On good sense

As my Chief Argentine Correspondent (this guy) likes to say, “I can give you the simple answer; but for the correct answer you will have to consult other sources.” A certain modesty in declaring the limits of one’s knowledge is just what we don’t find, almost anywhere we look on the Internet. (Not even here.) And the truth is not even in the hands of the admitted experts, although their carefully qualified opinions are likely to be more interesting than those of the [insert bawdy epithet here]. For these experts are all men, including those who are women; and there are strict limits on what such creatures can know. Put not your trust in them.

Notwithstanding, I have a simple “theory” of exegesis, which begins with Holy Scripture but may also be applied in every other realm of human perception. It is called “common sense” in English, and corresponds to sensus communis in Latin, κοινη αισθησις in Greek, and phrases in many other languages. The bon sens of French sounds prettier to my ear, for it is among my insights that what is “good” is not necessarily held in common. Too, I like the parallel we might draw between “good sense” and “good taste,” along with all-round goodness, preferable to badness in almost every case.

Aristotle had a word or two on this, and he says “common” (the koinos thing) in an uncommon way. His whole account in the De Anima is superbly teleological. Things work in a certain way, because otherwise they would not work. He does not mean by “common” that we take a vote. He means that something makes good sense when there is a coalescence of impressions in the soul. In my understanding, this is something like facial recognition. Everything fits together in such a way that we confidently hail the familiar, even when it is obscured by such accidents as wounds or advancing age. There is this “all of a piece” quality which is actually transcendent of sense impressions, much though it may begin with them. We have a “good idea.” Or we have a bad idea and get everything wrong.

We get the “gist,” and that gist is not a “whatever.” It is something specific, that does not continually “morph” into something else. Changes can be explained, but as the old man discovers, he is not a different person than he was at three. Nor is anyone not that.

Good sense begins with the recognition of realities that are outside us. The baby emerging from his mother’s womb may at first be in some confusion (I know I was). But in very little time he discovers that his mother has a face; that for all the profundity of his relation with her, she is someone else. It is the beginning of “good sense,” and with the passage of time other discoveries may be added to it, and answers found to such deep questions as, “Who is that other person?”

Good sense (or “horse sense,” perhaps, in honour of the wise Houyhnhnms) proceeds from known to known, and tends to avoid the leaps of “theory.” Which is to say, it does not follow rules. Instead the rules follow the knowledge, and no rule is ever quite secure.

I mention all this because I have the sense impression that modern man, especially in Greater Parkdale, lacks good sense. His development is less and less experiential. “Science” — or scientism, as preached in our schools — has taught him to be cowed by authority, and he is chiefly moved by the authority of opinions that are not his own. He believes the strangest things. To him, the world is full of djinns: spirits who take care of things, and make the most absurd demands, such as that he put his trash into different coloured boxes. He has the “cargo cult” mentality towards the State, and does not realize it is made of other persons. He is extremely easy to manipulate and fool.