KARL  JASPERS  FORUM
TA100 (Smith)

 

Response 3  (to C5 :  OPERATIONAL DEFINITIONS: TRIAGE AND SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE, by Frederick David Abraham;  C9 :  CAN COMMON SENSE BE AN OBJECT OF STUDY? by Serge Patlavskiy;  and C10 :  DEFINITION OF  COMMON SENSE, by Elizabeth Johnson-Kallos)

 

 

( COMMON  SENSE )

by Roulette Wm Smith

21 March 2008, posted 29 March 2008

 

 

[1]

At the outset, I wish to express my very sincere appreciation to Frederick David Abraham for his kind and thoughtful comments in C5 regarding TA100. Because of the death of dear friend at the end of December 2007 and a second emergency in February, my responses to Fred and others are delayed until now. I also am grateful to Abraham for doing some of the ‘heavy lifting’ to assist me in communicating my complex messages about common sense, particularly in view of my focus in TA100 on disorders in common sense. Without Abraham’s Wikipedia and other citations, many readers might never know or appreciate some of the history, philosophy and other exigencies underlying research on common sense – and especially its relevance for research on consciousness. For philosophers and other scholars, one also is advised to become familiar with the extensive research reports on common sense in the artificial intelligence literature (see [8], Footnote 2, [26], and [90] in TA100). Space limitations in TA100 precluded any serious review of the literature on common sense, although thorough reviews were cited in TA100 and are available in Smith (2006; in preparation). I also am grateful to Abraham for the visual materials which complement the spoken and written words. Finally, readers are reminded that TA100 is quite long – 80 manuscript pages! Detailed discussions of definitions and research on common sense possibly could contribute to TA100 becoming diffuse, discursive and unwieldy. Accordingly, I deliberately focused on disorders in common sense, even though I hoped to situate both common sense and its disorders in all rigorous discussions of beliefs, awareness, consciousness and reality (see [3] through [7] in TA100). My “bottom line” and “take-home” message was and is that disorders of common sense can be profound, physically disabling, and have never been discussed in any scholarly or professional literature – regardless of languages, cultures, historical contexts, and/or clinical approaches to disease and health. Perhaps more important, approaches to consciousness research may be short-sighted, ill-advised, misguided or misplaced if issues surrounding dysfunctional common sense are ignored. Presumably, common sense is a basic and foundational component in consciousness, though constrained by one’s perception of “self” in relation to other social and professional beings … and their common sense(s). Stanley Krippner implicitly grasped this point when he acknowledged my concerns about experimental and experimenter effects (see <C1> in C2).

 

[2]

There is an additional caveat. As noted, Abraham cites some of the history and philosophy underlying research on common sense. I deliberately, albeit subtly and succinctly, challenged those findings in TA100 (cf. Smith, 2006; Smith, in preparation; Avicenna / Marmura, 2004; Mullooly, 2003; Mullooly, 2006). The Chinese ideographic representation for common sense clearly predates all discussions of common sense by western scholars (cf. [22] and Footnotes 68 and 70 in TA100). The Sanskrit term for common sense also affirms this observation (see [22] and Footnote 71 in TA100). Although TA100 did not cite evidence of any historical representations of common sense in ancient Hebrew or any Australian Aboriginal languages, those languages also affirm the age-old universality of notions of common sense. That those historical representations are not acknowledged or appreciated in past historical and philosophical discussions of common sense calls into question – at least for this author – one’s appreciation of the breadth and depth underlying common sense and its profound importance as psychobiological, developmental, social, linguistic, economic, transmissible and evolutionary constructs (also see [21] and Footnote 21 in TA100). Even if scholars question whether non-human animals can possess common sense (see [22], [62], Footnote 43, [78] and [85] in TA100; cf. Stanley Krippner’s concern about context, <C1> in C2; Serge Patlavskiy’s view that the pursuit of an evolutionary basis for common sense may be fruitless, <C6> in C9), I remain convinced that the evolutionary issues are central, if not crucial, to understanding common sense vis-à-vis long-term memories and cognitive processes (cf. Angier, 2008). A subtle ethnomethodological message is that one should be fastidious in avoiding intrinsic ‘humo-centrism’ and ethnocentrism in studies of common sense.

 

[3]

The point of the latter caveat is not to disparage or challenge Abraham. Rather, readers are reminded that common sense rarely is studied ‘in-the-large’, yet it retains a rich and complex texture – particularly regarding its core psychological, biological and evolutionary underpinnings. Moreover, the universality underlying common sense (captured minimally in Tables 1 and 2 in TA100) serves to remind us of a need to appreciate and understand those core and universal principles – and particularly across time/age, cultures and languages. Implicit in this remark is a profound respect for the many scholars who address commonsense issues. Thinking and writing about common sense is both difficult and challenging. TA100 represented a perceived need to break new ground in: diagnostics and question-asking; medicine and other clinical professions; neurosciences and other life sciences; physical sciences; psychology, education and cognitive sciences; economics, political science and other social sciences; information sciences; engineering and non-invasive technologies; language, journalism and communication studies; game theory, military science and peace studies; cross-, multi-, inter-, trans- and meta-disciplinary inquiry; ethics and moral philosophy; evolution; metaphysics; and, logic, methodology and philosophy of science. In short, studies of common sense represent one of the few lines of inquiry transcending virtually all disciplines. It includes concerns for cross-disciplinary, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and metadisciplinary issues and implications.

 

[4]

Now to specific issues mentioned in Frederick David Abraham’s C5. In <C1>, Abraham cites two concerns. His first concern is about “operational” definitions. His second concern is about the social significance of my definition of common sense (cf. [6] in R1). Suffice it to say, ‘in-the-large’, Abraham (in C5), Krippner (in C1), Johnson-Kallos (in C10), McCarthy (in C16) and others clearly are expressing a desire for unambiguous and operational definitions of common sense. I share their concerns, yet am chastened by the nascent nature of the subject matter as a scholarly issue. I will take up these matters momentarily, but, first, I wish to provide a general response to C5.

 

[5]

In <C2> through <C4>, Abraham cites specific scholars’ teachings on common sense. Abraham could not be expected to know that those scholars’ teachings were cited indirectly in TA100 in [22], on page 59, and in references to Mullooly (2003; 2006) and Smith (2006; in preparation). Because Smith (in preparation) exceeds 150 manuscript pages, perhaps one can appreciate why TA100 did not include a detailed review of the history and literature on common sense when such a review would provide very little insight into disorders in common sense or their implications for research on consciousness studies, care-giving, health and/or wellness. With that said, Abraham’s citations provide a good place in which one can jump into a swimming pool of issues pertaining to common sense. Metaphorically, his introduction is neither at the shallow end nor the deep end of that swimming pool. One need not fear sinking or drowning!

 

[6]

Regarding operational definitions of common sense per se (see <C1> and <C6>), my research now convinces me that no discussion of operational definitions for common sense can be complete without also addressing the matter of operational definitions for disorders in common sense. This was the value of TA100 focusing on disorders in common sense, and particularly regarding its in situ phenomenological findings. Indeed, any operational definition of common sense which does not take into account disorders in common sense may, de facto, lack validity. Metaphorically, TA100 is tantamount to a report of a clinical home visit – one of the clinical niceties and practices which vanished after publication of the Flexner Report (1910; also see <www.carnegiefoundation.org/publications/pub.asp?key=43&subkey=97>). The hastily constructed (post hoc) Table 2 (cf. [89] and [104] in TA100) reveals the types of information, chaos and economic catastrophes which generally would not be known to clinicians or professionals except among in situ situations such as in home and family environments.

 

[7]

Because there appears to be no professional/clinical awareness of common sense or its disorders (see [18], [20] and [87] in TA100), operational definitions for disorders in common sense ideally should capture concerns that eventually might benefit clinicians familiar with definitions in diagnostic and statistical manuals (e.g., the DSM and ICD). For example, the DSM-IV-R promulgated by the American Psychiatric organizes psychiatric diagnoses into five levels (axes) relating to different aspects of disorder or disability (American Psychiatric Association, 2000; also see <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_Disorders>):

·         Axis I: clinical disorders, including major mental disorders, as well as developmental and learning disorders;

·         Axis II: underlying pervasive or personality conditions, as well as mental retardation;

·         Axis III: Acute medical conditions and physical disorders;

·         Axis IV: psychosocial and environmental factors contributing to the disorder;

·         Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning or Children’s Global Assessment Scale for children under the age of 18. (on a scale from 100 to 0).

Although disorders in common sense are not included in the DSM, the DSM can provide a framework for operational definitions, characterizations and categorizations of those disorders. This teaches that definitions of disorders in common sense, at the very least, must be mindful of potential multi-axial factors (cf. <2> in C4). These might include: Axis IV shifts and divergences in common sense caused by situational factors such as war and environmental trauma ([12] and [13] in TA100); Axis III acute stress-induced medical and physical disorders ([16], [30], [50], [61], [73], [100] in TA100), and also including a panoply of virus-mediated stress-induced epigenetic and psychosomatic disorders (Smith, 2003); Axis II chronic, pervasive and personality-level conditions (e.g., Proposita A, C and D in TA100; also see Table 3 in TA100); and, Axis I developmental and learning disorders (cf. [8], [15], [56], [65] and [113] in TA100). Not enough generally is known about clinical aspects of common sense or disorders in common sense to anticipate any findings on Global Assessment scales (Axis V disorders). These multi-axial factors implicitly affirm the importance and characteristics of outliers and inappropriate thinking (and decision-making) in general definitions of common sense (cf. [4], [5] and [6] in R1).

 

[8]

One last 5-part caveat before discussing operational (and other) definitions of common sense in contradistinction to operational definitions for disorders in common sense. “Logistic reasoning” (Smith, 1983) is an approach to question-asking, strategic thinking, sense-making, decision-making and problem-solving which, in part, seeks an appropriate balance in concerns for and reasoning about structures, functions, processes and logistics. In TA100, it was cited in reference to approaches to explicate issues pertaining to common sense (see [88], [28], [29], [30], [58], [69], [78], [79], [84], [88], [90], [105], [116] and Footnote 60 in TA100). Logistic reasoning also was used covertly in five ways when crafting TA100. First, if TA100 was tethered to specific definitions of common sense, then many, if not most readers, would focus their attention on those definitions. This would be consistent with David Ausubel’s teachings on “advance organizers” (see [1] in R1; Ausubel, 1960; Ausubel, Novak & Hanesian, 1978; cf. Smith, in preparation). Logistically, this prospect was deemed to have adverse and undesirable consequences. My research on slow viruses during the late-1970s and 1980s taught me that hasty attempts at “defining” slow viruses obscured critical structural and functional components, and novel possibilities for transmission and replication. This is a reason I coined the term autotoxicity in 1983 because it is far more precise and general than, say, prions. It also is a reason I subsequently formulated 11 near-axiomatic features of all slow viruses (Smith, 1994; Smith, 2001). Another example is the term psychovirus (Smith, 1988). Psychoviruses possess far greater explanatory power than memes (Dawkins, 1976), even though both terms lack crisp operational definitions (although the “transmissible negativism” psychovirus can be operationally defined quite precisely; Smith, 1992). In short, even though crude definitions may be possible at times, there may be logistic reasons for withholding operational and other definitions until accurate, concrete, precise and succinct characterizations are possible. Regarding common sense and its disorders, a particularly vexing issue concerns the need to operationalize indirect measures and assessments because of the central roles of language, culture and perceptions of “self” versus “other” (also see [17] below, and [4] and [5] in R2).

 

[9]

Second, Table 1 in TA100 reveals that language and culture may obscure subtle, though important, features in any definitions – particularly regarding roles of cognitive and consciousness processes in common sense and its disorders. Table 2 in TA100 reveals that language, culture and states-of-mind (including consciousness and emotions) are even more important. The evocative nuances and outlier responses associated with culture, language, emotion, turmoil and chaos often are inapparent to the uninitiated. In other words, prior to the challenge of providing operational definitions, there may be a need for underlying languages of definitions. This need for underlying languages of definitions is becoming increasingly apparent in metaphysics too. Recent discoveries associated with Hubble Telescope experiments, and studies in neurosciences and genomic sciences, now are reshaping discussions on mind-independent realities [MIR] such as “cosmos,” “onta” and “qualia”; mental thought processes [MTP] such as “time” and “temporality”; and other metaphysical constructs (cf. TA92, TA93 and their associated commentaries; hermeneutics; phenomenology; as well as the many authors and scholars writing on “mind,” “consciousness,” “belief,” and “heterophenomenology” [Dennett, 2003]). Hopefully, the genomic and biological (“biologized”) underpinnings cited in TA100 can contribute to this expansive metaphysical dialogue.

 

[10]

Third, a conscious and deliberate goal was to engage TA100 readers in a process of discerning and discovering definitions of common sense and disorders of common sense based both on the in situ phenomenological observations and on synchronic, diachronic and process-oriented characterizations of common sense (see [88] and Footnote 8 in TA100). To this end, public and private comments regarding TA100 have been both encouraging and heartwarming!

 

[11]

Fourth, my experiences as a Founding Executive Editor of Instructional Science ([117] in TA100) taught me the importance of all forms of definitions (cf. Ennis, 1984) – including definitions by axiomatization, counterexample, sentential and predicate inferences of logical negation and falsification / contraposition (e.g., Modus Tollendo Tollens), contradiction, etc. Indeed, different versions of entries in Table 2 specifically were included in TA100 precisely because, by logistic reasoning, no definition of common sense could be complete without characterizing what is common sense, what common sense is not, and what may be inferred from common sense and its disorders.

 

[12]

Finally, an insistence on having definitions may be premature without a model of the “whole.” My research teaches that humans may or should be characterized along at least four factors: memory and knowledge processing components; abilities and intelligence processing components; sense and common sense processing components; and, transpersonal components. In the end, I hope that readers will appreciate my awareness and sensitivity regarding all aspects of definitions – including the exigencies and challenges associated with their forms, completeness and evolution (see [20], [21], [57], [58], [83], [84], [88], [89] and [90] in TA100).

 

[13]

What implicitly or explicitly (and, covertly and overtly) should be ingredients in any definition(s) of common sense and, by inference, disorders in common sense? To address this issue, I find it useful and instructive to canvass a number of terms cited in others’ commentaries. In <C6> through <C9>, Abraham (also citing Stanley Krippner) acknowledges a number of challenges for any definitions of common sense. These include: circularity, functionality, consensus, ambiguities, replicability, reliability, validity, individual and group behaviors, hermeneutics, definability, generalizability, measurability, convention, experience and past learning, foolish and dysfunctional behavior, and social significance. Herbert F. J. Muller (in C4 and C8, though also in TA78) adds solidity, “diagnosis of disorder of common sense … in practice,” pre-requisites, classifications, metaphysics, ontology, ‘mind-independent-reality’ (MIR), MIR-ontology, MIR-belief, epistemology, reducibility, and, by inference, MIR-qualia. Abraham, in C6, adds tests. Serge Patlavskiy, in C9, adds commonness / commonality, formalization, existence and consequence. Elisabeth Johnson-Kallos, in C10, introduces integrity and a potential for camouflage, concealment and fakery. To all of these, I add rationality, parsimony, transparency, observability, relevance, cohesiveness, evolution, variances and outliers. Layered atop of these ‘ingredients’ are history, language, culture, politics and costs / economics.

 

[14]

This brief exercise in identifying challenges for common sense (in [13]) serves to remind readers of the many challenges associated with positing a simple and succinct “operational definition” for common sense. Can one put forth definitions of common sense consistent with many or most of the challenges cited in [13]? My research, to date, suggests that at least four features must be included in any overarching (operational or other) definitions of common sense. One feature is an acknowledgment of quasi-observable commonalities in group/herd behaviors (see [7], Footnote 1, [13], Footnote 12, [19], [20], [21], [22], Footnote 22, [37], [53], [55], [57], [62], [63], Footnote 43, [78], [89], [90], [91], [99] and [102] in TA100). There must be a sense of transparency associated with common sense, with that transparency being evident to the herd / group. I hope that Abraham, Krippner, Muller, Patlavskiy and others would concur on this point insofar as the universality of common sense across time, cultures and languages appears to be immutable. Indeed, ‘universality’ becomes central to any metaphysical discussion of mind, consciousness, and belief.

 

[15]

A second feature of common sense is that commonalities in behaviors and actions are central traits of the population and all of its sub-samples (including individuals), though with allowable variances. The notions of quasi-observability and variances are meant to emphasize that common sense is real, tangible, and does not represent ‘clonal’ sense. Although individual differences are hallmarks of test theories, variances in individual differences associated with common sense are circumscribed by group / herd cohesiveness. In terms of epistemology, common sense is a trait of individuals, sub-groups and target populations.

 

[16]

Third and fourth features, traits or characteristics of common sense are that common sense must be acceptably rational (akin to a fuzzy set of rational behaviors) and disorders in common sense involve the inappropriate and irrational. Disorders in common sense generally involve inappropriate, irrational and extreme outliers – and especially those outliers implicated in thinking, decision-making and other cognitive processes. In other words, some variances among individuals and within sub-group of the herd / group / population are expected and allowable. Disorders in common sense generally involve only the extreme outliers and outlying behaviors which violate cohesive factors which bind the group / herd / population. In citing the rational, irrational and outliers, one should never infer that commonsense behaviors must be identical or clonal for all members of the herd / group!

 

[17]

Although the many terms in [13] may be incorporated in the four features cited in [14], [15] and [16], these four features are deemed to be irreducible (cf. [6] in R1), and perhaps necessary and sufficient for any operational definitions. This does not simplify the challenge of providing operational definitions though. After all, the measurement and operationalization of “observability,” and distinguishing among simple error variances and outliers are non-trivial tasks. With that said, there are exciting novel test-theoretic possibilities for operationalizing common sense by focusing on individuals, samples and/or the population as a whole (also see [3], [4] and [5] in R2). One can envision a theory of testing and measurement (along with implications for rational and irrational economic behaviors) for which, not only would a person’s error behavior be assessed, other persons’ indirect perspectives on that behavior also would be taken into account. The underlying theory is that persons’ rational behaviors often are constrained by peer ‘context’ and connections. Another way of characterizing this theory is that people think and behave in accord with their peers, and that their irrational behaviors defy peer boundary conditions. This non-linear theory of testing and measurement is inspired, in part, by the deadly shooting spree by Cho Seung-Hui at Virginia Tech. The recent shooting spree at Northern Illinois University adds support for this concern. Cho’s colleagues’, teachers’ and other persons’ reflections helped me define more precisely the nature of his disorder. Those reflections also helped me crystallize my views on needs for indirect approaches to definitions, defining behavior, and, testing and measuring behaviors. It would be relatively easy to incorporate this non-linear approach to testing into protocols for SAT, ACT, GRE and other national testing programs because identifier information for individuals and peers could be coordinated using some forms of network modeling and analyses schema. An article by Kahn (2008) reveals a second example in which indirect observations (from vignettes by classmates and others) may point to aberrant common sense associated with irrational behavior.

 

[18]

In reflecting on these specific and logistic considerations, my conclusion is that it is folly to insist on precise operational definitions of common sense and its disorders at this time … despite the desirability of such constructs. At the same time, one cannot overlook the operational and practical challenges associated with shooting sprees on college and other campuses, and in workplaces; hazing and alcohol-related binging on college campuses; and, needs for early detection and intervention for disorders in common sense in children and others. These observations provide a natural entry point for a discussion of Abraham’s Issue Two – the social significance of common sense (see <C1>, <C12> through <C14>, and <C15> through <C18> in C5).

 

[19]

Abraham seems to tap into two overarching concerns regarding the social significance of common sense. Succinctly, one issue relates to individual freedom and liberty, and the second issue pertains to ‘biologizing’ common sense. Serge Patlavskiy, in C9, also expresses a concern about biological modeling insofar as evolutionary issues may have a biological basis. Both respondents’ concerns have validity – particularly in the sense that there could be a potential for misuse and abuse. Indeed, the potential for misuse and abuse concerns me too … and TA100 attempted to deal with these issues in a scholarly, dispassionate, sensitive, respectful, anticipatory and compassionate manner (see [86] through [105], [106] through [118] in the Afterword, and [119] and [120] in the Endnote in TA100).

 

[20]

The example of indirect measurement and assessment ([17]) embodies each of the issues Abraham finds objectionable. For some persons, concerns about indirect approaches might imply that “Big Brother” could be looming over one’s personal freedoms and liberties. Although theoretically true, the essence of common sense is a concern about context – particularly the context of “one’s self” in reference to “others” (i.e., in the group / herd, and across groups / cultures). To reveal an awareness of context need not imply any notion of intent. Indeed, distinctions between intent, purpose, function, association and event precisely are reasons for grappling with an underlying molecular and biological basis for common sense (cf. [84], Footnote 64 and [112] in TA100).

 

[22]

In terms of social significance, the reader should be the judge! Should one favor a laissez-faire approach to acts which might be harmful to self or others? Should school and college administrators turn a blind eye to serious mental health problems and potential consequences associated with dysfunctional common sense? Should parents, health care providers, spiritual leaders and others caregivers ignore context, common sense, and, distortions and disorders in common sense?

 

[23]

What about the social significance associated with aberrant common sense in sciences (cf. <11> in C5; also see [82], [96], [103], [112] and [115] in TA100)? My perspective is that thinking ‘out-of-the-box’ and paradigm shifts generally are not about common sense. Rather, the underlying issue pertains to creativity, though constrained by professional or disciplinary context and common sense. My Afterword in TA100 cites numerous instances of my creativity and thinking out of the box, though all instances are grounded in solid disciplinary and interdisciplinary sciences and common sense. This particular issue serves to remind us of a need to distinguish among four (cognitive / mental) axes: a) memory and knowledge; b) abilities and intelligence; c) sense and common sense; and, d) the transpersonal (see [12]). Educator and writer David Brownell, Ph.D. succinctly defines intelligence as “the ability to see connections, whereas ‘sense’ is harder to explain” (personal communication). According to Brownell, “sense helps an intelligent person decide what is the simplest way to solve a problem; or which solution is most likely to work; or how to present a solution in the way which is most likely to be persuasive; or which battles are not worth fighting.” Common sense represents that part of sense-making required in understanding how other people react, particularly those reactions relevant to one’s own issues in the context of the group or herd.

 

[24]

Regarding intent and intentionality per se, that common sense may have a biological basis carries no direct implication pertaining to intentionality. For example, to discuss a putative molecular and biological basis for common sense carries no intention or implication about intelligent design – a criticism frequently leveled against this viewpoint. Recent books by Richard Dawkins (2006), Douglas Dennett (2007) and Christopher Hitchens (2008) on God and atheism confuse intention with science. Thomas Paine’s well known monograph on Common Sense (1776; also see <C2> in C5) mistakenly confuses scholarship about common sense with political intentionality. Al Murray’s book (2007) possibly confuses intentional humor with common sense. My sole concern was and remains to harness methodological and explanatory power based on sound (though possibly evolving) scientific principles. At the same time, good and bad intentions, and/or horrendous ‘acts’ (see [13] in TA100) should reveal the importance of grappling with possible underlying contexts, causes, associations, consequences and even intentions. Indeed, the inclusion of a focus on peace in TA100 ([16], [29], [32], [80], [84], [85], [87], [94], [102] and [115] in TA100) should indicate a willingness to tackle – head-on – bad intentions when they run afoul of acceptable norms in common sense.

 

[25]

In view of comments by Serge Patlavskiy (<5> and <6> in C9) and Fred Abrahams (<13> in C5), why is it crucially relevant to explore a possible biological basis for common sense? As noted in [8] (and also in [88], [28], [29], [30], [58], [69], [78], [79], [84], [88], [90], [105], [116] and Footnote 60 in TA100), logistic reasoning (Smith, 1983; Smith, 2006; Smith, in preparation) was used in exploring a seminal hypothesis that DNA is the repository of long-term memories in living systems [LTM; Smith, 1979]. This ‘DNA as LTM’ thesis represents a fundamental paradigm shift and, to use Abraham’s terminology, an example of thinking ‘outside-of-the-box’. Notwithstanding extant views, there are ‘commonsense’ (rational and logical) considerations underlying the thesis, along with copious theoretical, ethological, experimental, clinical and epidemiological data support for the thesis. Logistic reasoning teaches that all implications and ramifications of the LTM thesis must be explored. This exploration is analogous to look-ahead strategies used in games of checkers, chess and go, or in war games. One always looks for evidence which might refute the hypothesis, although, to date, no data have been forthcoming which refutes the ‘DNA as LTM’ thesis.

 

[26]

For the benefit of readers unfamiliar with my research, please permit me to briefly outline several discoveries during the late-1970s which led to (in the following order) the ‘DNA as LTM’ hypothesis, and subsequent research on HIV/AIDS, evolution, logistic reasoning, epigenetic diseases, psychoviruses, common sense, and disorders in common sense. This brief vignette also serves to clarify important distinctions among knowledge, common knowledge, creativity, ability, sense, common sense, and the transpersonal.

 

[27]

The saga began in 1977 when I was a medical student at the University of California, San Francisco. I was asked to prepare a biochemistry term paper on: a) the molecular biology of aging (for Professor Christine Guthrie); b) genetic engineering (for Professor Herbert Boyer); or, c) the molecular biology of long-term memory (for Professor Stanley Prusiner). I would receive one unit of academic credit for the term paper. To my surprise, I could see connections between each topic (cf. [23]), and asked if I could write the term paper on the three issues, though still receiving the one unit of credit. Only Prusiner agreed to this arrangement. Within two weeks, I had discovered that there were thousands of reports on the molecular biology of LTM and aging. Linus Pauling had proposed that proteins could be the basis of LTM. A number of psychologists and psychobiologists had proposed that RNA and transfer factors could be the basis of LTM and/or aging. However, I could find no report suggesting that DNA could be the repository of LTM in brain. I also discovered that every known ‘slow virus’ (especially lentiviruses and prions, without exception) is associated with dementia or some immune system dysfunction – the latter possibility I dubbed “immune dementia.” I also discovered that Francis Crick’s “central dogma” served to constrain thinking that DNA could be a repository of LTM because the central dogma posits that molecular (genomic) information generally flows in one direction but not in an inverse direction. Ironically, a footnote in Crick’s report (1970) mentioned that a slow virus (scrapie) possibly could violate his dogma, yet I could find no citations in Science Citations Index referring to the Crick footnote. It was that footnote which was the linchpin supporting my thesis (Smith, 1979; Smith, 2001; Smith, 2006; Smith, in preparation; [107], [108] and Footnote 65 in TA100).

 

[28]

It is noteworthy that my 1979 discoveries reflected elements of: 1) luck (e.g., Prusiner’s lab worked on scrapie, an agent causing dementia); 2) memory, knowledge and common knowledge (i.e., based on reviews of thousands of published reports); 3) ability and creativity (i.e., recognizing that DNA was being overlooked as a repository of LTM, that slow virologists ignored the immune system, and that Crick’s “central dogma” was incorrect); and, 4) sense-making (i.e., exploring the implications of my discoveries for LTM, anticipating HIV/AIDS even prior to the 1981 discovery of GRIDS/AIDS; formulating transmissible and infectious epigenetic models; articulating and defining logistic reasoning, psychoviruses, transmissible negativism and common sense in children; reformulating evolution; and, proposing a molecular basis of common sense as one manifestation of LTM), though not common sense per se. A transpersonal element entered the picture too! Professor Lennart Stjårne (of the Karolinska Institute) commented positively and favorably regarding my ideas at the Jerusalem presentation (Smith, 1979; Stjårne, personal communication to Norma Abe Smith). Stjårne’s remarks provided me with the tenacity and confidence to pursue an unconventional line of reasoning for more than 25 years. The only element of common sense involved in this saga involved a recognition, understanding and acceptance that my ‘out-of-the-box’ perspective was unconventional and not widely accepted. In other words, despite the proposed significant shift in paradigms regarding LTM, I knew that I had to “hold my nose and don’t ask questions” (personal communication from an anonymous UCSF professor). The latter was a matter of common sense! [NB: Much of this saga is chronicled in the Afterword to TA100 and in Smith (in preparation).]

 

[29]

Apart from Nobel prizes awarded to Barbara McClintock (transposons), Susumu Tonegawa (immunoglobulin gene rearrangements) and Stanley Prusiner (prions), perhaps the most compelling evidence supporting the ‘DNA as LTM’ hypothesis derives from genetic diseases, proteomic diseases (i.e., associated with the protein-encoding region of the DNA-genome), and non-proteomic diseases (i.e., associated with the non-protein-encoding “junk” regions of the DNA-genome). A succinct example is Huntington’s disease. It has a genetic component – the huntingtin gene – with neuromuscular correlates. It has a proteomic component – trinucleotide repeats [TNR] – which encroach into non-proteomic regions in the genome. And, it has cognitive and behavioral components – including dementia – which, in theory (and with copious supporting data), reflect consequences of the TNR encroachments. There is no evidence of one-to-one correspondences between specific memory events (such as a person’s name) with specific changes in DNA in specific neurons. There is substantial evidence that a priori DNA changes in selected neurons may lead to a posteriori axon-dendrite consequences (to wit, neural networks). Not only does the model explain cognitive, behavioral and neuromuscular findings, it also can explain unanticipated consequences – associated with sleep, dreaming, and, not least, aberrant common sense.

 

[30]

What are some of the implications and ramifications of this brief vignette? Regardless of one’s viewpoint, the ‘DNA as LTM’ thesis has profound implications for evolution. The model fundamentally is neo-Darwinian and neo-Lamarckian. DNA changes in brain associated with LTM cannot be genetic, even though genetic elements may be implicated in producing changes. Transmissibility of information most likely comports with non-Darwinian forms of transmission and replication – with mirror neurons being implicated among mechanisms accounting for non-genetic replication. These implications and ramifications are rational, logical and matters of common sense, even though there are no conventional commonsense views about genetics, proteomics and non-proteomics per se. Rather, the underlying common sense comports with standard teachings in various disciplines – including logic, methodology and philosophy of sciences; genetics; biochemistry; virology and microbiology; clinical medicine; neurosciences; etc.

 

[31]

In summary, I have used my personal saga to illustrate important distinctions among: knowledge and common knowledge; abilities and intelligence; sense-making and common sense; and, the transpersonal. The particular vignette, although personal, is meant to lend support for unconventional and out-of-the-box ideas which still comport with common sense and disciplined inquiry. Hopefully, this example also will dispel any notion that “To act (or think) according to common sense means to act (to think) as many others would act (think) in the same situation” (see <4> in C9). If that view was true, then arts, creativity and scholarship virtually would vanish. On the other hand, there are numerous instances in the sciences where commonsense issues are overlooked. The repeated failures in attempts at producing vaccines against HIV were cited in TA100 (see [80], [96], [103], [112] and [115]). These failures are based on not knowing when to stop – statistically (i.e., multiple instances of failures to reject any null hypothesis) and economically – and despite evidence that a somewhat counterintuitive paradigm shift produces the desired consequences ([80], [103], [112] and [115] in TA100)

 

[32]

I now wish to focus on the intriguing questions posed by Elisabeth Johnson-Kallos in C10. Like Abraham, Krippner, Patlavskiy and many other persons, she asks “what is common sense?” Hopefully, the above discussion will present some of the many challenges associated with defining “common sense,” and especially regarding operational definitions. Therefore, I shall focus only on her questions: “How do you know people have it?  And, could they conceal it (less likely fake it, I presume) for a variety of reasons?” (C10)

 

[32]

Bear in mind that my research is, at this time, at best primitive and formative in nature. On the other hand, there may be value in reflecting on the history of research in artificial intelligence [AI]. John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky and others – the MIT / Stanford model – pursued AI models which purported to exhibit intelligence, though not necessarily exhibiting intelligence as seen in humans or other animals. Kenneth Colby (Stanford / UCLA) pursued an AI model (“the Mad Doctor”) which embodied question-asking and dialogue that might emulate a psychiatrist communicating with a client. Allen Newell, Herbert Simon and others – the CMU model – pursued AI models which purported to exhibit human-like intelligence, including error behavior and other nuances. Robert Glaser, Patrick Suppes and others – the Pittsburg / Stanford-IMSSS model – pursued AI models in education, which combined elements of the CMU model and a focus on question-asking as would occur in teaching and instruction. My approach to the study of common sense represents a mixture of Colby/CMU/Stanford-IMSSS teachings (cf. Smith, 1973a; Smith, 1973b). I perceive common sense being modeled heuristically, though using real/live data. Central to my approach to modeling common sense is a profound respect for understanding ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’. This is a reason for including Tables 1 and 2 in TA100. It also is a reason that modeling healthy and disease / dysfunctional behaviors are central to my thinking and reasoning.

 

[33]

Regarding how we may know that a person may have common sense, my approach involves three “filters” – one filter focuses on expected (‘healthy’) performance, and a second filter focuses on aberrant / dysfunctional performance. This approach comports well with a “medical model” in most ways, save one. A third filter focuses additionally on issues of knowledge, need and care (see Endnote [119] and [120] in TA100). My model also filters information from sources other than propositi – with this being a reason for a recommendation that indirect approaches to definitions be considered ([9], [17] and [21] and TA100). Hence, my filters generally – and quite successfully – reveal persons who have common sense in contradistinction to persons with disorders in common sense (Smith, 1988; Smith, 1992; Smith, 2004).

 

[34]

Johnson-Kallos’ notion of faking common sense poses three intriguing possibilities. One possibility is that a person has a disorder in common sense, though is able to “fake” having common sense. My three filter model generally snags this type of factitious ‘fakery’. Yes, I know that I have not provided the “operational” instructions which might define how my filters work (cf. Smith, 1992). Those persons with clinical experience will understand the difficulties associated with operationally defining their clinical tricks of the trade, and yet will attest to the reliability, validity, veracity and verisimilitude in their clinical skills.

 

[35]

A second type of fakery may be far more insidious and/or diabolic. Are there persons who possess “common sense,” though who would have one believe that they lack common sense? Smith (1992) cited evidence that numerous national political and other public personalities may lack common sense, thus giving rise to a plea for “national caveats emptor.” In this instance, the challenge is one of inducing an awareness of disorders in common sense ([8], [9] and [10] in R2). The best example of an attempt at faking dysfunctional common sense – and, indeed, the scariest example – is cited in Suri (2008), even though I lack first-hand information about the ruse.

 

[36]

There is a third form of potential ‘fakery’ not far afield from the second form. This is associated with theatrical fakery – as an actor might perform in a theatrical role. Because some aspects of common sense are as ingrained as personality, actors (and especially character actors) would be expected to master cultural, linguistic and sense-making traits – within the context of some target group. This challenge invites some intriguing possibilities and opportunities. One possibility involves screen or stage actors performing commonsense and dysfunctional commonsense behavioral roles within their own culture. A second possibility would involve actors performing commonsense and dysfunctional commonsense behavioral roles in another culture or during a different period in time. Games such as “dungeons and dragons” reveal a third possibility; to wit, avatars may be expected to acquire fictional or cybersociality commonsense behaviors – despite underlying stability and universality in common sense (cf. [78] in TA100). Each of these possibilities creates exciting theatrical, simulation and gaming opportunities, including the theatrical exploration of ranges in common sense (and aberrant common sense) behaviors. Virtually nothing is known about scope and repertoire in common sense actions and behaviors.

 

[37]

Theatrical forms of common sense and dysfunctional common sense reveal the potential for distinctly darker and more heinous possibilities. These possibilities are far more insidious than shooting sprees, suicides and other criminal wrongdoings. Recent reports of tortures and “extraordinary renditions” reveal a potential for unacceptably profound human rights abuses – especially by military and intelligence operatives and national leaders. These types of violations in common sense demonstrate levels of inhumanity unacceptable according to any norms in behavior of any living entities. Obviously, this remains a fertile area for future investigation, particularly in the context of studies on human rights, boundaries on inhumanity, international law and peace ([16], [29], [32], [80], [84], [85], [87], [94], [102] and [115] in TA100).

 

(1)

References:

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Smith, R. W. (1973b).  The OMBUDSMAN:  A Computer Model of Dialogue in Instruction and Conflict Mediation.  In Artificial and Human Thinking (edited by A. Elithorn & D. Jones).  Amsterdam:  Elsevier Publishing Company, pp. 114-124.  [In Proceedings of a NATO Symposium entitled Human Thinking:  Computer Techniques for its Evaluation (St. Maximin, FRANCE — August, 1971)].

Smith, R. W. (1979).  Long-Term Memories:  Where Does the 'Buck' Stop? — Toward a Testable Theory of Debugging the Molecular Basis of Long-Term Memories in Living Organisms. Abstracts, Seventh Meeting of the International Society for Neurochemistry [Jerusalem, ISRAEL — September 2-6], p. 590.

Smith, R. W. (1983).  How Would You Recognize and Detect a Virally Modified Code? Could Kuru be Caused by Cannibalism of Autotoxic Factors in Brain and Lymphoid Tissue? Does Purification of Molecular Function Differ from Purification of Molecular Structure? – A Critique of Impure Reasoning in Biological Sciences.  Abstracts, 7th International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science [Salzburg, AUSTRIA — July 1983] 4:358-362.

Smith, R. W. (1988).  Transmissible Negativism and Its Possible Relation to Irrational Behavior and Poor Common Sense.  Presented to the XXIV International Congress of Psychology [Sidney, AUSTRALIA — August 28 - September 2, 1988].

Smith, R. W. (1992).  The National Impact of Negativistic Leadership:  A Need for National Caveats Emptor (final draft of book outline).  Palo Alto, CA: Institute for Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Studies, Palo Alto, CA. [Published May 12, 1992].

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Smith, R. Wm. (2006). Revisiting and Rethinking Evolution: Implications for Substantive Professionalization of General Education. Presented to the 18th International Conference on Systems Research, Informatics and Cybernetics (InterSymp 2006) “Axiomatic Education – IV, The 4th Symposium on the Substantive Professionalization of General Education.” [Baden-Baden, GERMANY – August 9, 2006].

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Suri, J. (2008). The Nukes of October: Richard Nixon's Secret Plan to Bring Peace to Vietnam, Wired Magazine 16:3 (available online at <http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/16-03/ff_nuclearwar?currentPage=all>).

 

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Roulette Wm. Smith
     e-mail <najms (at) humanized-technologies.com>