Common sense is not common

. . . common sense is, as a matter of fact, nothing more than layers of preconceived notions stored in our memories and emotions for the most part before age eighteen. –Albert Einstein

Our common sense, or world view, is not “common” to all people. It is shaped by the culture we inhabit. It is like a pair of glasses few of us ever manage to take off, so of course we see confirmation everywhere we look.

Much of Western intellectual tradition has been inherited from the Greeks. Our science and philosophy in particular are shot through with beliefs and opinions and forms of speech that were once explicit doctrines of Plato, Aristotle, and the like, but have come to be embedded anonymously in the fabric of our thought. Of this embedded material perhaps the most fundamental is logic, the standard by which we judge reasoning to be “correct”.

Is logic itself “correct”? Some Eastern philosophers would call it “ignorance”. I use logic all the time in mathematics, and it seems to yield “correct” results, but in mathematics “correct” by and large means “logical”, so I’m back where I started. I can’t defend logic because I can’t remove my glasses.

Richard J. Trudeau, Introduction to Graph Theory


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