The limitations of common sense approach

The limitations of this (and other) approaches can be grouped in three categories: extrinsic ones (the result of factors extraneous to experience), limitations of common sense as a social practice (ensuing from the way knowledge is shared and communicated) and intrinsic limitations.


Extrinsic limitations

Bias - insights based on personal experiences are difficult to distinguish from one's preferences, desires or fears. They are often coloured by the character of the person and shis past. Also, there is a tendency to interpret these insights in such a way as to satisfy one's needs and confirm existing beliefs, which may give rise to superstition and other unproductive ways of explaining reality. Even if this subjectivity is avoided, such insights are shaped by specific circumstances and may lack universality.

Dogmatism - when beliefs based on common sense become embedded in a particular cultural framework, they are very difficult to change and often become dogmatic.


Limitations of common sense as a social practice

Elusiveness - common sense is based on clues often too complex and subtle to be rationally explained and systematically described. This is why common sense, more than any other approach, finds its expression in narrative art (from myths and dramatisations to stories and films). However, such a way of knowledge transmission may be sometimes vague and not easily understood.


Intrinsic limitations

Limited scope - common sense is limited in scope. Not all aspects of reality are accessible to personal (even if collective) experiences. The far corners of the universe, the world of subatomic particles, or the processes in the living cell, are not within the reach of common sense. By the same token, an exploration of reality beyond the ordinary perception require a transcendence of typical personal experiences. Furthermore, some understandings can only be achieved by using logic and reasoning in a more systematic and strict way than common sense usually does.

Imprecision - common sense relies on ‘rule of thumb' methods and, therefore, is not very precise. This often does not matter, but sometimes more exact methods are needed.


The above indicates that common sense is a valuable approach but not sufficient on its own, so it needs to be combined with other ones.