Common Sense; Why It's No Longer Common

Common Sense; Why It's No Longer Common

by Lawrence E. Joseph

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Common sense, or sound practical thinking allied to ``the craft of reasonable living,'' is rare, to judge from Joseph's witty look at contemporary follies. Author of Gaia: The Growth of an Idea , he blasts the elitist World Bank for imposing rich nations' agendas on developing countries and laments the overspecialization in U.S. colleges which, he argues, fosters ``educated inability.'' In search of common sense (CS), Joseph participates in a Sioux sweat-lodge ceremony; seeks global common ground at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio; visits Berea College in Kentucky, where students learn responsibility through a work-study program; and interviews Iceland's president Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a woman whose commonsensical compatriots live longer than any other people in the world. We also meet a supercomputer in Austin, Tex., being programmed with CS. (Jan.)
Jon Kartman
You may think it doesn't make a lot of sense to write a whole book about common sense, but this one's intriguing and thoughtful, anyway. Though all "Homo sapiens" share similar assumptions about the world and how we live in it, recent information overload has, according to Joseph, made the shared database a lot less commonly sensible. For instance, the idea that a naked Vice President George Bush enjoyed being beaten by nude male communists strikes most as nonsensical, but when it's disclosed that the incident took place in a Finnish sauna, the story makes a lot more sense. But because we have all read too many sensational, bait-and-switch supermarket tabloids and have come to assume the strange is correct, is it now our collective sense that Bush enjoys being beaten? Might the future of our common sense lie in the "brain" of a computer that, when "told" that beings of similar backgrounds and experiences tended to spend time together, asks its programmer, "Am I a person or are you a computer program?" And is the computer then making sense and the programmer unaware of what he or she has become? The many examples Joseph cites of what he calls common sense both surprise and make one wonder just what really is sensible and what remains common.

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