The main argument of Don’t be fooled

I argue in the book that common sense is of crucial importance to live our lifes as human beings. This, I claim, is an urgent reminder for those impressed by the contemporary abundance of scientific expertise. The argument begins with the recognition that experts and laypeople are actually in deadlock because both force the other to forget to ask themselves questions about their own fundamental assumptions. The obvious availability and innocence of ordinary language is one of these assumptions, which is both a blessing and a burden, for experts and laypeople alike. The first part of the book is an exploration of the capacities that together make up our common sense. One essential capacity I like to mention here is the accommodation of our emotions, both our own and those of the people we interact with. This trusting accommodation, I argue, allows us to edify our emotional responses, which is of great importance to navigate ourselves intellectually through contemporary society. This bit of the argument is critical today, given the inclination of brash populists to claim common sense for themselves and to identify it, thoughtlessly and mistakenly, with their own gut feeling. It is not.

Common sense has a great potential for coping with unfamiliarity, ambiguity and conflict. Common sense is the source and the guard of our critical, open and honest capacity to think for ourselves. Common sense used to be, and might become again, an engaging ally of modern science.

The second part of the book explores a number of problems which are a consequence of the disturbed balance between common sense and expertise. I argue that this balance cannot be restored by an appeal to more expertise. Instead, only common sense can help us redress the balance.