Knowledge as representing an indefatigable truth applicable to all of humanity, that is, each and every individual comprising humanity is a delusion. It is a convenience that applies to the person or persons that believe such a notion ensures safety and survival within a localised social and cultural setting. That kind of knowledge would be very difficult to evidence without consulting every living individual on the planet, and treating each set of views as a singular and unique perspective. Much like statistical data can only be representative of a portion of society, a generalisation, an ideal that indexes certain trends within human endeavour, it cannot be descriptive of humanity as a whole, nor is it meant to be.

What’s more, knowledge is subject to change. If this were not the case then as a species reliant on verbal and non-verbal communication to interact socially with any success, we would not have developed the ability or the need to question and thus innovate through our resourcefulness. So that when an idea doesn’t work, we simply try something else, more often than not. Right?

Therefore, to talk about a ‘truth’ in anything is both foolhardy and against the survival of the species as a whole. The concept of a ‘truth’ is based on prescriptive rules. However, common sense, truth’s better looking cousin relies on what is valid and salient in any given moment, and is adaptable as circumstances allow, unlike ugly cousin Truth who stamps its feet and proclaims to be right all the time. Tiresome.

Common sense, as a popularly held concept is based on applicable theory and observation, though even then it has to be demonstrable and applicable to more than just a single human being in order for it to become useful and salient. Though this is clearly not the case in any observable scenario, because as stated such evidence would be difficult to obtain and thus adequately substantiate.

Not all vaccines work for everybody for example. There is always an exception to the rule, no matter how solid a foundation a concept or a type of knowledge may appear to have.

Therefore, our use of metaphor, and by that I mean the way in which we use an interchangeable combination of words to describe the world around us and our experience of it and in it, is how we as a species deal with that lack of all encompassing substantive knowledge alluded to by any kind of truth or truism. We are incapable of being specific in our understanding of the world, and communicating that understanding, precisely because we do so through our own subjective experience in any given moment using communicative tools that are only designed to express generalisations. We are limited in our understanding  and thus our ability to be specific by the scope of our own knowledge base.

This doesn’t make a mockery of knowledge at all as some have suggested, in that if it is immediately applicable and useful, then it is valuable. However, it does make a mockery of knowledge being accepted as irrefutable and prescriptive fact. As a blanket rule applicable across the metaphorical board!

This view of knowledge and what it is might appear controversial to those who have fixed notions about the world, and in no way do I seek to demean other people’s communicative experiences or sense of identity, as it relates personally and to one’s peers. However, we construct our identities based on the knowledge and thus beliefs that we have access and exposure to socially and culturally to a very large degree, and the language we use is an expression of that identity. It is as intimately a part of us as our reflections in a mirror, so it is understandable that when a belief system is questioned, a way of looking at the world that works on a personal level then any suggestions to the contrary are felt as a threat. This being said, the only way in which we grow on a personal and social level is by adjusting our beliefs and the language we use in their expression as a natural recourse to an ever changing environment. So, to be rigid in one’s thinking is anathema to progress, and we cannot help but progress no matter how much we dig our heels in.

Prescriptive knowledge impedes growth and innovation because it does not allow for deviation, by way of being able to express a difference of opinion.

Effective knowledge then, is both applicable and adaptable, generating the potential for new conversations to be had, and for adjustments to be made as need requires, and by that I mean both personal and wider social need, and the necessary negotiation between the two.

This adaptability of knowledge as expressed through verbal and non-verbal communication forms the basis for the study of sociolinguistics, and by implication is highly descriptive and indicative of human behaviour as suggested, and something I hope to explore in further detail in future posts.

23 thoughts on “Truth V Common Sense

  1. As someone who has taught and mentored for most of my life, I’ve picked up an interesting correlation between learning and “truth” or what I call knowledge. The more people learn on a subject, the less inclined to believe they have mastered a subject. In fact, it’s when people become “subject matter experts” that you hear them sounding the most humble and apologizing for what they don’t know. The sad truth about truth is that it takes a long time and a broad base of knowledge just to know what one doesn’t know.

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    1. Dare I say it, i think it’s a mark of emotional maturity when you get to a point as you say of seeing things as less specifically defined. Not that I’m saying I’m necessarily more emotionally mature than anyone else, but I am very open minded about most things and willing to take on new perspectives.

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    1. As much as I would like to think that I could shock you, I really don’t think that’s possible (said looking down my nose over my hypothetical glasses in a teachery way)…

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      1. If you were going to say you don’t drink tea, that wouldn’t shock me, I assure you. Some of my best friends don’t touch the stuff. They don’t talk about it and a couple think I don’t know but I do. And it’s perfectly fine….honest!

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          1. Shock…another non tea drinker. OMG. Well, we live in a liberal world, so the say, and people are “Coming Out’ all the time, I hear.
            Maybe you should dabble just a little? Try some Chamomile.
            Or even Lemon Verbena?
            I grow my own. But It is shielded in case the authorities call.

            Ah..to hell with it..I can’t keep on with this nonsense! LOL….

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                    1. Yes, the lost lives are never equated to the mechanics of language. The problem is, it isn’t even a case of rewording intent in order to change the system, it has to be a change on a much deeper more psychological level that has to occur before certain people stop behaving like complete idiots based on whatever flavour of truth they happen to like that day. Language is both a beautiful and dangerous thing in its limitation. However, it is still the most convincing way forward in any motion of change.

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                    2. Oh I see! Damn!!! You confused me 🙂 I didn’t think making Catnip tea would be do dangerous, but I suppose it depends on where you’re getting it from for one!

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  2. Common sense is something life gives to us if we want it … knowledge goes hand in hand with common sense, but not the same thing. We can be so be so knowledgeable but without any common sense. The truth is what we make it too and want it to be.
    Tea, don’t drink the stuff … not good for you – if you drink coffee you live longer and your brain will be kept healthy … I done a little funny post about it – http://wp.me/p293Pw-4Dj

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