I was once asked by my philosophy classmate, “How can you be so sure of your views? How is it that you got a whole worldview worked out but I can barley put together scraps of truth?” I think my answer is that I start off with common sense, refine it, and then build off this refined sense to uncover truths beyond common sense. Does an external world exist? Of course. Is murder or rape objectively wrong? Of course. That’s all common sense. People may challenge this and say, “But why should we accept / start with common sense?” I can reply, “Why shouldn’t I accept it? It’s the natural starting point.” And their reply is of course that I need some kind of reason to accept it. But I can retort, why do I need reasons for accepting common sense? You see, in order to challenge common sense, you have to assume a common sense principle known as the “principle of sufficient reason” which states that for every fact, there must be a sufficient reason why it is true. Some things though are just self-evidently (or necessarily) true, in the way that the statement “A is A” is necessarily true. You can only be against common sense if you assume common sense.
Of course you can pit two beliefs of common sense to show that common sense is wrong about one or belief or both beliefs. Common sense CAN be wrong. More often than not, however, there’s a way to harmonize both beliefs. Any good philosophy should seek to harmonize before it seeks to undermine. But if common sense can be wrong, someone could ask, “Then how are you so confident?” Well because not all of common sense can be wrong, nor can common sense be wrong to the point that it becomes *generally* unreliable. Notice that in order to demonstrate common sense is unreliable, you have to make use of the laws of logic and other rules of inference – which was discovered by philosophers reflecting on common sense (see Aristotle). In fact, you still got to make use of an entire host of common sense beliefs because they’re necessarily true. To deny them would make you incoherent and self-refuting. Someone who denies the laws of logic is like someone who says, “DERPITY HERP” and says “That’s true” right after. That person should shut his mouth, LOL. Yet this is exactly the problem I have with postmodern philosophers. They’re essentially saying “derpity herp is true” with fancy words.
At this point my confidence in common sense comes across as arrogant and pretentious to some. In fact, someone who proclaimed to be a Christian ended up blocking me for this because I kept challenging his overly sympathetic treatment of postmodernism. To them I just shrug: If you deny common sense, why is being arrogant and pretentious a bad thing? That only matters to people who accept common sense, but if some common sense beliefs are necessarily true, then we OUGHT to be confident, which is not the same as arrogance. Common sense is like math to me. You start off with counting your numbers, then you learn that 1 + 1 = 2. Math builds off simple common sense things, and then it goes beyond it to things that are not so obvious to common sense (e.g, pythagorean’s theorem). No one gets angry if a mathematician expresses confidence that 1 + 1 = 2. But when it comes to philosophy, somehow it’s arrogant to be sure there is objective morality or that God exists. They judge me because if they don’t feel certain about something, then I can’t be certain about it either unless I am arrogant. I wonder who the truly arrogant person is here.
To be clear, when I use the word common sense, I don’t use it to refer to just any belief that people have in common. At one point it was common to believe that the sun revolved around the earth. After all, that’s what our “senses” showed to us. But that’s not the sense that philosophy is concerned with: our senses can be wrong about particulars, but to think our faculties can be wrong in their entirety seems absurd. You can be wrong about what you saw at t1. That’s a particular. But you can’t be wrong that you are capable of sensing something in general. After all, you sense something every day that you’re alive! You can’t be wrong that change exists. You experience that every day! So the common sense I am talking refers to our more abstract beliefs derived from the general nature of our concrete experiences. It’s a kind of “immediate” knowledge that people have regardless of their philosophical training.
The reason there’s so much uncertainty in philosophy students today is because they are starting off wrong. From the very get-go they’re introduced to ideas that question the entire way they viewed the world. Some people are so marveled by how “woke” this feels, that their excitement carries them away into accepting this. Some are just unfortunately woo’d in by the shallow reasoning of their professors. If someone says, “There is no absolute truth” it’s very easy to refute them. Just ask, “Is that absolutely true?” It’s really that simple. Of course Professors can attempt dodge it or give some smart answer like, “Well no” and fail to see the contradiction, but to people who can think logically, the contradiction is obvious. To do philosophy well, you really have to start. Otherwise you get nowhere. It’s like attempting to travel but with no destination and no idea what it even means to “travel.” Such is the state of the modern philosopher.