Common Sense As A Source Of Knowledge

1412 words - 6 pages

The Weaknesses and Strengths of Common Sense and Science as Sources of Knowledge

There are many sources of knowledge as the society progresses. In this case, the most controversial question would be whether or not common sense can be accounted as a reliable source of knowledge? Although both common sense and science can be taken into account as sources of knowledge, I will argue that to some extent common sense and scientific knowledge are still very different from one another. That is, scientific knowledge is much more highly valued and reliable than common sense. By definition, common sense is a knowledge that is developed from daily basis, and is primarily based on the viewer’s ...view middle of the document...

Unlike common sense, science goes through a much more complex process in order to obtain its conclusion and results, while common sense is only based on one’s subjective perception.

In spite of its strengths, common sense can also have several weaknesses. The first weakness is that, naïve common sense supposes that they are what they appear to be. But, this is never the case, since they do not appear exactly the same to any two or more simultaneous observers. Secondly, the pursuit of precision will destroy the certainty, in which it may be deceivable.

Further support for this claim comes from the English philosopher Bertrand Russell. According to Bertrand Russell, there are three defects in which knowledge suffers from ordinary life: cocksure, self-contradictory, and vague. Bertrand Russell believed that these three defects are interconnected, in which by realizing of any one we may be led to recognize the other two. For instance, the physicist and an ordinary man may define or perceive a “chair” differently. The physicist may say that a chair is made of electrons and protons in rapid motion, with space in between, while an ordinary man may just see a chair as certain patches of color instead of any electrons or protons. Although the term “chair” is perfectly defined in the world of science as a collection of electrons and protons, this may not be applicable to an ordinary man who has never studied science before. This is an example of how two different observers may perceive objects differently based on their personal experiences. This is also why Bertrand Russell believed that common sense is never a reliable source of knowledge.
Likewise, science can also have limitations in which it is impossible to attain. Science can only investigate phenomena that are operated within the “laws of nature”. That is, science cannot support or falsify supernatural explanations, such as aliens, ghosts or even the existence of God. Moreover, the observations and experimental results must be repeatable. Overall, neither common sense nor science can test or prove the validity of the supernatural.

Throughout the weaknesses and strengths of common sense and science, I will argue that even if common sense is regarded a source of knowledge, scientific knowledge is, nevertheless, more highly valued and reliable than common sense, for that common sense is rather subjective and dependent. Common sense is based primarily on one’s observation and daily basis and therefore can only be regarded as a “normative statement”. Scientific knowledge, however, is objective as it is constantly tested in the practical world by a group of scientists. More importantly, scientific results are also open to the public for review, while common sense does not. In our times, scientific knowledge is often used to apply in many fields, such as technology, architecture, biology and chemistry. Regardless, common sense is mostly applicable on daily basis rather than any specific area...

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