Conventional Wisdom vs. Common Sense

While these terms are often used as synonyms there is actually a substantial and important distinction to be made between them.  According to Wikipedia:

Conventional wisdom is a term used to describe ideas or explanations that are generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field.

Common sense is the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way

So, as we can see, something can be viewed as conventional wisdom if enough people believe it or if enough influential people claim it to be true.  It does not have to be actually true.  Common Sense refers to real knowledge that is based on something other than popular opinion.  It has some real epistomological basis.

Common sense often flies in the face of conventional wisdom.  People intuitively know that some things are true even if many of the so-called experts do not say so, and they find this very frustrating.

This is what our group, Seacoast Common Sense Community Builders is trying to promote and what I tried to convey in my book, Discovering Possibility: A Common Sense Conservative Manifesto: For Classical Liberals Too.  Much of what has been passed off as truth for the past one hundred years or so is nothing more than conventional wisdom that has been sanctioned by influential people who had various political agendas.  We believe there are some common sense ideas that used to be conventional wisdom too, but have been discarded by these social forces because the common sense ideas no longer fit their agendas.  We want to rediscover these notions and pass them along in as many ways as we can.Image


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bilafond on June 4, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Interesting comparison. I would substitute Conventional Wisdom with Conventional understanding or conventional intelligence. Wisdom in my opinion lies in higher strata. My bipolar son who committed suicide 5 years ago wrote something special on Wisdom and I have posted it on my Lens in Squidoo. Those interested may take a peek at


  2. Posted by Ma on October 14, 2015 at 7:27 am

    If common sense refers to real knowledge that is … and so on, then what is common knowledge?


  3. Posted by Rosemary Onyango on June 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Wisdom is the ability to use the information one has to bring about a solution, that can be positive or negative. In the old days, one went to a wiseman because they needed a solution. If one has common sense, knowledge, intelligence, etc it is only wisdom when you are able to use it. That is why Holy Spirit is wisdom, when He comes upon you, He brings solutions and effective change. As long as you sit on all that, it is not wisdom. So show wisdom by using your common sense, intellect, knowledge, etc how else is one wise by just sitting on all that?


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