Articles

Articles

Common Sense

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The pride of Israel testifies to his face, 
But they do not return to the LORD their God, 
Nor seek Him for all this. 
Ephraim also is like a silly dove, without sense— 
They call to Egypt, 
They go to Assyria. 
(Hos. 7:10-11)


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In his 1994 book "The Death of Common Sense," author Philip K. Howard quotes one philosopher's observation that "the Rationalist . . . does not merely neglect the kind of knowledge which would save him, he begins by destroying it. First he turns out the light and then complains that he cannot see."

The prophet Hosea would have appreciated that metaphor. The nation of Israel in his day was on a similar path to self-imposed blindness. Having rejected the practical guidance of God's law, the people were stumbling to and fro in a vain search for solutions to their self-imposed problems. Like a bird darting about aimlessly, the nation looked for security first to Egypt (in one direction), then to Assyria (in the opposite direction). But their pride would not allow them to see the answer right in front of their faces.
 
Common sense can be defined as "the knack for seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done." There is a fixed order built into our world, and people with normal intelligence should be able to recognize that order and align their behavior with it. The book of Proverbs, for example, is a gold mine of self-evident maxims explaining how life works. People with common sense understand these rules, and are able to keep their irrational impulses in check. They are more likely to stay out of trouble. 

Some people, however, prefer those irrational impulses over common sense--and blow up their lives in the process. They turn out the light then complain that they cannot see. 

Our culture today is suffering from a severe drought of common sense. The best and brightest among us claim they cannot tell the difference between men and women. Incentive structures have been turned upside down, resulting in an explosion of destructive behaviors and a dearth of constructive ones. We have rejected thousands of years of accumulated human wisdom in favor of trendy psychobabble, and are shocked! shocked! to see the wheels falling off.
 
We have destroyed the knowledge that could save us, and complain that nothing is working as it should. Silly people. If only we would turn the light back on. 

--David