn't create truth, it only helps to clarify it. And really, Logic is but a tool, and so far from being the parent of truth, its only the grandchild of what is Real & True, with Reason being its Daddy, and, much to logic's embarrassment, sometimes Father knows best and has to tell Logic that some questions are beyond his abilities.

4/10/2017 12:29:00 PM  

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