It’s kind of fair that the greatest grudge common sense holds against philosophy is for its attacks against common sense.
But it is just as true that philosophy is not at its most productive in its stubborn gesture of “back to basics,” seemingly in the mission of Truth, but rather in its uncovering of the underlying, implicit and often dangerous assumptions that govern the seemingly anarchic (“common”) territory of common sense. People love the quote of common sense not being so common, but it is another understanding of ‘communality’ that philosophy takes issue with. Of course, sometimes philosophy will come with its own implicit assumptions that might be just as problematic…
This issue’s articles look at thinkers who gave the ‘common sense’ perhaps a better hearing and closer examination than it might have wanted. Sometimes the best way to problematize something is to take it completely straightly, in a naive acceptance, and see where it leads. Philosophy revels in this kind of childishness, the same of the child who declares the emperor butt naked. But the “stupid” questions of a child are only that way in lieu of a thorough course in the ‘common sense’ of the community, the answers that are accepted as perfectly satisfactory, and as ending the matter. What if one doesn’t get the memo that the matter is satisfied by this common sense doxa? What if one “loses” the memo behind the fridge? Then one is confronted with intractable problems that produce endless questions and their puerile common sense replies. Where is the soul? Why do I see and hear and feel things? What’s the point of progress? What’s a cow?
Common sense no doubt turns its nose up at these questions, or gives a hasty response. There may be some sense in which the questions of the child are poorly posed, flawed in some subtle feature. However, to peer behind these questions to the problems that portion out their sense, that give them force, is the very act of thinking itself. The philosopher-child as the ally of the problems that break up the obstinate striations of common sense, could this be the friend of wisdom?