So in my outtakes video last week, I answered a Table Topics question “What’s more important, common sense or intelligence” and I rapidly answered “intelligence” which apparently has been the subject of some controversy.
I answered quickly because this is something I’ve thought about a good bit.
Common sense is a much weirder idea than it first appears to be. I see two possible definitions.
- Common sense could be a basic ability to judge and understand the world and the ability to apply that to your decision making.
- Common sense is a level of knowledge and experience that “most people” should have as defined by the person using the term. These are cultural ideas and, usually, subjective ideas. Common sense then eventually boils down to rules of etiquette and propriety.#1 seems pretty similar to intelligence for me, so for this question we’re left with #2, and I don’t think that’s as important as intelligence.
I won’t say that cultural rules aren’t important, of course they are, they keep cultures working and coalescing. But that sort of common sense…I can’t be proud of myself for having it. In the end, this means that every culture has different definitions of what “common sense” things are. In Nazi Germany, it would be common sense to hate Jews. Segregation was common sense in America until the 1960s.
And now maybe our common sense is better, but the idea of common sense remains flawed from even a modestly distant viewpoint. All cultures have different ideas of what we should know and how we should behave and, from my position, those things are more limiting than enabling. I would rather see common sense for what it is, a bunch of ideas that are largely arbitrarily decided upon by society, than as the strict rules that it appears to represent at first glance.
With intelligence I can understand common sense, find it’s roots, study it, attempt to change it if I feel like it should be better. I can adapt faster to the “common sense” of other places and understand that just because some people don’t have the same common sense as me, that doesn’t mean that their cultural sense isn’t just as valid and important as mine.
It’s complicated, but so is the world, and that’s why I value intelligence so highly, because otherwise we walk around saying “that person has no common sense” about someone who maybe has just figured out a different way to approach the world, and maybe that way is better. And without people like that, who are willing to ignore cultural norms, culture can’t evolve…and culture must evolve.
Posted on Wednesday, 6 June
Tagged as: intelligence common sense hank green quotes life
Reblogged from: edwardspoonhands
Posted by: edwardspoonhands
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