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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P007-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Article Summary

‘Commonsensism’ refers to one of the principal approaches to traditional theory of knowledge where one asks oneself the following Socratic questions: (1) What can I know?; (2) How can I distinguish beliefs that are reasonable for me to have from beliefs that are not reasonable for me to have? and (3) What can I do to replace unreasonable beliefs by reasonable beliefs about the same subject-matter, and to replace beliefs that are less reasonable by beliefs that are more reasonable? The mark of commonsensism is essentially a faith in oneself – a conviction that a human being, by proceeding cautiously, is capable of knowing the world in which it finds itself.

Any inquiry must set out with some beliefs. If you had no beliefs at all, you could not even begin to inquire. Hence any set of beliefs is better than none. Moreover, the beliefs that we do find ourselves with at any given time have so far survived previous inquiry and experience. And it is psychologically impossible to reject everything that you believe. ‘Doubting’, Peirce says, ‘is not as easy as lying’. Inquiry, guided by common sense, leads us to a set of beliefs which indicates that common sense is on the whole a reliable guide to knowledge. And if inquiry were not thus guided by common sense, how would it be able to answer the three Socratic questions with which it begins?

Citing this article:
Chisholm, Roderick M.. Commonsensism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P007-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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