On “The Temptation to Attack Common Sense”



In The Blue Book (BB, pp. 58–59), Wittgenstein defends common sense as a guide for our thinking and as a relief from mental discomfort. It might stand as a powerful educational ideal. Wittgensteinian common sense is related to the practice of rule-following. While theories, practices and even norms evolve or change, the mastering of rule-following is what keeps us within the community and within the realm of reason, that is, within common sense. Stepping outside amounts to mental discomfort. There is, however, a downside: His attachment to ordinary language “as it is” might be considered a conservative by-product of this argument. Yet such an implication can be avoided. Common sense is a promising educational ideal—if only we do not take Wittgenstein too literally. It is an ideal that, in education today, is currently under attack from various sources.


Common sense Education Rule-following Science Verificationism Wittgenstein 



I would like to thank Paul Standish for comments that greatly improved the manuscript.


  1. Ayer, A. J. (1966). Logical positivism. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, G. P., & Hacker, P. M. S. (1984). Scepticism, rules and language. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, G. P., & Hacker, P. M. S. (2008). Wittgenstein: Understanding and meaning: Volume 1 of an analytical commentary on the Philosophical Investigations, part I: Essays. Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, G. P., & Hacker, P. M. S. (2009). Wittgenstein: Rules, grammar and necessity: Volume 2 of an analytical commentary on the Philosophical Investigations, essays and exegesis (pp. 185–242). Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
  5. Barrow, R. (2011). Common sense and the curriculum. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Burbules, N. C., & Smith, R. (2005). What it makes sense to say: Wittgenstein, rule- following and the nature of education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 37(3), 425–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cavell, S. (1979). The claim of reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Cavell, S. (1990). Conditions handsome and unhandsome. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Chalmers, A. F. (2013). What is this thing called science? Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
  10. Coates, J. (1996). The claims of common sense: Moore, Wittgenstein, Keynes and the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davis, A. (2009). Examples as method? My attempts to understand assessment and fairness (in the spirit of the later Wittgenstein). Journal of Philosophy of Education, 43(3), 371–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diamond, C. (1989). Rules: Looking in the right place. In D. Z. Phillips & P. Winch (Eds.), Wittgenstein attention to particulars: Essays in honour of Rush Rhees. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Fogelin, R. J. (1976). Wittgenstein. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gasparatou, R. (2008). Species of philosophical naturalism, science and scientism. The International Journal of Humanities, 6(4), 27–35.Google Scholar
  15. Gasparatou, R. (2009a). Moore and Wittgenstein on common sense. Philosophical Inquiry, 31(3/4), 65–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gasparatou, R. (2009b). Education as initiation to a ‘form of life’: Conceptual investigation and education theory. International Journal of Learning, 16(1), 25–33.Google Scholar
  17. Gasparatou, R. (2010). Philosophies of common sense from Reid to experimentalists. Journal of Scottish Thought, 3, 61–75.Google Scholar
  18. Gasparatou, R. (2016). Emotional speech acts and the educational perlocutions of speech. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 50(3), 319–331.Google Scholar
  19. Goldman, A. I. (1999). Knowledge in a social world. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kampourakis, K. (2016). (The) Nature(s) of science(s) and (the) scientific method(s). Science & Education. doi: 10.1007/s11191-016-9804-z. Published online January 20, 2016.
  21. Kripke, S. (1982). Wittgenstein on rules and private language: An elementary exposition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Lederman, N. G. (2006). Research on nature of science: Reflections on the past, anticipations of the future. Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, 7(1), 2–11.Google Scholar
  23. Lederman, N. G. (2007). Nature of science: Past, present, and future. In S. K. Abell & N. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 106–133). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Miller, A., & Wright, C. (2002). Rule-following and meaning. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP.Google Scholar
  25. Moore, G. E. (1993). A defence of common sense. In T. Baldwin (Ed.), G.E. Moore: Selected writings (pp. 106–133). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Peters, M. A., & Marshall, J. (1999). Wittgenstein: Philosophy, postmodernism, pedagogy. Westport, CT: Bergin & Carvey.Google Scholar
  27. Peters, M. A., Smeyers, P., & Burbules, N. C. (2008). Showing and doing: Wittgenstein as a pedagogical philosopher. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  28. Pring, R. (2004). Philosophy of education: Aims, theory, common sense and research. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  29. Smeyers, P., & Burbules, N. C. (2006). Education as initiation into practices. Educational Theory, 56(4), 439–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Smeyers, P., & Marshall, J. (Eds.). (1995). Philosophy and education: Accepting Wittgenstein’s challenge. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  31. Smeyers, P., Smith, R., & Standish, P. (2007). The therapy of education. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Somerville, J. (1987). Reid’s conception of common sense. The Monist, 70, 418–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Standish, P. (1992). Beyond the self: Wittgenstein, Heidegger and the limits of language. Aldershot: Avebury.Google Scholar
  34. Standish, P. (2004). In her own voice: Convention, conversion, criteria. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36(1), 91–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Standish, P. (2012). Transparency, accountability, and the public role of higher education. Educational Futures, 5(1), 3–14.Google Scholar
  36. Standish, P. (2014). Teachers exposed, education in denial. The Boyd Bode lecture 2014.Google Scholar
  37. Stern, D. G. (1995). Wittgenstein on mind and language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stickney, J. (2009). Wittgenstein’s contextualist approach to judging “sound” teaching: Escaping enthrallment in criteria-based assessments. In N. Burbules (Ed.), Educational Theory, 59(2), 197–216.Google Scholar
  39. Stroll, A. (1994). Moore and Wittgenstein on certainty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Tully, J. (1989). Wittgenstein and political philosophy: Understanding practices of critical reflection. Political Theory, 17(2), 172–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Winch, C. (2006). Rules, technique, and practical knowledge: A Wittgensteinian exploration of vocational learning. Educational Theory, 56(4), 407–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wittgenstein, L. (1958). The blue and brown books. Preliminary studies for the philosophical investigations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell (BB).Google Scholar
  43. Wittgenstein, L. (1967). Zettel (G. E. M. Anscombe, Trans.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell (Z).Google Scholar
  44. Wittgenstein, L. (1968). Philosophical investigations (3rd ed., G. E. M. Anscombe, Trans.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell (PI).Google Scholar
  45. Wittgenstein, L. (1969). On certainty (D. Paul & G. E. M. Anscombe, Trans.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell (OC).Google Scholar
  46. Wittgenstein, L. (1993). Philosophical occasions (1912–1951). In J. C. Klagge & A. Norman (Eds.), Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett (PO).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood EducationUniversity of PatrasPatrasGreece

Personalised recommendations