Common Sense; Why It's No Longer Common

Overview

Yogi Bera swears by it. Rush Limbaugh and Ross Perot seem to think it's all we need to set this country straight. Even Clinton-Rodham-Gore appeal to it now and then. Common sense is the Great American Virtue, the sine qua non of justifiable action. And yet, if common sense is the wisdom that's "as plain as the nose on your face," why does it seem to be in such short supply? From his vantage point in the common-sense borough of Brooklyn, writer Larry Joseph sets off to explore this all-purpose attribute. What is ...
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Lebanon, Indiana, U.S.A. 1994 Hardcover New 0201581167. FLAWLESS COPY, BRAND NEW, PRISTINE, NEVER OPENED.

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Overview

Yogi Bera swears by it. Rush Limbaugh and Ross Perot seem to think it's all we need to set this country straight. Even Clinton-Rodham-Gore appeal to it now and then. Common sense is the Great American Virtue, the sine qua non of justifiable action. And yet, if common sense is the wisdom that's "as plain as the nose on your face," why does it seem to be in such short supply? From his vantage point in the common-sense borough of Brooklyn, writer Larry Joseph sets off to explore this all-purpose attribute. What is common sense, anyway? An instinct? A social convention? A form of intelligence, or a talent like playing the harmonica? If it truly does exist as some definable capacity, how does it work? Are we born with it, or can it be developed? And who has more of it, women or men? Democrats or Republicans? Readers of The National Enquirer, or The New York Review of Books? Joseph traverses the country looking for the right person to ask. He visits a scientist in Austin, Texas, who reads supermarket tabloids to his computer to help it learn to distinguish sense from nonsense. He analyzes the work of developmental psychologists and cognitive philosophers. He talks to people who have a reputation for great common sense - some very successful entrepreneurs - and those with reputations for having very little - academics. He takes up the subject with the Lakota Sioux medicine man with whom he shares a sweat lodge, and with the San Diego biker with whom he shares a beer. He interviews the president of Iceland about commonsense culture. He takes us inside one very commonsense institution - Berea College in Kentucky, and inside another which seems to have almost none - the World Bank. When all is said and done Joseph concludes that it's not so much the "sense" that has changed as the "common." While many still trust in a body of knowledge, assumptions, and practices "we" can all share, the human frame of reference and the scope of our problems has expanded beyond the range

A frequent contributor to The New York Times guides readers through the findings of psychology, philosophy, and artificial intelligence to bring into focus the concept of "common sense." Joseph argues that globalized communications and economies have conspired to outpace our ability to make sense--and he offers recommendations for recovering our common sense.

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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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201581164
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 1/15/1994
  • Pages: 198
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Whatever Happened to Common Sense? 1
Ch. 1 What Are the Limits of Common Sense? 9
Ch. 2 How Does Common Sense Work? 33
Ch. 3 Where Does Common Sense Come from? 59
Ch. 4 How Is Common Sense Taught? 73
Ch. 5 What Is the Common-Sense Philosophy? 101
Ch. 6 Is There a Common-Sense Culture? 123
Ch. 7 Where Is Common Sense Going? 143
Conclusion: But Is It CS? 165
Bibliography 177
Index 185
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