Monday, February 28, 2005

"Common Sense"

At the recommendation of Tony Jones (see sidebar), I am reading Gadamer's "Truth and Reason." In the middle of one of the early chapters (p.24 in a 550+ book - I'll be reading for a while!) is a discussion of the history of the phrase "common sense." Once exposed, the two meanings became so clear, that I cannot NOT see them both...

Typically in the U.S., "common sense" is that which all should know (e.g. don't barf on and curse at the police officer that has pulled you over for doing 105 m.p.h. in a school zone). It is 'sense' that should be 'common' amongst the population. But turn on the word "common" (e.g. community, commune, etc.) and a new (actually the original) meaning comes to light.

The Greek writers (continuing into the Roman era) spoke of what was good (sensical) for the community (common). "Common Sense" was an understanding of what was good for the health, life, and future of one's community.

Currently, "common sense" = what each and every individual should know. Previously, common sense was applied to one who thought long-and-hard for the community.

I find this even more interesting in light of my default definition of sin - sin = that which kills (i.e. an infinite God can see what will bring life and what will not, but rather kill). Of course in the U.S. I (we) see sin as an individual thing. But what if "sin" (and the opposite, "life") were allowed to be seen communally? I would be an individual whose sin impacted others, and whose life-giving activity (spawned by "common sense") also impacted others. Thus, "common sense" could also be seen as "community righteousness."

Words are fun!


Ty said...

So, as I see it, maybe Acts 2:42ff is just 'common sense'!

BAB said...

This perspective challenges us all. It seems in America we have all of these factions fighting to get their way, with no consideration as to how it works together. I like this thought. Thanks for sharing.