February 5, 2024

Against the «common sense» of anti-rights groups (Part 1)

It is very common in anti-rights discourse to appeal to arguments whose authority lies, according to them, in “reality itself.” Thus, religious groups, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, libertarian conservatives, alternative right-wingers, liberals of dubious neutrality, and even orthodox leftists, invoke the apparently innocuous and incontestable mantle of common sense.

By guest writer Amilka González

Every time these groups obtain what they consider a small victory against the LGBTIQ population —that is, a setback in terms of human rights— and especially against the trans population, they cheer: Common sense has won! This is what happened recently in Spain with the reduction of LGBTI laws by the Government of the Community of Madrid —for a detailed approach to this situation, we recommend reading here , here and there .

Throughout the international arena where anti-rights groups strive to impose anti-rights rhetoric, the same script is repeated. The central point of their arguments is that common sense must necessarily be the guideline to follow when it comes to settling social disputes around sex and gender. And, according to them, their only interest here is to defend common sense and truth.

In this article we will try to answer several questions: What do these groups mean by common sense? In what ways can this elusive concept be understood in the context of science? What advantages or disadvantages would using common sense give us to resolve important differences in our societies? 

Let's see.

What is common sense? 

«Common sense is, as its name indicates, the unanimous feeling of the entire human race (...) of all times and all places, wise or ignorant, barbarian or civilized.» 

Amadeo Jacques. «Memory about common sense»

First of all, this is not a simple question and answering it in a non-superficial way is challenging. From a historical point of view, to get an idea of the magnitude of the issue, it is enough to know that common sense has been attempted to be defined many times since ancient times —and maybe, since very distant galaxies. 

Those who want to look at a review of the definitions that this concept has had in fields such as philosophy and science, specifically in the Western context —which from the outset already alerts us that we are facing something that perhaps is not as universal as it is believed—, can read about this  here, here and there. 

In modernity, common sense has been studied from the social sciences, anthropology, psychology, linguistics and discourse studies, among other fields of specialized knowledge.

Despite all this background, in the context of everyday life, most people on this planet would not be able to come up with an unproblematic common sense explanation. Somehow everyone knows what it is but at the same time they don't know it. And here is precisely the point: common sense is an elusive thing that we sense is always there with us, like a guardian angel, to help us make practical and prudent decisions, but we do not know exactly what it is.

We could begin by saying that common sense is not “an” autonomous and specifically “sensory” sense, such as sight, hearing or smell—Aristotle stated that common sense was the sum of the five sensory senses of human beings, but Plato did not associate common sense with perception, but with thought. Amadeo Jacques says, in the quote that opens this article, that it is “a unanimous feeling of the entire human race.” 

If we had to explain common sense in a single simple sentence, we would say that it is “The Truth” that is presented before "us." Or, rather, a feeling of truth that is presented to us right under our noses.

How can you not see it? Human beings have always seen —or felt— “truths” right under our noses: God exists, the sky is blue, the sun is yellow and rises and sets as if playing hide-and-seek with us, fire burns, rocks are hard and can house the soul of some ancestor, the stars hang from the ceiling of the night —and do not seem to be very far away—, the Earth is flat, snakes can harm us and are the image made flesh of Satan, the color white is one color, the racial differences in humans are undeniable and obvious to the naked eye, there are only two sexes! Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina!, etc.

Common sense: from dogs to stones 

These truths are so "unquestionable" that even dogs can see it in front of their snouts! Perhaps for this reason, dogs — formerly gray wolves— are our oldest and best non-human friend. Of course, this friendship has had its ups and downs, which is why we, talkative primates, use the concept-word 'dog' in many languages to insult and denigrate  our fellow human beings. It's pure common sense: if you want to verbally attack someone, just compare them with the non-human living being that has been most faithful and loyal to you for 15,000 years. 

Foto: Chalabala

But there is no need to worry, a study suggests that dogs do not feel remorse, so it is likely that they will not be offended that we use their name in vain and, furthermore, "our" common sense looks at us out of the corner of its eye to remind us that dogs don't expect us to feel guilt. 

What we can see right under our flat snouts, for now, is that common sense has some kind of relationship with the most immediate knowledge we have of nature and the world, a knowledge closely linked to our senses, emotions and experiences. That is, common sense is partly a cognitive and psychological process, since it involves a set of interactions between perception, mind, thinking and learning.

It is also notable that the type of information that common sense gives us seems to be useful in everyday life: stones are hard, fire burns, rain is wet, snakes can hurt us, the sun rises and sets from time to time. time, etc. 

Knowing that stones are hard was very useful for the first primates of the human race: the 'homo habilis', who owe their name to the fact that they are believed to have been the first humans to modify stones to make tools and weapons. Even today, many modern sapiens who protest in the streets of their cities and towns honor this ancient human tradition of common sense and use stones to defend themselves from those who usually oppress them with violence: they are no longer wild beasts from some African savanna but the police and military forces of States that do not respect human rights. 

Bur not only the oppressed have common sense. The oppressors also have one. In certain parts of the world, stones are not used as a defense against repression but as a type of hard mineral that contains layers of sediments of hatred and cruelty, which is why many innocent people are victims of stoning. Obviously, it is natural to these oppressors that their main victims are minority groups (ethnic, LGBTIQ) and non-minority groups that have historically been oppressed (women). It is «their» common sense. Just as by common sense dogs live a dog's life, oppressors live an oppressor's life. It is the nature of things.

It can certainly be argued that the oppressed and the oppressors may differ about the nature of their situation. After all, for one of these groups the stones feel harder and more lacerating. 

We will leave for another time the story about the fire and the oppressed, which, through common sense, we sense must be terrifying. 

Foto: T-gomo

Common sense in the back alley

But common sense is not limited to objects, dogs, phenomena, and elements of nature. Human beings who inhabit a city, for example, must calibrate their senses and knowledge into a kind of experience/wisdom that allows them to function in the best way. The city, like democracy and fascism, as an imagined order, is a type of reality that does not exist independently of the existence of human beings. 

Perhaps for some it is enough for a city to be materially built to exist, but it would be insufficient to see it that way. The city exists, furthermore, because there are people who think about it, speak about it, suffer from it and share it with others. A city is as much about its streets and buildings as it is about its people and their social practices. A city is, above all, activity.

Any city dweller knows that common sense manifests itself in many ways. In large cities, where a feeling of insecurity is common, our common sense interacts with us and tells us that we should not walk on very dark streets at certain hours of the night, or that we should not show our most expensive jewelry in the suburbs, or that we should not move forward when the traffic light is red, or that children do not open the door of their houses to strangers, or that if you are a woman sometimes it is not a good idea to wear short skirts when going out alone —sometimes it is not a good idea to go out alone even if your clothes cover you from your feet to your head—, etc. 

The point is that in these “city” decisions and activities, common sense is inseparable from selectivity and bias. If we had to choose between crossing a dark alley where there are four bad-looking young men (dirty clothes, wild eyes, talking in "lowlife" slang, etc.) and a dark alley where there are four older ladies having tea at a table elegant oak, it is likely that most (not only if you are a woman) decide to cross the alley of respectable ladies. 

A little less exaggerated is what Gad Saad, an evolutionary psychologist, exposes in a book recently translated into Spanish: «The parasitic mind. How infectious ideas are killing common sense.» According to this self-proclaimed defender of truth, reason and common sense —the book is an anti-woke, anti-trans, anti-feminist, anti-postmodern pamphlet— there is no bias in choosing ladies' alley over one of young men. It has nothing to do with ageism , nor any type of prejudice: it is simple common sense, universal and unquestionable. 

But this is flatly incorrect, because to make a decision when crossing the dark alley we need to contextualize and draw on prior beliefs: why in the first place could there be four young men in a dark alley? What kind of positive or negative connotations can the fact that four men decide to meet in a dark alley have? Are they young men spending their leisure time freely in the gloom of the city? Are they criminals? Drug addicts? Sexual predators? Are young people excluded without work sharing secret information about job advertisements? Are they theater actors putting Brecht's theory of estrangement into practice while secretly plotting the overthrow of the government? Are they four poor young people who live there because they don't have a place to sleep? Are they gay men at a cruising meeting? Or is it, rather, that every man in a dark alley is evil “by nature”? Could it be that the testosterone factor and short gametes make someone evil wherever they want them to be? And if adult human males are not born evil by nature, are there structural, social and cultural factors that could explain why four men in a dark alley might harm someone?

Ramón Nogueras, in "Why we believe in shit" —the title is funny, and a good part of the book is ironies and jokes, but it is a recommended popular science book— explains why common sense tends to make so many mistakes and can become a tool against us. Common sense works with 'heuristics', which are quick rules that, through cognitive shortcuts and experiences, we use to make decisions in situations of uncertainty.  

Nogueras tells us the story of Dorothea Puente, a kind old Californian woman who used the common sense of her victims to get her way and murder fifteen of her tenants without anyone suspecting them for years. During the trial, one juror refused to question the idea —him common sense— that a lovable old woman couldn't be dangerous, saying that a death sentence would be like executing your own grandmother, or "the grandmother of all the people present." 

It's true that heuristics are often right and something bad is more likely to happen if you choose the alley with the four men, but that doesn't mean that crossing an alley with four old ladies doesn't pose any risk.

Recently, in the United Kingdom there was a case that shows how fragile common sense is when it comes to making predictions based on appearances. Lucy Letby , a neonatal nurse who worked in the intensive care unit of several hospitals, premeditatedly murdered twenty children over several years. 

Unlike oppressed sapiens protesters, homo habilis, and religious fundamentalist groups that practice stoning, Letby did not use stones, but instead used creative and sophisticated techniques to make her victims believe that they died “naturally.” Again, common sense could never have warned about this because she was a white, young woman –by default, beautiful– educated and very affectionate in her daily life. Let's remember that it has all the common sense in the world to think that a woman with these characteristics could never harm anyone. 

What would Gad Saad think of a dark alley with four young women similar to Letby? Probably what many men who are advocates of common sense (and are lucky enough to enjoy a few privileges) think: I would think that it is literally impossible for there to be four young, educated, loving white nurses in a dark alley because only bad women —or women without common sense— could be there any given night. 

Of course, female prostitutes may be young, white, and loving, but common sense tells us that, unlike nurses, they can also be dangerous. Thinking this way is nothing strange, bad, or prejudiced. It is "the pure truth" right under our noses, it is common sense. Let us ignore the case of the Czech nurse who, after being raped by German soldiers and infected with sexually transmitted diseases, dedicated herself to having sex with Nazis to infect them and discharge them. Legend or not, today she is honored in her country, although she was also a victim of common sense of her close neighbors —they considered her a prostitute and a dangerous collaborator with the German army.

If common sense tells us that only evil men and women of bad life —that is, with damaged common sense— can wander suspiciously through a dark alley at night, it is because for common sense appearances and stereotypes are very important. And it is thanks to these that heuristics and biases often allow us to draw quick conclusions about other people. 

Common sense as a cultural construction 

It is curious that the enlightened good guys of common sense, like Saad and the like, ignore certain problems that are right under their noses: common sense is related  to prejudices, discrimination and inequality. We can always assume that when it comes to social discrimination and oppression, appearances and stereotypes have negative connotations and meanings swarming around them like butterflies.

If we can draw a lesson from all of the above, it is that common sense, in addition to being a cognitive process, also has to do with things like social norms, rules —written and unwritten—, prejudices, biases, heuristics, arbitrary selections, morality and much of what we know as popular wisdom. Consequently, common sense, more than a unanimous feeling, is a psychosocial process that involves an enormous contingent of beliefs that are expressed for the most part through discourse (conversations, texts, etc.). 

That is, common sense is not only cognitive, it is also a cultural construction, a social practice and a specific set of beliefs. And this set of generalized beliefs is not secondary or contingent, since common sense has the peculiarity of being at the center of our belief systems.

At a basic level, as we have already seen, the main social function of common sense is to be a shortcut, a capacity/faculty that makes life easier for us because we do not have to think too much once we "know" how things are around us. And this quick and inexpensive wisdom is so evident and self-assured that it is shared, in the form of beliefs, by “all” members of a community.

Well, not all members of a society share common sense, as we see in an interesting study recently published by the journal PNAS . Here its authors demonstrate that, within the same society, there is no such thing as “one” homogeneous common sense that is shared by the majority, which gives us important clues and suggests that common sense is not so universal and uniform throughout the planet.

At this point, it would be misleading to say that common sense is everything that a society takes for granted. Because this is a generalization that does not account for the specificity of common sense. To a large extent, common sense is everything that certain groups, which are usually the dominant ones, take for granted, since not all individuals and groups in a society participate in the construction of a hegemonic common sense that, de facto, is assumed majoritarian. 

In short, common sense is a set of generalized beliefs that plays a central role in our discourses even though not all of us share it or participate in its construction.

Common sense vs science

Religion bases its theory on revelation, science on method, ideology on moral passion; but common sense is based precisely on the affirmation that in reality it has no other theory than that of life itself. The world is their authority. 

Clifford Geertz. «Local knowledge»

According to its defenders, if human beings suddenly abandon common sense, that would be nothing other than embracing madness, irrationality, the end of the world. They are partly right: the teachings of common sense do not always have to be abandoned. Without a doubt, the evolutionary success of sapiens would not have been the same without common sense because it is a rational way in which our senses, instincts and thoughts join cognitive and cultural forces to open a path for us in the midst of many situations. 

But “making a way” with common sense, as if it were a gigantic diamond-tipped drill that is unable to look sideways, has always had disconcerting implications. From the point of view of the planet and the non-human beings that inhabit it, it would be fair to say that common sense has always been very violent and irrational. Of course, we know that neither the planet nor the non-human beings could have an ecological point of view or any kind: it's common sense, for the sake of God!

During the expansion of the last prehistoric sapiens, who were sophisticated beings product of a cognitive revolution, entire animal populations were depleted everywhere, and apparently common sense was not up to the task of the moment. Maybe, deep down, our ancestors were still very wild and there was nothing to do about it. 

But if we look at what is happening today, where we are a greater threat to the planet, we have to admit that it has been of no use to inherit common sense from centuries and millennia, especially when there are people and political groups whose common sense gives them “authority” to say that there is no such thing as climate change caused by human action and that it matters little whether there is evidence demonstrating the impact of human action or whether there is a scientific consensus that supports this impact. 

Foto:  dnixdony

For some curious reason of fate, which is relevant to this article, people who deny climate change in the name of common sense tend to also be anti-LGBTIQ rights and, paradoxically, sometimes argue that inclusive laws for this population are a «real» threat for the survival of humanity. 

The main drawback here is that, due to its nature as a cognitive shortcut, common sense is the antithesis of critical thinking. While common sense is a type of quick knowledge that takes the shortest routes without using a lot of information and nuances, specialized knowledge such as science and philosophy needs a lot of information, a lot of analysis and a methodology that is clear enough to draw valid conclusions about their objects of study. 

Needless to say, unlike common sense, science and philosophy cannot allow generalizations based on appearances and surfaces —not in vain, visual evidence alone has not been considered a priori scientific proof for centuries.

There is another reason why science and philosophy have, quite regularly, clashed with "the most common sense": while common sense "naturalizes" a felt truth about life itself, science and philosophy take a different route because it is understood that their hypotheses do not replace reality itself, that things are almost always complex and that truths are transitory.

That is to say, science and common sense are not such a dynamic duo, the kind that worked well in Batman and Robin —Holy cheers!—. For Karl Popper, at best, common sense can be a valid starting point for science, but never a point of arrival. 

The idea that common sense as a point of arrival, is exactly what reactionary groups propose when they attack modern science in the name of everyday truths “of life itself”: According to them, climate change is not caused by humans. Vaccines for the covid-19 virus are a fraud. Talking about the complexity of sex is a fake news and a crime when it is talked about in schools. Trans people and gender dysphoria can only be explained as a delusion and science apparently tells us that that there is only biological sex. Intersex people do not "really" exist but are people with simple genetic defects. Etc. 

To get an idea of the seriousness of what we are talking about here, we can see this recent article which shows that the anti-science movement has gained ground in some social sectors in certain countries and in the public discourse of social networks. 

Usefulness and naturalness

We could better draw the incompatible relationship between common sense and science if we return to a couple of characteristics of the former: usefulness and naturalness.

The usefulness of common sense has to do with practicality. According to Clifford Geertz, in Local Knowledge, this is the most obvious of the properties of common sense. Being little or not at all practical generates problems in everyday life. What is often meant when someone is accused of not having common sense is a set of attributes that are associated with the absence of practicality. Not being practical makes us reckless, unwise, or even makes us crazy.

If common sense can be useful, it is because it is not an individual whim, in the sense that it is a sociocultural product and is built with shared group experience. However, it is a type of knowledge limited by its immediacy and by the fact that it is automated once we take it for granted. It is as if we stopped thinking about “certain things”—and only certain things— to go on autopilot for one or several generations. 

The consequence of this practicality is that, when we stop analyzing and questioning certain things, we begin to naturalize the beliefs that seem true to us, or rather, that seemed true to a group or several groups of human beings at a given moment. Thus, for centuries and millennia, many human beings thought that:

★ Naturally, sunlight is yellow if we look at the sky and the Sun appears white if we look at it in outer space, but its light actually contains all the colors of the rainbow.

★ Naturally, the sky is blue. It is black in outer space, but it turns "sky blue" or "cyan" when sunlight enters the atmosphere and collides with certain particles. On the other hand, there are a good number of languages whose vocabulary does not have a word to mean the color blue: in this study it is estimated that it is due to the impact of certain UV rays in some areas of the planet, which influences the visual capacity of people to perceive this color. And if you think about it, blue in itself is a pigment that is rare in the natural world , where it is very scarce for a reason: blue does not exist and is the mixture of other pigments.

★ Naturally, the Earth is flat. It is round, although some people today insist that it is flat and we have been victims of a conspiracy.

★ Naturally, there are different human races and that is obvious if we use our sense of sight. But from a genetic point of view there are no human races, although there are still racists who think differently based on their common sense and there is even racism in the academic field.

★ Naturally, the miscegenation of human beings goes against common sense. During the colonization of America, in a very hierarchical racial class system, with little social mobility, the idea of racial mixing had a negative connotation and, in effect, offended the common sense and purity of the white colonial elites. In the north of this continent, in the land of "freedom and democracy", interracial marriage was only legally possible after 1967.

★ Naturally, there must be human slaves because it is natural for some to serve others when they are incapable of being civilized on their own. Aristotle defended this type of  “natural” slavery and there are still people who fully believe that the most extreme social inequality is “ natural". Let one thing be clear: slavery is only possible if hegemonic common sense has normalized this type of violent and asymmetric relationship between human beings.

If you were paying attention, the key here is «naturally». Let's say that with common sense it happens that what seemed obvious "like nature itself", at any moment, can lose its authoritative status. 

Common sense and paradigms

Thomas Kuhn suggests that science is based on paradigms that change from time to time and, when they do, the world changes too. It is as if we were transported to another planet where beings, objects and everything around us are no longer familiar. The same thing happens with common sense. The difference with science is that the impact of common sense can be longer lasting and more difficult to move. Once common sense, which aspires more to translate «The Truth» and less to be a mere unrefuted hypothesi , is positioned at the center of our belief systems, we can be sure that it is easier to move a mountain. 

In a metaphorical sense, if the change of scientific paradigm is like transporting us to an unknown planet in an unthinkable spaceship of science fiction, the change of common sense is a magical and traumatic journey that annihilates the imagination: it is nothingness and no universe.

No joke, even at the level of imagination, common sense has collided with literary speculation about science and technology. This is what happens with classic and positivist science fiction, in which there is often a message that opposes common sense: human beings have always dreamed of doing things like nature itself but they have had to resign themselves and do things "differently." 

Yuli Kagarlitsky explains that Jules Verne was the first science fiction writer to have understood how technique was put into practice from the Neolithic to the 19th century. Until the period we know as modernity, "doing it like nature" was the exclusive preserve of fantasy literature... and arrogance.

Jules Verne: De la Tierra a la Luna

However, the mountains of common sense move, they have always moved. Many of these general beliefs cease to be true in light of new events and more specialized knowledge of all kinds —philosophy, science, politics, religion, etc.— over time. 

This means that new ideas and non-generalized beliefs, which were not the heritage of common sense, may come to occupy that position at some point. Teun van Dijk observes that sometimes some specialized beliefs (e.g. from the natural sciences) become part of common sense (e.g. scientific knowledge about the planet Earth). At the same time, ideas that formed the common sense of an era (for example, the infallibility of the Pope in the Middle Ages) become sectarian or specialized beliefs of a specific social group (as occurs with modern Catholics who still believe in the infallibility of the Pope but they are citizens in secular societies where the Catholic Church no longer legislates "universally"). 

When Darwin made his theory of evolution public, a crisis of common sense was unleashed in the privileged Western civilization: how were we humans going to descend "from apes"? How could a savage caveman and horrifying Neanderthal be like “us,” the enlightened people who were just beginning to overcome the difficult trauma of stopping thinking of black Africans as slaves? 

There are still echoes of this "Darwinian" common sense crisis in the numerous fundamentalist Christian groups that claim that the theory of evolution is a false theory (without refuting the evidence) that is incompatible with God's original design —of course, If an omnipotent and self-sufficient entity has an original design it is because it has "common" sense. 

Right now we are at the door of a paradigm shift with the quantum revolution in Physics. Many paradoxes that made common sense short-circuit, today have a margin of resolution in the non-binary dynamics of quantum: for example, Schordinger's Cat , the chicken and the egg, etc.).

This does not mean that people “of science” constantly consider the dilemma of whether to be with science or with common sense, since it is impossible to separate oneself from this type of "fast" beliefs of life itself.

Common sense: authopsy without corpse

Going back to Gad Saad and his book about the ideas that he says damage universal common sense, we have a person who has dedicated his life to science and yet nowhere in the book does he explain to us what common sense is. What is scientific dissemination about writing a book in the name of science, truth, reason and common sense, about “parasitic and contagious” ideas that damage common sense when you have not taken the trouble to delimit and explain them? What is it that you call common sense and want to defend against harmful ideas? This is as contradictory as doing an autopsy without a body.

«Naturally», Saad is an atypical forensic pathologist who assumes that everyone understands what he understands by common sense, even though, as we said, there is evidence that not all human beings share the same common sense, not even within the same society. 

In this sense, we are all atypical forensic scientists because common sense leads us to perform autopsies without corpses. Problematic autopsies because the world is a living and active body full of objects and situations that can generate many divergent meanings and interpretations for the sapiens mind.

The serious thing here is that it is hard to say to what extent this is just a metaphor for cognitive shortcuts. In more ways than one, these normalized autopsies may be the announcement of real deaths.

Common sense and intersexuality

To give a case example, we bring up a study that Roger Edgerton did in the eighties, cited by Geertz, to evaluate the common sense of three very different societies. To do this, Edgerton selected a topic that apparently does not usually leave many societies indifferent, neither before nor now: intersexuality. The societies studied were the American society, the North American indigenous society of the Navajo, and the Pokot society, a people from East Africa. The results are very clear: 

1) Perception / 2) Reaction / 3) Solution

Americans: anomaly-unnatural / repulsion-horror / binary correction 

Pokot: natural-anomaly / resignation-error / social exclusion

Navajo: anomaly-natural / acceptance-respect / veneration

In all three cases it was perceived that interesexuality questions common sense. However, while Americans have a hard time seeing intersexuality as natural, the Pokot and Navajo understand that it is a natural condition. The reaction is one of disgust in the case of the Americans, of resignation in the case of the Pokot and of total acceptance in the case of the Navajo. 

The solutions these three groups give to what they assume to be an anomaly also differ: 

a) Americans require intersex people to define themselves on the basis of a binary gender (she or he) and even to undergo genital correction operations, which usually entails a lot of stress and suffering for these people.

b) The Navajo revere intersex people and attribute many positive and almost godlike characteristics to them.

c) The Pokot propose a different solution from the previous ones: social exclusion of intersex people for not being "complete" men and women, which in that society means being "useless".

In the latter case, uselessness is the main reason why sometimes Pokot babies born with the intersex condition are killed.

Actual deaths, derived from common sense, should be reason enough to think carefully about what "Truth evangelists" mean when they accuse certain minorities of offending the practicality and utility of common sense, as Saad does.

Common sense: the parasite in the mirror

Seeing the positive relationship that occurs between the Navajo and intersex people, it is not surprising that Saad also criticizes North American indigenism in his book for “trying to indigenize the curricula” of Canadian universities. What he criticizes is, specifically, that indigenous people dare to say that the scientific method is just another form of knowledge, just as valid as others. Saad is so clumsy —or so cynical— in this sense, that as a defender of universal common sense, he ends up playing the role of prosecutor accusing the "universal" common sense of indigenous nations that were historically crushed by the Anglo-Saxon and French colonialism. 

Naturally, in this unequal world not all common senses are equal and universal: there are "universal" common senses and "common senses." And this has nothing ideological, it is "The Truth", according to the iron curtain of common sense.

If at this point, dear readers, your common sense already tells you something about characters like him, perhaps you will suspect that Saad's speech is far from being "transparent": selling his own harmful ideas, disguised as popular science, and at the same time denouncing supposedly harmful ideas that come from "the others", in the name of purity and immaculate truth, is a typical ideological contradiction of conservative groups. 

On paper, what Saad does is accuse the ideas of others as ideological while he sells a supposedly neutral discourse free of ideology. 

In this sense, because people do not usually see themselves as an accumulation of ideological beliefs, Saad is a mind colonized by a parasite that tries to spread to other minds. Indeed, ideologies are like parasites that speak through us. Not in vain, his book begins with a biographical chapter —the only one worth reading—, as if the author were in front of a mirror. Unconsciously, he knows that "The Parasitic Mind" is a self-portrait.

To be continued.

(Note: this article has been divided into three parts. In the second part, we will continue to address the problem of common sense and anti-rights groups. In the third part, we will present a broad pro-rights bibliography, which is itself part of a general bibliography against common sense)

This article was originally posted over at our new Spanish language site Mundo LGBTIQ.


D'Auteberre, L. (2003). City, discursivity, common sense and ideology: A psychosocial approach to urban everyday life. Open Space , vol. 12(2), pp. 169-182.

Eagleton, T. (2006). After the theory. Debate.

Geertz, C. (1999). Local knowledge. Essays on the interpretation of cultures. Paidós.

Jacques, A. (1846). Memory about common sense. Retrieved from: https://bdigital.uncu.edu.ar/objetos_digitales/4328/159-cuyo-1969-tomo-05.pdf

Kagarlitski, Y. (1977). What is science fiction. Guadarrama.

Kuhn, T. (2004). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Fund of Economic Culture.

Nogueras, R. (2020). Why do we believe in shit? How we deceive ourselves. Kailas.

Popper, K. and Reid, T. (2004). The philosophy of common sense. National University of Mexico.

Saad, G. The parasitic mind. How infectious ideas are killing common sense. Deusto.

Todorov, T. (2008). Abuses of memory. Paidós.

Van Dijk, T. (2009). Speech and power. Gedisa.

Top photo: peeterv

1 comment:

  1. The main problem here is that "common sense" is simply code for "the way we would like things to be" rather than the natural reality of things which always has a segment of the population not fit into these models. Hence LGBTQ people were relegated to the shadows which did not mean they did not exist but that they were not meant to as they did not fit into a preordained schema. We know better today but plenty of pushback still going on to put as back in our place.

    Nice article:)


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