cmaukonen's picture

    The Death of Common Sense and the Rise of the Clever Sillies

                          It works for politics as well.
    Although it appears that the country...even the world has gone off it's rocker and the the inmates are currently running the asylum,  what really maybe happening is that we have jettisoned a very basic part of the human condition while perusing with great gusto the fruits of intellect and knowledge. That which was an innate part of the life experience call common sense
    Merriam-Webster Online defines common sense as beliefs or propositions that most people consider prudent and of sound judgment, without reliance on esoteric knowledge or study or research, but based upon what they see as knowledge held by people "in common". Thus "common sense" (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. According to Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase is good sense and sound judgment in practical matters ("the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way").
    Which leads, hopefully to wisdom and good judgment. 
    Wisdom is a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act or inspire to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time, energy or thought. It is the ability to optimally (effectively and efficiently) apply perceptions and knowledge and so produce the desired results. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action. Synonyms include: sagacity, discernment, or insight. Wisdom often requires control of one's emotional reactions (the "passions") so that one's principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one's actions.

    Bruce G. Charlton gives an explanation of this lack of common sense in those with higher intelligence, though I think this may also apply to those of just above average intelligence as well.  He calls them "The Clever Sillies"

    In previous editorials I have written about the absent-minded and socially-inept ‘nutty professor’ stereotype in science, and the phenomenon of ‘psychological neoteny’ whereby intelligent modern people (including scientists) decline to grow-up and instead remain in a state of perpetual novelty-seeking adolescence. These can be seen as specific examples of the general phenomenon of ‘clever sillies’ whereby intelligent people with high levels of technical ability are seen (by the majority of the rest of the population) as having foolish ideas and behaviours outside the realm of their professional expertise. In short, it has often been observed that high IQ types are lacking in ‘common sense’ – and especially when it comes to dealing with other human beings.

    He goes on to state that high intelligence, though necessary for solving the problems of quantum mechanics and molecular biology, falls short when dealing with people and everyday problems.
    As examples of how IQ may help with evolutionary novelties, it has been abundantly-demonstrated that increasing measures of IQ are strongly and positively correlated with a wide range of abilities which require abstract reasoning and rapid learning of new knowledge and skills; such as educational outcomes, and abilities at most complex modern jobs [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] and [11]. Science and mathematics are classic examples of problem-solving activities that arose only recently in human evolutionary history and in which differential ability is very strongly predicted by relative general intelligence [12].

    However, there are also many human tasks which our human ancestors did encounter repeatedly and over manifold generations, and natural selection has often produced ‘instinctive’, spontaneous ways of dealing with these. Since humans are social primates, one major such category is social problems, which have to do with understanding, predicting and manipulating the behaviours of other human beings [13], [14], [15] and [16]. Being able to behave adaptively in dealing with these basic human situations is what I will term having ‘common sense’.

    And there is a strong tendency for those with higher intelligence to favor this above the use of common sense. When dealing with social issues, this is can lead to erroneous results.

    So, the greater cognitive ability of higher IQ is also accompanied by a somewhat distinctive high IQ personality type. My suggested explanation for this association is that an increasing level of IQ brings with it an increased tendency to use general intelligence in problem-solving; i.e. to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense.

    The over-use of abstract reasoning may be most obvious in the social domain, where normal humans are richly equipped with evolved psychological mechanisms both for here-and-now interactions (e.g. rapidly reading emotions from facial expression, gesture and posture, and speech intonation) and for ‘strategic’ modelling of social interactions to understand predict and manipulate the behaviour of others [16]. Social strategies deploy inferred knowledge about the dispositions, motivations and intentions of others. When the most intelligent people over-ride the social intelligence systems and apply generic, abstract and systematic reasoning of the kind which is enhanced among higher IQ people, they are ignoring an ‘expert system’ in favour of a non-expert system.


    Indeed, I suggest that higher levels of the personality trait of Openness in higher IQ people may the flip-side of this over-use of abstraction. I regard Openness as the result of deploying abstract analysis for social problems to yield unstable and unpredictable results, when innate social intelligence would tend to yield predictable and stable results.

    In the past if one survived long enough, one would gain the experience needed to acquire common sense and hopefully the wisdom to use it regardless of ones intellect.  Now a days people have the ability to avoid this experience to the detriment of their overall understanding of life and society. And championing some intellectual ideology that is best left in the classroom.   Unfortunately we seek out these people for our leaders and representatives, confusing intellect with wisdom.
    Worse yet we now encourage our youth to pursue knowledge an intellect over experience and wisdom, when they all are necessary.



    "Has it ever occured to you that you might be wrong"

    Athiesm for Dummies....... , Hedge your bets,. CYA

    Common sense ........Every house has a builder

    Sorry I don't have time to read the Charlton piece, so I can't say on the whole if his theory holds a lot of water.  But I often think in that in terms of our leaders, it isn't a case of not understanding an issue to find coherent and optimal solutions, but rather the need for the solution being antithetical to what policy/policies they desire to enrich themselves or their ilk, then working backward to either find faux-evidence to support them, or deconstruct actual evidence that exists that would make their stated positions...silly.

    I mean if there is one sickening thing afoot still in the financial sector, it's that trickle-down economics have been thoroughly discredited: we have the facts and charts to show it.  And yet, here we are with Wall Street and GDP numbers booming again, corporations making fabulous profits, and real unemployment at 18% or something. 

    Incoherent that so many still pretend to believe what they profess to believe.

    Washingtonsblog had this piece up on "Are our leaders incompetent...or just pretending?"  I see lots of the ignorance as artfully willful and cynical.

    Should have remembered to say that monetary policy is far more complex and debatable than fiscal policy.

    But still, the more I think about it, so many brilliant thinkers I know are moral and practical, though maybe he's thinking of people who only live in their heads and distrust other more visceral knowledge in combination.  Or something.

    "Are our leaders incompetent...or just pretending?"  I see lots of the ignorance as artfully willful and cynical.

    For some reason I am really struck by this line Stardust.

    I have hundreds of examples but Rick Perry is most recent that comes to mind. He is running around saying his administration has created a surplus in his state's budget. The truth is that his state is running last in education and has created a 25 billion dollar deficit. He refuses to tax the rich and he has once again gutted his educational budget.

    Bachmann is educated and yet she gives historical lectures that are as bad as Beck's.

    I do know this. Since we are all but poor players who strut and fret....we become the characters we create for social success. At least our attempts at social success and we get lost in those characters.

    Best political line I have read in a long time!

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