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Does Common Sense Have A Future?

October 27, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

In an anthology entitled, The Future of Thomism, the distinguished Thomistic philosopher Josef Pieper observes: “There is something peculiar and even strange in the situation of philosophy today.” It is as if, Pieper asks, reflecting the prevailing mood of contemporary skepticism, “Why philosophy at all?”
G.K. Chesterton a few years earlier made a similar observation about the virtual disappearance of philosophy: “Since the modern world began in the sixteenth century, nobody’s system of philosophy has really corresponded to everybody’s sense of reality; to what, if left to themselves, common men would call common sense.”
Both Chesterton and Pieper are lamenting the sharp decline of a philosophy that begins with common sense, one congruent with that of St. Thomas Aquinas which, as G.K. tersely states, “stands founded on the universal common conviction that eggs are eggs.”
The modern thinker looks at the world as if it is a gigantic masquerade party in which nothing is what it seems to be. Eggs are not simply eggs but disguises for something else which is also a disguise. Once all the disguises are removed, nothing is left. In short, deconstruction leads directly to nihilism; common sense is replaced by uncommon nonsense.
The question “does Thomism have a future” is intimately related to the question, “Does common sense have a future?” In the absence of a philosophy that begins with common sense, what Aquinas refers to as “the authority of the senses,” an intellectual vacuum is created. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does the mind. Deconstruction, however, is not so much a replacement for philosophy, but an opposition to it. Therefore, deconstruction is an anti-philosophy.
We need philosophy to understand the nature of things. If we do not know the nature of things we will not know their value, and how they should be used. Such knowledge is required if we have any hope of being just. In the contemporary world deconstruction has taken dead aim at sex, marriage, and the family, which underscore the supreme importance of a philosophy that can recognize what things really are. We can allude to three areas in particular that deconstruction seeks to take apart.
It is assumed, after millennia of acceptance, that the male/female dichotomy is not at all natural but something that is socially constructed. Feminist Julia Kristeva, for example, argues that there are no women, although we should keep the word since it provides them with political benefits. After dismissing common sense, contradictions are welcomed. The traditional notions of man and woman as distinctive, therefore, are to be regarded as stereotypes or myths.
Genesis is not the word of God, but an example of a text that must be deconstructed. If philosophy does not begin with wonder, it must begin with arrogance.
Closely connected with the deconstruction of male and female, is the deconstruction of the terms mother, father, husband, and wife, as well as son, daughter, and grandchildren.
Generic terms such as parent, spouse, or progenitor may be used in their place. Marriage, therefore, should avoid atavistic standards of heteronormativity so that it can be more free, more empowering, and more inclusive. It is believed that this free-wheeling approach will be beneficial for everyone.
Also, closely allied with the above categories, are the social roles that have been assigned to men and women in the past. These roles include occupations, attire, customs, language, and behavior. This far-sweeping deconstruction represents a complete revolution in society, although deconstructionists themselves allegedly oppose socially constructed projects. Paragraph 9 of the draft Platform for Action for Beijing at the 1995 International Conference on Women read as follows:
“Nothing short of a radical transformation of the relationships between men and women will enable to world to meet challenges of new the new millennium.”
Deconstructionists want to obliterate all differences between people because they believe that difference means inequality and that inequality means exploitation. Consequently, they find the concept of complementarity anathema.
Nonetheless, it is the complementarity between the sexes that makes it possible for human life to continue. Neither “men” nor “women” alone can procreate. Men and women are not the same biologically, and no amount of social conditioning can alter that fact. The deconstruction of nature to raw putty in the hands of deconstructionists can lead only to social chaos.
Norman Mailer made the comment in one of his many books, that if he ever meets St. Thomas Aquinas in the next world, he will commend him for “that most excellent phrase…the authority of the senses.” Mailer was also commending all those philosophers who stubbornly hold to the notion that it is through our senses (not through our dreams) that we come in contact with reality.
The deconstruction of nature must also include the deconstruction of human nature. For anyone of common sense, however, this is a most desperate and futile project.
At the beginning of his longest encyclical, Fides et Ratio, Pope St. John Paul II draws attention to the sheer naturalness of philosophizing. In every culture, he points out, human beings ask the fundamental questions: “Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?”
To suppress these questions is to suppress humanity. Nonetheless, deconstructionists will argue that there is no such thing as humanity.
How did society lose its respect for common sense? Samuel Taylor Coleridge once remarked: “Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.”
We may also add that wisdom is also in short supply. Society is in love with novelty and there is nothing novel about common sense. It is also infatuated with change, an attitude that disparages what is stable and even necessary. And its love affair with what is trendy often obscures what is a permanent possession. Academia tells us to rid ourselves of the “hegemonic taxonomy of bourgeois heteronormativity,” which simply means to “scrap the male-female distinction.”
An old adage is need here: “One pound of learning requires ten pounds of common sense to apply it.”

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