TA100 (Smith)


Response 2 (to C4, Müller)




by Roulette Wm. Smith

14 January 2008, posted 19 January 2008




Professor Herbert F. J. Müller’s succinct commentary raises a number of extremely important and instructive issues.  In <1>, he perceptively points to my challenging attempt at identifying and/or ruling out equivalent notions of common sense in multiple languages and cultures, and over extended periods in time.  To date, I am unable to identify any language or culture which lacks equivalent terms for common sense.  Some readers may consider my efforts a bit pedantic, yet the apparent universality in an underlying notion of common sense is both informative and instructive.  [NB: I have an outstanding request for information about differences and divergences in notions of common sense among Australian Aboriginal peoples.  Environmental considerations may be a major factor in common sense possibly because of differences in coastal and inland Aboriginal peoples.]




Although a finding of a universal notion of common sense may not surprise some linguists and other scholars, one can never be too presumptuous.  To cite an example from medicine, one’s vocabulary, syntax and semantics are not sufficient to convey an understanding of any underlying equivalences and differences among, say, allopathic medicine in the west, ayurvedic medicine in India, traditional Chinese medicine in China, and shamanistic medical traditions in some tribal groups.  Moreover, underlying symptoms may lack equivalences in vocabularies, syntaxes and semantics.  The emergence of HIV/AIDS during the early-1980s made this point quite poignantly.  Also, instances of Tibetan medicine and Andean medicine at high altitudes are practiced fundamentally differently from sea level medicines in the west and other locales.  Common sense is no different; one must appreciate perspectives and contexts.  With that said, some notion of common sense is universal, and this, in and of itself, poses a challenge in determining if common sense has a biological or other basis.




Overlooked in <1> are matters pertaining to disorders in common sense (i.e., the “lack” of common sense).  Although common sense may be universal, one is not able to infer that disorders in common sense are universal in the same ways.  Once this possibility became apparent, I immediately took up the challenge of identifying and codifying disorders in common sense.  Table 2 in TA100 represents an initial pass at this challenge, but much remains to be done.  Indeed, our initial concerns about mismatches in experiences, realities, beliefs and awareness (see [3] through [7], [13], [17], [53], [88] and [95] in TA100) were thought to possibly have diagnostic potential.  Obviously, a central challenge is the assessment and measurement of mismatches in expectations, and the assessment and measurement of outliers (see [4], [6], and [10] in R1 especially regarding outliers and novel theories of testing, and see [5] below).




Some aspects of disorders in common sense retain universal features.  This includes some physical (e.g., anxiety and occasional somatic complaints) and/or psychological (e.g., it is ‘my way or the highway’) symptoms.  These findings could have potential diagnostic value.  Reactions to persons who lack common sense also may have some universal features.  Whether indirect diagnoses (i.e., assessing other persons’ reactions to persons who lack common sense) will have diagnostic potential remains to be explored, especially if persons lacking common sense reveal little insight about themselves and/or refuse to seek help.  [NB: It should not escape one’s attention that systematic assessments of reactions to Seung Hui Cho at Virginia Tech possibly could have averted the killing of more than 30 persons in the Virginia Tech massacre (see [13] in TA100).]  However, it is much too soon to reach unequivocal conclusions regarding these possibilities.




To the extent that common sense is nurtured (between birth and age six) by parents and others, the seminal importance of indirect diagnostic approaches by helping and caring professionals should not be overlooked – with this being a reason to involve physicians, pharmacists, teachers, child care specialists, spiritualists, and others especially during early child development (see [100], [101] and [102] TA100).




In <2>, Müller reminds us of these extreme difficulties in making clinical diagnoses of disorders in common sense.  Not to be overlooked, this matter is integrally related to the definitions of common sense.  In both cases, perspectives and contexts (associated with languages, cultures and environments) add to these difficulties … and complexities.  I remain optimistic that when more becomes known about common senses and its disorders (with that being the impetus for TA100), many of these difficulties and complexities may be obviated.  However, one point is crystal clear.  Disorders in common sense are associated with extreme outliers in decisions and behaviors (see [3] above). Our sciences must train their ‘radars’ on outlying behaviors and performance (also see [6] and [9] regarding economic approaches in R1).  Moreover, because some individuals may be “book smart, yet lack common sense,” error behavior in mathematics and other disciplines may not be sufficient for diagnosing aberrations in common sense.  Ultimately, new sciences of errors and fault analysis (possibly borrowing from failure analysis among engineering techniques) may be crucial in diagnosing disorders in common sense.




It does not escape my attention that Müller and others want specifics !  Müller cites the ICD and DSM to make this point.  Those specifics must include epidemiologic studies and data, clinical and laboratory studies and data, cultural studies and data, cohort studies, and, not least, experimental studies and data.  Such a concerted effort is proposed in Smith (2008).




In <2>, Müller, perhaps unwittingly, points to one of the thorniest issues regarding diagnoses.  He asks, “how reliable is such an ‘axis II diagnosis’ ?”  I address this point, albeit somewhat covertly in TA100 (see [73], Footnote {57} and [84] in TA100).  The point of Footnote {57} and [84] was not that diagnoses could be unreliable or have poor validity.  Rather, secondary considerations (e.g., insurance considerations) may distort reliability and validity.  Indeed, the mere fact that many persons can identify persons who lack common sense is circumstantial evidence that disorders in common sense can be reliably diagnosed … even by laypersons !



Finally, Müller perceptively remarks about the practical importance and political implications of common sense (see <3>).  He asks, “Would [I] suggest that candidates for political office should be pre-screened for common sense, as opposed to the lack of it (as in fanaticism, or more generally, a tendency to hold and promote pre-conceived assumptions in an uncritical manner)?”  In passing, he, as easily, could have focused on the business implications because many businesses and institutions lack common sense.  To date, my approach to these practical, business and political concerns is to invoke “caveats emptor” (see [13], [31], [80], [84], [96] and [104] in TA100).




The notion of caveats emptor is not a ‘cop out’ !  Indeed, because of perceived space limitations in TA100, I cited only one significant political example; to wit, George W. Bush’s lacking common sense as evidenced, in part, by his passive-aggression, ‘my way or the highway’, and signing statements (see [104] in TA100).  In earlier publications, I cited disorders in common sense in Ronald Reagan and other politicians.  The most significant point in paragraph [104] was the reference to Charles Savage’s Pulitzer Prize.  Caveats emptor are relatively meaningless without a dispassionate and objective press corps – whether in regard to politics, science, the environment, etc. (cf. Smith, 2001).  Pulitzer Prizes, Goldman Prizes, Templeton Prize, Nobel Prizes and other awards and prizes also serve to inform common sense.




This brings me to the most important message in this response.  In TA100, I assert that common sense develops largely between birth and age six (see [10], [15], [19], Footnote {39}, [55] and Footnote {58} in TA100).  This does not mean that the development of common sense ceases after age six (or thereabouts).  Indeed, alleged divergences in common sense reveal that common sense can be pliable.  This is a reason that journalism and an objective press are central in the maintenance of common sense and its caveats emptor.  This lesson was lost shortly after the events of September 11th, 2001 and with the entry of the USA in wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.  Embedded journalists not only presented conflicts in interest (for an informed society), mounting evidence reveals that aberrant common sense at the Executive level provided the USA public with numerous false bills of goods.  Perhaps most important, some types of aberrations and disorders in common sense at national and political levels may have contributed to the Holocaust during World War II.  Disorders in common sense also may have contributed to other wars and traumatic events cited in [13] in TA100.  Would an informed public and an independent press have changed the course in history?






Smith, R. Wm. (2001). Opinion: The Durban Declaration. The Scientist 15(2):39. [Also available at:



Smith, R. W. (2008). Cross-, Multi-, Inter- and Trans-Disciplinary Approaches to the Evolution and Development of Common Sense and its Disorders :  Implications for Nurturance, Pedagogy and Clinical Practice, An unsolicited proposal submitted to the National Institutes of Health in response to program announcement RFA-RM-08-013 [January 12, 2008].




Roulette Wm. Smith

     e-mail < najms (at) postgraduate-interdisciplinary-studies.org>