Common sense is a 7th natural sense

Common sense

The expression common sense means the simple, experiential and generally shared understanding of humans or their natural judgment.


The term “common sense” is clearly differentiated from the term “common sense” in today's common usage. Although both look back on the same word origin and in the 18th century z. Some of them were used synonymously, today common sense stands above all for common sense, and common sense primarily stands for solidarity.

Common sense can be viewed as a form of natural judgment. Since he judges on the basis of terms, it is neither an emotion nor an intuition.

In the end there were several approaches, different shades of meaning of common sense, common sense, judgment, etc. under the name common sense in context and thus to be viewed anew.[1]

Other related terms are sensus communis; natural judgment, common understanding, and common human reason; Common sense, common sense, horse sense, and lay sense.


Common sense has three aspects: First, the notion of a “normal sense”, an average judgment that does not take methodological detours and is not clouded in its judgment by doctrines or prejudices; secondly, an empirically working mind that makes concrete, clear judgments on the basis of everyday (life) experience and is more oriented towards practical application than abstract theory; thirdly, the idea of ​​an understanding of things generally shared by mature people, which in its judgments takes into account the (real and possible) judgments of all others.[2]

Common sense generally refers not only to a form of mind, but also to its judgments. The latter have manifested themselves in many proverbs and popular wisdom. As a concrete, pragmatic mind, it is often used in opposition to the abstract, speculative expert mind. Science and common sense hold great prejudice against one another, even though they are dependent on one another.[3]

Often “common sense” is misused as a phrase. The bad habit of falsely invoking him has greatly contributed to his devaluation.[4]

The term contains many fundamental contradictions: It describes both a skill and a knowledge, functions as a sense of truth, but is also easily fallible, is sometimes considered critical, sometimes conservative, represents an important pre-understanding, but also tends to be prejudiced. Its use is particularly beneficial where it is familiar.[5]

Concept history

The expression common sense goes like Common sensewho have favourited French counterparts bon sens and sens commun as well as the English common sense to the Latin term sensus communis back. This is a translation of the term coined by Aristotle koine aisthesis - an inner sense based in the heart, which summarizes and assesses the various information of the individual senses.[6]

The common sense tradition of terminology has many shades of meaning, including internal sense, common understanding, natural judgment, sense of community, common knowledge, opinion of the crowd (in the sense of greek doxa).[7]

The term itself was only used more frequently in German in the 18th century. The term experienced a great boom under the influence of the Scottish common sense philosophy. At the end of the 18th century it asserted itself against synonyms such as common sense, common sense, etc. and is increasingly differentiated from common sense.[8]

The German popular philosophy contributes greatly to the appreciation of common sense, and that too Common Sense Philosophy is called. It experienced its heyday during the High Enlightenment, from around 1750 to 1780. Moses Mendelssohn, Johannes Nikolaus Tetens, Johann Georg Heinrich Feder, Christoph Meiners and the early Kant.[9]

Immanuel Kant set the course for further development. At first he was clearly a popular philosopher himself, but later he remained - after his polemical criticism of the abuse of common sense by some popular philosophers [10] - a great advocate of common sense.[11] For him, healthy (human) understanding is "common understanding, as far as it judges correctly."[12] To own this is a gift from heaven. In everyday life it is often more useful than scientific knowledge.[13] Kant formulates three maxims for the successful use of common sense:

  1. "Self-thinking"
  2. "Think in place of each other"
  3. "Always think in unison with yourself"[14]

In metaphysics, common sense is useful for Kant as a touchstone of the speculative use of reason and as a starting point for questions of pure reason.[15] In general, however, the following applies here: "In metaphysics, the appeal to the sayings of the common understanding is completely inadmissible everywhere, because no case can be presented in concreto here."[16]

In Kant's moral philosophy, common sense is given the highest recognition. When it comes to questions of morality, the latter often judges more correctly than science.[17] Therefore it serves here as a starting point and guide for the scientific consideration of those.[18]

In Kant, the judgment of taste is also closely linked to common sense. The faculty, characterized by the passing of subjective, but generally shared, judgments stands in his analogy to the idea of ​​aesthetic common sense.[19]

Kant assigns philosophy in general a guardian function over common / common sense: It should protect it and "watch over it that common common sense remains a common sense". In addition, she has the knowledge of the upper faculties (theology, law, medicine) "to bring down to common sense".[20]

German idealism is not a friend of common sense. Fichte and Schelling, but above all Hegel, are extremely negative. Common sense only tells trivial truths[21]. Hegel identifies the expressions "inspiration, revelation of the heart, ... common sense, common sense" and sees in them an aversion of reason to itself (misology).[22]

Karl Marx judged even more polemically: Common sense is a form of historical stupidity and an instrument of the ruling class.[23]

Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche are also negative.[24]

In the Anglo-Saxon-speaking area, on the other hand, “common sense” enjoys high recognition throughout. American pragmatism - especially the Critical Commonsensism of Charles Sanders Peirce - and the defense of common sense by George Edward Moore should be mentioned. In Germany, the philosopher Hermann Lübbe (* 1926) in particular repeatedly pointed out the great importance of common sense or common sense.[25]


  • items Common sense. In: HWPh Volume 3, pp. 243-247.
  • items Common sensus. In HWPh 9, pp. 622-675.
  • Helga Körver: Common sense. The development of an English keyword and its meaning for the English intellectual history, primarily during the period of classicism and romanticism, Bonn 1967.
  • Helga Albersmeyer-Bingen: Common sense. A contribution to the sociology of knowledge, Berlin 1986.
  • Robert Nehring: Critique of Common Sense. Common sense, reflective judgment and common sense - the sensus communis in Kant. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010.

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ See e.g. B. David Steindl-Rast: Common Sense: The wisdom that connects everyone, Munich 2009.
  2. ↑ cf. also Nehring, Critique of Common Sense, Berlin 2010, p. 22 ff., 47 ff.
  3. ↑ cf. Nehring, p. 20 ff., V. a. Pp. 25, 29.
  4. ↑ cf. Nehring, p. 14.
  5. ↑ cf. Nehring, p. 14.
  6. ↑ cf. Art. Sensus communis, in HWPh vol. 9, p. 622 ff.
  7. ↑ cf. Nehring, p. 31 ff.
  8. ↑ cf. Körver, Common sense, Bonn 1967, p. 212 ff. And Albersmeyer-Bingen, Common sense, Berlin 1986, p. 22 ff.
  9. ↑ cf. Art. Popular philosophy, in HWPh vol. 7, p. 1093 ff. And Nehring, p. 78 ff., 244 ff.
  10. ↑ (especially in Critique of Pure Reason and Prolegomena (1783))
  11. ↑ cf. Kuehn, Manfred: Scottish Common Sense in Germany, 1768-1800. A Contribution to the History of Critical Philosophy, Kingston Montreal 1987 and Nehring, pp. 78 ff., 244 ff.
  12. ↑ AA 4, 369.
  13. ↑ cf. Nehring, p. 47 ff.
  14. ↑ AA 5, 294f.
  15. ↑ cf. AA 9, 57, AA 8, 219.
  16. ↑ AA 9, 79.
  17. ↑ cf. AA 9, 79, AA 4, 391.
  18. ↑ cf. AA 5, 27, AA 5, 36 f.
  19. ↑ cf. AA 5, 237 ff., AA 5, 293 ff.
  20. ↑ cf. AA 15, 173 f., AA 9, 57 ff.
  21. ↑ cf. Hegel: Phenomenology of the Spirit, Works ed. Glockner 3, 64.
  22. encyclopedia (1830) § 63. See also works ed. Glockner 18, 36.
  23. ↑ Cf. Marx: The moralizing criticism and the criticizing morality, in: MEW 4, 1974, p. 331 ff.
  24. The world as will and idea II, 19, in: Works ed. Frauenstädt / Hübscher 3, 233; z. B. Musarion edition 10, 384f.
  25. ↑ cf. Nehring, p. 31 ff.