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30 The cogency of common sense is inseparably connected to the narrowness of its range. The position at issue here is close to that which C. S. 32 After all, even Reid did not think that common sense is absolutely infallible: we know full well that while “the evidence of our own eyes” deserves trust, there are various circumstances emphasized by skeptics since antiquity where even this deceives us, and where (for example, the bent look of the straight stick held at an angle under water). 33 For, the instructions of common sense are by nature such that they should—and in general will—meet the test of tenability through experience within the wider context of our knowledge.

Some writers think that the legitimacy of common sense is annihilated by the potential systemic shortcomings that do (or can) afflict the overall set of beliefs endorsed by common sense—features such, for example, as ambigu- 2~The Rationale of Common-Sense Knowledge 55 29 ity, equivocation, and even inconsistency. But as extensive study of the logic of induction and evidential reasoning serves to show, such features afflict our inquiries in general: in this regard common sense is at no disadvantage vis-à-vis the products of rational inquiry in general.

Matters of common sense: There are statements that concretize and illustrate common-sense propositions in particular instances. For example: It was ill-advised and foolish of Smith to cross the road this morning without checking the prevailing traffic. Such a series of increasingly specific instantiations of general principles of procedure forms what may be termed an implementation hierarchy, something to which we shall return in chapter 7 below. For present purposes the salient fact is simply that 42 Nicholas Rescher Common Sense common sense constitutes a purposive venture, a mode of endeavor with a characteristic aim of its own, namely, to achieve a rationally grounded commonality (uniformity) of opinion and evaluation in a commonalty of agents dependent on cooperative and collaborative action in meeting human needs.

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