Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Common Sense

"All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality... only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget." - G. K. Chesterton, fully Gilbert Keith Chesterton

"The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means and the exercise of ordinary qualities. These for the most part be summed in these two - common sense and perseverance." - Owen Feltham

"Whenever, for any reason, we wish to think of the world, not as it appears to common sense, but as a continuum, we find that our traditional syntax and vocabulary are quite inadequate. Mathematicians have therefore been compelled to invent radically new symbol-systems for this express purpose. But the divine Ground of all existence is not merely a continuum, it is also out of time, and different, not merely in degree, but in kind from the worlds to which traditional language and the languages of mathematics are adequate." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"It is a common sense and self-interest to refrain from lashing out immediately to avenge an injury. A higher level of humanity is entirely overcoming feelings of vengeance in one’s heart. This is the glory of the morally wise man." - Leibush Malbim, aka Malbim, Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michal "the Malbim", Meïr Leibush ben Jehiel Michel Weiser

"Never teach false modesty. How exquisitely absurd to teach a girl that beauty is of no value, dress of no use! Beauty is of value; her whole prospects and happiness in life may often depend upon a new gown or a becoming bonnet: if she has five grains of common sense she will find this out. The great thing is to teach her their proper value." - Sydney Smith

"Success is more a function of consistent common sense than it is of genius." -

"How many people ever consider that the lack of certain qualities - such as balance, common sense, tranquillity - affect the physical state of the human body?... Did you ever hear of people being sick because they hated someone? This is not uncommon." - Brooke Foss Westcott

"The wise men of old have sent most of their morality down to the stream of time in the light skiff of apothegm or epigram; and the proverbs of nations, which embody the common sense of nations, have the brisk concussion of the most sparkling wit." - Edwin Percy Whipple

"Common opinions often conflict with common sense; for reason in most minds is no match for prejudices, a hydra whose heads grow faster than they can be cut off." - Edward Wigglesworth

"A time will come when the science of destruction shall bend before the arts of peace; when the genius which multiplies our powers, which creates new products, which diffuses comfort and happiness among the great mass of the people, shall occupy in the general estimation of mankind that rank which reason and common sense now assign to it." - François Arago, fully François Jean Dominique Arago

"When it comes to your health, I recommend frequent doses of that rare commodity among Americans - common sense." - Vincent Askey, fully E. Vincent Askey

"Common sense is nature’s gift, but reason is an art." - James Beattie

"Common sense is only a modification of talent. Genius is an exaltation of it. The difference is, therefore, in degree, not nature." - Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, fully Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, Lord Lytton

"The voice of the Lord is the voice of common sense, which is shared by all that is." - Samuel Butler

"I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances. The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-tiveness; third, common sense." -

"“Knowledge, without common sense," says Lee, "is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, is it death." But with common sense, it is wisdom; with method, it is power; with charity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue and life and peace." - Austin Madsen Farrer

"Experience join'd with common sense, to mortals is a providence." - John Richard Green

"Science is a good piece of furniture for a man to have in an upper chamber, provided he has common sense on the ground floor." -

"Do not be bullied out of your common sense by the specialist; two to one, he is a pedant." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

"A philosopher, who purposes only to represent the common sense of mankind in more beautiful and more engaging colors, if by accident he falls into error, goes not farther; but renewing his appeal to common sense, and the natural sentiments of the; mind, returns into the right path, and secures himself from any dangerous illusions." - David Hume

"The wisdom of the wise is an uncommon degree of common sense." - William Ralph Inge

"Poetry is not made out of the understanding. The question of common sense is always: "What is it good for?' a question which would abolish the rose, and be triumphantly answered by the cabbage." - James Russell Lowell

"Conservation is the application of common sense to the common problems for the common good. since its objective is the ownership, control, development, processing, distribution, and use of the natural resources for the benefit of the people, it is by its very nature the antithesis of monopoly." - Gifford Pinchot

"Common sense cannot be taught." -

"If one should tell of a telescope so exactly made as to have the power of seeing; of a whispering gallery that had the power of haring; of a cabinet so nicely framed as to have the power of memory; or of a machine so delicate as to feel pain when it was touched - such absurdities are so shocking to common sense that they would not find belief even among savages; yet it is the same absurdity to think that the impressions of external objects upon the machine of our bodies can be the real efficient cause of thought and perception." - Paul Reichmann

"Common sense is in spite of, not because of age." - Lord Edward Thurlow, First Baron

"In times when the passions are beginning to take charge of the conduct of human affairs, one should pay less attention to what men of experience and common sense are thinking than to what is preoccupying the imagination of dreamers." - Alexis de Tocqueville, fully Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville

"There is no country in the world in which everything can be provided for by the laws, or in which political institutions can prove a substitute for common sense and public morality." - Alexis de Tocqueville, fully Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville

"The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next." -

"Romanticism is the expression of man's urge to rise above reason and common sense, just as rationalism is the expression of his urge to rise above theology and emotion." - Charles Woodruff Yost

"Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"The whole approach to Buddhism is to develop transcendental common sense, seeing things as they are, without magnifying what is or dreaming about what we would like to be." -

"Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense." - Chapman Cohen

"Common sense is that collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." - Albert Einstein

"Success is more a function of consistent common sense than it is of genius." - An Wang

"Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes." -

"The value of philosophy is to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. He who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the cooperation or consent of his deliberate reason. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thought and free them from the tyranny of custom." - Bertrand Russell, fully Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18." - Carl Sagan

"Do you think I should have succeeded in doing anything if I had kicked and resisted and resented? Is it our Master’s command? Is it even common sense?… Who am I that should not choose to bear what my Master chooses to bear?" - Florence Nightingale

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." - Franklin D. Roosevelt, fully Franklin Delano Roosevelt, aka FDR

"Science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out, and minutely articulated." - George Santayana

"We kill because we are afraid of our own shadow, afraid that if we used a little common sense we'd have to admit that our glorious principles were wrong." - Henry Miller, aka Henry Valentine Miller

"The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next." - Henry Ward Beecher

"To breed up the son to common sense is evermore the parent’s least expense." - John Dryden

"Men may change their climate, but they cannot change their nature. A man that goes out a fool cannot ride or sail himself into common sense." - Joseph Addison

"Genius ain't anything more that elegant common sense." - Josh Billings, pen name for Henry Wheeler Shaw, aka Uncle Esek

"The more these conscious illusions of the ruling classes are shown to be false and the less they satisfy common sense, the more dogmatically they are asserted and the more deceitful, moralizing and spiritual becomes the language of the established society." - Karl Marx

"A kind of mysterious instinct is supposed to reside in the soul, that instantaneously discerns truth, without the tedious labour of ratiocination. This instinct, for I know not what other name to give it, has been termed common sense, and more frequently, sensibility; and, by a kind of indefeasible right, it has been supposed, for rights of this kind are not easily proved, to reign paramount over the other faculties of the mind, and to be an authority from which there is no appeal." - Mary Wollstonecraft

"The freethinking of one age is the common sense of the next." - Matthew Arnold

"Nothing astonishes men as much as common sense and plain dealings." - Ralph Waldo Emerson