Friday, July 08, 2005

Common Sense

Nancy at Flying Stars asks about common sense. She is working on a book.

I asked AMBER for the references to "common sense" and got over 500. There is one which has something to do with women that I thought would be useful for her, but of course I could not find it, even with the help of amber. (Look up the etymology of "electricity" if you find this confusing...

But AMBER nearly always shows me something Chesterton wrote which I have forgotten about. Here are some which are very interesting...

The deadly and divine cleavage between the sexes has compelled every woman and every man, age after age, to believe without understanding; to have faith without any knowledge.
Upon the same principle it is a good thing for any man to have to review a book which he cannot review. It is a good thing for his agnosticism and his humility to consider a book which may be much better than he can ever understand. It is good for a man who has seen many books which he could not review because they were so silly, to review one book which he cannot review because it is so wise. For wisdom, first and last, is the characteristic of women. They are often silly, they are always wise. Commonsense is uncommon among men; but commonsense is really and literally a common sense among women. And the sagacity of women, like the sagacity of saints, or that of donkeys, is something outside all questions of ordinary cleverness and ambition.
[GKC from The Nation, 1907, reprinted as "Louisa Alcott" in A Handful of Authors 163-164]

Of course she looms big in my memory: the author of the trilogy Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys, and a number of other touching stories of families in America of the late 1800s.

The general attitude of St. Francis, like that of his Master, embodied a kind of terrible common sense. The famous remark of the Caterpillar in "Alice in Wonderland " - "Why not?" impresses us as his general motto. He could not see why he should not be on good terms with all things. The pomp of war and ambition, the great empire of the Middle Ages, and all its fellows begin to look tawdry and top-heavy, under the rationality of that innocent stare. His questions were blasting and devastating, like the questions of a child. He would not have been afraid even of the nightmares of cosmogony, for be had no fear in him. To him the world was small, not because he had any views as to its size, but for the reason that gossiping ladies find it small, because so many relatives were to be found in it. If you had taken him to the loneliest star that the madness of an astronomer can conceive, be would have only beheld in it the features of a new friend.
[GKC, Varied Types 69-70]

One more, from the same book...

Carlyle was, as we have suggested, a mystic, and mysticism was with him, as with all its genuine professors, only a transcendent form of common sense. Mysticism and common sense alike consist in a sense of the dominance of certain truths and tendencies which cannot be formally demonstrated or even formally named. Mysticism and common sense are alike appeals to realities that we all know to be real, but which have no place in argument except as postulates.
[GKC, Varied Types 116-117]

Perhaps these will help.


At 11 July, 2005 16:22, Blogger Nancy C. Brown said...

They will, thank you.
I feel quite humbled that the mention of my project has found you scurrying with activity.
Of course, if it has prompted reading obscure paragraphs out of Chesterton, it has been worth it!


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