Is common sense reactionary?

No, common sense is not reactionary. I argue in the book that the basic slogan “Automatic pilot if possible and investigative attitude if necessary” shows that the capacity for critical thinking is a crucial part of common sense. When I wrote the book it seemed the principal opponent of common sense was a scientistic kind of expert, but over the last year another kind of opponent is quickly on the rise in the media: the brash populist who wants to claim common sense for himself and who identifies it, thoughtlessly and mistakenly, with his own gut feeling. Life can be complicated and the automatic pilot that we develop over the years is therefore very welcome. It allows us to respond quickly, almost mindlessly, yet most of the time appropriately. That is not, however, a matter of an instinctive gut feeling, but a matter of extended learning processes. Our automatic pilot ordinarily produces educated responses. But on top of that the more important bit is added by the fundamental sensitivity to respond smartly and suitably to apparent frustrations of our expectations. This sensibility motivates us, if our common sense is well-developed, to switch to the investigative attitude. That attitude encourages us to be cautious of potential biases and it motivates us to honestly ask ourselves serious questions. I would argue that the absence of this attitude is one of the most striking indications of the lack of common sense in reactionary forms of populism. Populists typically do not ask themselves questions. They simply claim their own truth and accuse their favorite opponents of untrustworthiness. The common sense I describe in the book recommends a number of thoughtful replies to such intrusive and disrespectful forms of populism. Courageous accomodation is one of them: it enables you to transform your opponent into a more receptive fellow human being, someone inclined to explore with you shared areas of ambiguity.