Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Common Sense- Further Thoughts

It is inescapably true that most people do not "reason through" most of the decisions they make in their lives. Instead, to the extent they think about their decisions at all, my sense is that most people rely upon their common sense.

But what, at bottom, is the stuff of common sense? For what it's worth, my first post on this topic is here, but Thomas Sowell, in his book A Conflict of Visions says it better than I could ever hope. A summary of the "conflict" among "visions" is as follows:

"Visions rest ultimately on some sense of the nature of man - not simply his existing practices but his ultimate potential and ultimate limitations. Those who see the potentialities of human nature as extending far beyond what is currently manifested have a social vision quite different from those who see human beings as tragically limited creatures whose selfish and dangerous impulses can be contained only by social contrivances which themselves produce unhappy side effects. Running through the tradition of the unconstrained vision is the conviction that foolish or immoral choices explain the evils of the world - and that wiser or more moral and humane social policies are the solution."

By contrast, "the constrained vision sees the evils of the world as deriving from the limited and unhappy choices available, given the inherent moral and intellectual limitations of human beings." *

I commend Sowell's book to anybody who wishes to understand why, for instance, from a cultural perspective, the red states and the blue states in this country are ships passing in the night. It is a function of their respective visions, and more subtly, their view of human nature.

And also their common sense.