The concept of Common knowledge refers to ideas and notions that are acquired from people’s experience and that are generally passed on from generation to generation. It is knowledge that is accepted as true, without the need for verification, and that is used to solve problems in everyday life.
In general, this knowledge is spontaneously incorporated into everyday relationships with objects and with other individuals. It is a learning that occurs in an irregular, natural and unplanned way.
Within a community, these ideas and notions pass from one to the other and are accepted as valid without the need for each individual to live or corroborate them. They can arise from an opinion, a feeling or the repetition of what was heard, so that they do not offer a guarantee of their veracity.
Common knowledge is opposed to scientific knowledge, which is obtained through reflection, logical reasoning, analysis and methodical verification.
Characteristics of common knowledge
Common knowledge is characterized by having a diffuse origin and by not using any method or system of demonstration to assert its validity. On the contrary, its structure is based on the apparent and does not intend to find a relationship with the facts.
In addition, it stands out for being: a) sensitive, as it is based on the person’s sensations and feelings; b) and superficial, for not deepening its analysis.
Other characteristics are subjectivity, as its internalization depends on judgment, positions and own values; and dogmatism, while its acceptance is based on unproven beliefs and responses.
On the other hand, Common knowledge is also systematic, as it does not conform to any logic or system or is connected to other elements, and arbitrary, as it does not consider other notions or ideas.
In the same way, there is no deepening in the process of knowledge, but only reference is made to what is evident or what emerges from simple observation.
In short, it is practical knowledge accepted without reflection and usually based on emotional factors.
Etymology and history
In this case, the use of the word “Common” does not refer to something inappropriate or rude, but points to what is common or general, as opposed to technical or special.
This term derives from the Latin “vulgaris”, which means “belonging to the common people”. It comes from “vulgus”, which is translated as people or Common, and is understood as the set of people who know only the superficial part of a subject.
The Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 BC), in his work The Republic , was the first thinker to distinguish between Common knowledge (doxa) and scientific knowledge (episteme).
The first he qualified as a common belief or mere opinion, while the second he valued as a knowledge justified as truth, for being more true and true.
Examples of common knowledge
Prejudices are an example of common knowledge. In many cases, they do not have a defined authorship, they come from transmission from one generation to another and are maintained without the person having a personal experience to rely on.
Sayings are also a type of Common knowledge, as their teachings have a popular origin and end up being considered valid for so many repetitions.
Another case is that of superstitions, in which certain beliefs are held without any rational foundation. Thus, people usually say that the color black, opening an umbrella indoors or breaking a mirror brings bad luck, without depending on any logic.
Tips and Traditions
Likewise, typical advice from our grandparents’ times, such as how drinking a glass of water cures hiccups or that it is dangerous to go overboard after eating, are examples of common knowledge.
On the other hand, traditions can also be included in this group, such as the fact that wearing a ring on your finger means that the person is married or that, on the 29th of each month, you should eat gnocchi.
In addition, some popular knowledge, such as that the Earth is round or revolves around the Sun, are also examples of common knowledge, as most incorporate them by repetition and not based on their own analysis.
Differences with scientific knowledge
Common knowledge differs from scientific knowledge in that the latter is that obtained through hypotheses, reasoning, study and verification.
This knowledge is acquired consciously, in response to intentional research. It is generally not available to everyone, but is dealt with in academic and specialist fields.
Characteristics of scientific knowledge
Unlike the Common, this knowledge is characterized by having a specific origin and by the use of demonstration systems to assert its validity.
Furthermore, it stands out for being rational, as it is based on the analysis and elaboration of conjectures, and objective, for referring to the facts themselves, regardless of the way of thinking or feeling.
Another of its particularities is to be methodical, because it follows a planning and an intentional and progressive order, while there is a permanent advance.
On the other hand, scientific knowledge is also systematic, since it conforms to a logic and is connected to other ideas and elements, and cumulative, since it starts from other established knowledge and serves as a basis for others to come.