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Common Sense Quotes (69 quotes)


Il senso comune è un giudizio senz'alcuna riflessione, comunemente sentito da tutto un ordine, da tutto un popolo, da tutta una Nazione, o da tutto il Gener Umano.
Common sense is judgment without reflection, shared by an entire class, an entire nation, or the entire human race.
In The New Science (3rd ed., 1744), Book 1, Para. 142, as translated by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch, The New Science of Giambattista Vico (1948), 57.
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A mathematical argument is, after all, only organized common sense, and it is well that men of science should not always expound their work to the few behind a veil of technical language, but should from time to time explain to a larger public the reasoning which lies behind their mathematical notation.
In The Tides and Kindred Phenomena in the Solar System: The Substance of Lectures Delivered in 1897 at the Lowell Institute, Boston, Massachusetts (1898), Preface, v. Preface
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A plain, reasonable working man supposes, in the old way which is also the common-sense way, that if there are people who spend their lives in study, whom he feeds and keeps while they think for him—then no doubt these men are engaged in studying things men need to know; and he expects of science that it will solve for him the questions on which his welfare, and that of all men, depends. He expects science to tell him how he ought to live: how to treat his family, his neighbours and the men of other tribes, how to restrain his passions, what to believe in and what not to believe in, and much else. And what does our science say to him on these matters?
It triumphantly tells him: how many million miles it is from the earth to the sun; at what rate light travels through space; how many million vibrations of ether per second are caused by light, and how many vibrations of air by sound; it tells of the chemical components of the Milky Way, of a new element—helium—of micro-organisms and their excrements, of the points on the hand at which electricity collects, of X rays, and similar things.
“But I don't want any of those things,” says a plain and reasonable man—“I want to know how to live.”
In 'Modern Science', Essays and Letters (1903), 221-222.
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Common sense is science exactly in so far as it fulfills the ideal of common sense; that is, sees facts as they are, or at any rate, without the distortion of prejudice, and reasons from them in accordance with the dictates of sound judgment. And science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
The Crayfish: an Introduction to the Study of Zoölogy (1880), 2. Excerpted in Popular Science (Apr 1880), 16, 789.
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Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
Attributed, no citation found, and probably not by Einstein. For example, it is found without citation in Albert Einstein, Jerry Mayer and John P. Holms, Bite-size Einstein (1996), 25. Listed under heading 'Probably Not by Einstein' by Alice Calaprice, The New Quotable Einstein (2005), 294. It is included here to link to this caution. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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Common sense is the measure of the possible; it is composed of experience and prevision; it is calculation applied to life. (26 Dec 1852)
Amiel's Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, trans. Humphry Ward (1893), 34.
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Common sense is, of all kinds, the most uncommon.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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Common sense … has the very curious property of being more correct retrospectively than prospectively. It seems to me that one of the principal criteria to be applied to successful science is that its results are almost always obvious retrospectively; unfortunately, they seldom are prospectively. Common sense provides a kind of ultimate validation after science has completed its work; it seldom anticipates what science is going to discover.
Quoted in A. De Reuck, M. Goldsmith and J. Knight (eds.), Decision Making in National Science Policy (1968), 96.

Common sense … may be thought of as a series of concepts and conceptual schemes which have proved highly satisfactory for the practical uses of mankind. Some of those concepts and conceptual schemes were carried over into science with only a little pruning and whittling and for a long time proved useful. As the recent revolutions in physics indicate, however, many errors can be made by failure to examine carefully just how common sense ideas should be defined in terms of what the experimenter plans to do.
In Science and Common Sense (1951), 32-33.
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Communication of science as subject-matter has so far outrun in education the construction of a scientific habit of mind that to some extent the natural common sense of mankind has been interfered with to its detriment.
Address to Section L, Education, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at Boston (1909), 'Science as Subject-Matter and as Method'. Published in Science (28 Jan 1910), N.S. Vol. 31, No. 787, 126.
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Devised with a maximum of erudition and a minimum of common sense.
Aphorism 56 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 52.
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Do not imagine that mathematics is harsh and crabbed, and repulsive to common sense. It is merely the etherealisation of common sense.
'The Six Gateways of Knowledge', Presidential Address to the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Birmingham (3 Oct 1883). In Popular Lectures and Addresses (1891), Vol. 1, 280.
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Experimental science can be thought of as an … extension of common sense.
In Science and Common Sense (1951), 32.
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Fine sense and exalted sense are not half as useful as common sense.
'Thoughts On Various Subjects', The Works of Alexander Pope (1806), Vol. 6, 406.
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Gods are fragile things they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense.
In Garry Poole, Judson Poling, MS Debra Poling, Do Science and the Bible Conflict? (), 64.
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Good-sense, which only is the gift of Heaven,
And though no science, fairly worth the seven.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 130:11.

How quaint the way of paradox—
At common sense she gaily mocks.
In libretto of The Pirates of Penzance, collected in Original Plays (1907), 328.
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I claim that relativity and the rest of modern physics is not complicated. It can be explained very simply. It is only unusual or, put another way, it is contrary to common sense.
In Edward Teller, Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991, 2013), 2.
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I don’t think America can just drill itself out of its current energy situation. We don’t need to destroy the environment to meet our energy needs. We need smart, comprehensive, common-sense approaches that balance the need to increase domestic energy supplies with the need to maximize energy efficiency.
Statement on New Long-Term Energy Solutions (22 Mar 2001). In Bill Adler (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy (2011).
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If a man can have only one kind of sense, let him have common sense. If he has that an uncommon sense too, he is not far from genius.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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If common sense has not the brilliancy of the sun, it has the fixity of the stars.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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If the question were, “What ought to be the next objective in science?” my answer would be the teaching of science to the young, so that when the whole population grew up there would be a far more general background of common sense, based on a knowledge of the real meaning of the scientific method of discovering truth.
Marion Savin Selections from the Scientific Correspondence of Elihu Thomson (1971), v.
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In its famous paradox, the equation of money and excrement, psychoanalysis becomes the first science to state what common sense and the poets have long known—that the essence of money is in its absolute worthlessness.
Life Against Death: the Psychoanalytical Meaning of History (1985), 254.
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In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and repossession, and suffer his reason and feelings to determine for themselves; and that he will put on, or rather that he will not put off, the true character of man, and generously enlarge his view beyond the present day.
In Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America (1792), 15.
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It is impossible for us, who live in the latter ages of the world, to make observations in criticism, morality, or in any art or science, which have not been touched upon by others. We have little else left us but to represent the common sense of mankind in more strong, more beautiful, or more uncommon lights.
Spectator, No. 253. In Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1880), 60.
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It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for any public office.
…...
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It would be foolish to give credit to Euclid for pangeometrical conceptions; the idea of geometry deifferent from the common-sense one never occurred to his mind. Yet, when he stated the fifth postulate, he stood at the parting of the ways. His subconscious prescience is astounding. There is nothing comperable to it in the whole history of science.
Ancient Science And Modern Civilization (1954, 1959), 28. In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 130.
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John Locke invented common sense, and only Englishmen have had it ever since!
As quoted by Gilbert Ryle from a conversation he had with Russell during travel on a train on Locke with Gilbert Ryle. Ryle recounted this to D.C. Dennett, who used it as a chapter epigraph in his Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (1995), 26.
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Learning how to access a continuity of common sense can be one of your most efficient accomplishments in this decade. Can you imagine common sense surpassing science and technology in the quest to unravel the human stress mess? In time, society will have a new measure for confirming truth. It’s inside the people-not at the mercy of current scientific methodology. Let scientists facilitate discovery, but not invent your inner truth.
…...
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Mathematics is often erroneously referred to as the science of common sense. Actually, it may transcend common sense and go beyond either imagination or intuition. It has become a very strange and perhaps frightening subject from the ordinary point of view, but anyone who penetrates into it will find a veritable fairyland, a fairyland which is strange, but makes sense, if not common sense. [Coauthor with James R. Newman]
In Edward Kasner and James Newman, Mathematics and the Imagination (1940, 1949), 359.
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May the conscience and the common sense of the peoples be awakened, so that we may reach a new stage in the life of nations, where people will look back on war as an incomprehensible aberration of their forefathers!
…...
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Mere knowledge is comparatively worthless unless digested into practical wisdom and common sense as applied to the affairs of life.
As quoted, without citation, in John Walker, A Fork in the Road: Answers to Daily Dilemmas from the Teachings of Jesus Christ (2005), 71.
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Nothing could be more obvious than that the earth is stable and unmoving, and that we are in the center of the universe. Modern Western science takes its beginning from the denial of this common sense axiom.
In The Discoverers (2011), 294.
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Nothing is useless for the man of sense; he turns everything to account.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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Now of the difficulties bound up with the public in which we doctors work, I hesitate to speak in a mixed audience. Common sense in matters medical is rare, and is usually in inverse ratio to the degree of education.
'Teaching and Thinking' (1894). In Aequanimitas with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 131.
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Of plain, sound sense, life’s current coin is made; With that we drive the most substantial trade.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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One of the main purposes of scientific inference is to justify beliefs which we entertain already; but as a rule they are justified with a difference. Our pre-scientific general beliefs are hardly ever without exceptions; in science, a law with exceptions can only be tolerated as a makeshift. Scientific laws, when we have reason to think them accurate, are different in form from the common-sense rules which have exceptions: they are always, at least in physics, either differential equations, or statistical averages. It might be thought that a statistical average is not very different from a rule with exceptions, but this would be a mistake. Statistics, ideally, are accurate laws about large groups; they differ from other laws only in being about groups, not about individuals. Statistical laws are inferred by induction from particular statistics, just as other laws are inferred from particular single occurrences.
The Analysis of Matter (1927), 191.
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Scholars should always receive with thanks new suppositions about things, provided they possess some tincture of sense; another head may often make an important discovery prompted by nothing more than such a stimulus: the generally accepted way of explaining a thing no longer had any effect on his brain and could communicate to it no new notion.
Aphorism 81 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 56.
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Science and common sense differ as cultivated fruits differ from wild fruits.
Science sows its seeds of inquiry, and gathers the fruit.
Common sense picks the fruit, such as it, is by the wayside.
Common sense has no fields or orchards of knowledge.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lvi.
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Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man’s upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor. But if a man hasn’t got plenty of good common sense, the more science he has the worse for his patient.
'The Poet at the Breakfast-Table', Chapter 5. The Atlantic Monthly (May 1872), 29, 607.
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Science is not a substitute for common sense, but an extension of it.
'The Scope and Language of Science' (1954), reprinted in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (1957), 8, 2.
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Science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out, and minutely articulated.
The Life of Reason: Reason in Science (1906), 307.
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Science is simply common sense at its best—that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
In The Crayfish: An Introduction to the Study of Zoology (1880), 2.
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Science is, I believe, nothing but trained and organised common-sense, differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit; and its methods differ from those of common-sense only so far as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club.
Lecture at St. Martin's Hall (22 Jul 1854), printed as On the Educational Value of the Natural History Sciences (1854), 12.
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Science is, I believe, nothing but trained and organized common sense.
Lecture (22 Jul 1854) delivered at St Martin’s Hall, published as a booklet, On the Educational Value of the Natural History Sciences (1854), 12.
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Science starts with preconception, with the common culture, and with common sense. It moves on to observation, is marked by the discovery of paradox, and is then concerned with the correction of preconception. It moves then to use these corrections for the designing of further observation and for more refined experiment. And as it moves along this course the nature of the evidence and experience that nourish it becomes more and more unfamiliar; it is not just the language that is strange [to common culture].
From 'The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture', Daedalus (Winter 1958), 87, No. 1, 67.
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Science when well-digested is nothing but good sense and reason.
'Maxims, No. 43'. In Jehiel Keeler Hoyt, The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1881, 1896), 538.
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Scientific method is often defined as if it were a set procedure, to be learned, like a recipe, as if anyone could like a recipe, as if anyone could become a scientist simply by learning the method. This is as absurd ... [so I shall not] discuss scientific method, but rather the methods of scientists. We proceed by common sense and ingenuity. There are no rules, only the principles of integrity and objectivity, with a complete rejection of all authority except that of fact.
In Science in the Making (1957), 8.
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So-called “common sense” is definitely detrimental to an understanding of the quantum realm!
Anonymous
As given in an epigraph, without citation, in David M. Harland (ed.), The Big Bang: A View from the 21st Century (2003), ix.
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Someday someone will write a pathology of experimental physics and bring to light all those swindles which subvert our reason, beguile our judgement and, what is worse, stand in the way of any practical progress. The phenomena must be freed once and for all from their grim torture chamber of empiricism, mechanism, and dogmatism; they must be brought before the jury of man's common sense.
Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe On Science: An Anthology of Goethe's Scientific Writings (1996), 31.
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The general mental qualification necessary for scientific advancement is that which is usually denominated “common sense,” though added to this, imagination, induction, and trained logic, either of common language or of mathematics, are important adjuncts.
From presidential address (24 Nov 1877) to the Philosophical Society of Washington. As cited by L.A. Bauer in his retiring president address (5 Dec 1908), 'The Instruments and Methods of Research', published in Philosophical Society of Washington Bulletin, 15, 103. Reprinted in William Crookes (ed.) The Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science (30 Jul 1909), 59.
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The history of science is the saga of nature defying common sense.
Quotations: Superultramodern Science and Philosophy (2005).
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The maxim of science is simply that of common sense—simple cases first; begin with seeing how the main force acts when there is as little as possible to impede it, and when you thoroughly comprehend that, add to it in succession the separate effects of each of the incumbering and interfering agencies.
Collected in The Works of Walter Bagehot (1889), Vol. 5, 319-320.
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The only census of the senses, so far as I am aware, that ever before made them more than five, was the Irishman's reckoning of seven senses. I presume the Irishman's seventh sense was common sense; and I believe that the possession of that virtue by my countrymen—I speak as an Irishman.
In 'The Six Gateways of Knowledge', Presidential Address to the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Birmingham (3 Oct 1883), collected in Popular Lectures and Addresses (1891), Vol. 1, 260. Although biographies are found referring to Kelvin as being a Scottish scientist, because of his lifetime career spent in Glasgow, note that here Kelvin self-identifies as being Irish.
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The scientific method is a potentiation of common sense, exercised with a specially firm determination not to persist in error if any exertion of hand or mind can deliver us from it. Like other exploratory processes, it can be resolved into a dialogue between fact and fancy, the actual and the possible; between what could be true and what is in fact the case. The purpose of scientific enquiry is not to compile an inventory of factual information, nor to build up a totalitarian world picture of Natural Laws in which every event that is not compulsory is forbidden. We should think of it rather as a logically articulated structure of justifiable beliefs about nature. It begins as a story about a Possible World—a story which we invent and criticise and modify as we go along, so that it ends by being, as nearly as we can make it, a story about real life.
Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (1969), 59.
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The testimony of our common sense is suspect at high velocities.
…...
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The theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculus; it enables us to appreciate with exactness that which accurate minds feel with a sort of instinct for which of times they are unable to account.
Introduction to Théorie Analytique des Probabilitiés
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The theory of probabilities is at bottom only common sense reduced to calculation; it makes us appreciate with exactitude what reasonable minds feel by a sort of instinct, often without being able to account for it. … It is remarkable that [this] science, which originated in the consideration of games of chance, should have become the most important object of human knowledge.
From A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities. As given in epigraph, E.T. Bell, Men of Mathematics (2014), 71.
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The theory of probabilities is basically only common sense reduced to a calculus. It makes one estimate accurately what right-minded people feel by a sort of instinct, often without being able to give a reason for it.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), 5th edition (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), 124.
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Then I had shown, in the same place, what the structure of the nerves and muscles of the human body would have to be in order for the animal spirits in the body to have the power to move its members, as one sees when heads, soon after they have been cut off, still move and bite the ground even though they are no longer alive; what changes must be made in the brain to cause waking, sleep and dreams; how light, sounds, odours, tastes, warmth and all the other qualities of external objects can impress different ideas on it through the senses; how hunger, thirst, and the other internal passions can also send their ideas there; what part of the brain should be taken as “the common sense”, where these ideas are received; what should be taken as the memory, which stores the ideas, and as the imagination, which can vary them in different ways and compose new ones and, by the same means, distribute the animal spirits to the muscles, cause the limbs of the body to move in as many different ways as our own bodies can move without the will directing them, depending on the objects that are present to the senses and the internal passions in the body. This will not seem strange to those who know how many different automata or moving machines can be devised by human ingenuity, by using only very few pieces in comparison with the larger number of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins and all the other parts in the body of every animal. They will think of this body like a machine which, having been made by the hand of God, is incomparably better structured than any machine that could be invented by human beings, and contains many more admirable movements.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 5, 39-40.
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There is nobody so irritating as somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have.
In Lily Splane, Quantum Consciousness (2004), 309
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To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.
On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859, 1882), 143-144.
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We may always depend on it that algebra, which cannot be translated into good English and sound common sense, is bad algebra.
In Common Sense in the Exact Sciences (1885), 21.
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We shall therefore say that a program has common sense if it automatically deduces for itself a sufficient wide class of immediate consequences of anything it is told and what it already knows. ... Our ultimate objective is to make programs that learn from their experience as effectively as humans do.
'Programs with Common Sense', (probably the first paper on AI), delivered to the Teddington Conference on the Mechanization of Thought Processes (Dec 1958). Printed in National Physical Laboratory, Mechanisation of Thought Processes: Proceedings of a Symposium Held at the National Physical Laboratory on 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th November 1958 (1959), 78. Also Summary in John McCarthy and Vladimir Lifschitz (ed.), Formalizing Common Sense: Papers by John McCarthy (1990), 9-10.
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What the founders of modern science, among them Galileo, had to do, was not to criticize and to combat certain faulty theories, and to correct or to replace them by better ones. They had to do something quite different. They had to destroy one world and to replace it by another. They had to reshape the framework of our intellect itself, to restate and to reform its concepts, to evolve a new approach to Being, a new concept of knowledge, a new concept of science—and even to replace a pretty natural approach, that of common sense, by another which is not natural at all.
Galileo and Plato (1943), 405.
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Whatever be the detail with which you cram your student, the chance of his meeting in after life exactly that detail is almost infinitesimal; and if he does meet it, he will probably have forgotten what you taught him about it. The really useful training yields a comprehension of a few general principles with a thorough grounding in the way they apply to a variety of concrete details. In subsequent practice the men will have forgotten your particular details; but they will remember by an unconscious common sense how to apply principles to immediate circumstances. Your learning is useless to you till you have lost your textbooks, burnt your lecture notes, and forgotten the minutiae which you learned by heart for the examination. What, in the way of detail, you continually require will stick in your memory as obvious facts like the sun and the moon; and what you casually require can be looked up in any work of reference. The function of a University is to enable you to shed details in favor of principles. When I speak of principles I am hardly even thinking of verbal formulations. A principle which has thoroughly soaked into you is rather a mental habit than a formal statement. It becomes the way the mind reacts to the appropriate stimulus in the form of illustrative circumstances. Nobody goes about with his knowledge clearly and consciously before him. Mental cultivation is nothing else than the satisfactory way in which the mind will function when it is poked up into activity.
In The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 37
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Yet as I cast my eye over the whole course of science I behold instances of false science, even more pretentious and popular than that of Einstein gradually fading into ineptitude under the searchlight; and I have no doubt that there will arise a new generation who will look with a wonder and amazement, deeper than now accompany Einstein, at our galaxy of thinkers, men of science, popular critics, authoritative professors and witty dramatists, who have been satisfied to waive their common sense in view of Einstein's absurdities.
In Elizabeth Dilling, A "Who's Who" and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots (1934), 49.
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[I shall not] discuss scientific method, but rather the methods of scientists. We proceed by common sense and ingenuity. There are no rules, only the principles of integrity and objectivity, with a complete rejection of all authority except that of fact.
In Science in the Making (1957), 9.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 40 -
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