In the debate leading up to the EU referendum in the United Kingdom, the British politician Michael Gove declared that "people in this country have had enough of experts". In the 2016 Presidential campaign in the United States, Donald Trump waged a war against the very idea of expertise. Yet if you are worried about your child's behaviour, don't know which laptop to buy, or just want to get fit, the answer is easy: ask an expert.
Where do we draw the line? Why do we appear to know more and more collectively, yet less and less individually? Has expertise painted itself into a corner? Can we defend both science and common sense?
In this engaging and much-needed book Jan Bransen explores these important questions and more. He argues that the rise of behavioural sciences has caused a sea change in the relationship between science and common sense. He shows how - as recently as the 1960s - common sense and science were allies in the battle against ignorance, but that since then populism and chauvinism have claimed common sense as their own. Bransen argues that common sense is a collection of interrelated skills that draw on both an automatic pilot and an investigative attitude where we ask ourselves the right questions. It is the very attitude of open-minded inquiry and questioning that Bransen believes we are at risk of losing in the face of an army of experts.
Drawing on fascinating examples such as language and communication, money, the imaginary world of Endoxa, domestic violence, and quality of life, Don't be Fooled: A Philosophy of Common Sense is a brilliant and wry defence of a skill that is a vital part of being human.
Table of Contents
Introduction: How words liberate and captivate people
Part 1: Living with common sense
1. Humaning on Endoxa
2. Expectations between hope and prediction
3. Understandable, efficient and good behaviour
4. Trust and accommodation
5. Dealing with grey
Part 2: Living with expertise
6. Humaning today
7. Waking up without science
8. Understanding without objectivity
9. Satisfaction without policies
10. Responsibility without expert witnesses
Jan Bransen is Professor of Philosophy of Behavioural Science at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He is the founder of Philosophical Explorations and has written scholarly work on practical identity, autonomy, narrative agency and love. Besides that, he publishes accessible books on the importance of cultivating a philosophical attitude to science, politics, media, mental health and modern life in general.
‘This is an outstanding book that will appeal to anyone curious about how we should navigate ourselves intellectually. Bransen hits a perfect balance between deep thought and relaxing humour. A big thumbs up!’ - Constantine Sandis, University of Hertfordshire, UK
‘Jan Bransen writes eloquently about why we should not let the experts decide our lives. After all, he argues, there is no person better placed to be an expert on your life than you. Bransen's message of self-determination is uplifting, optimistic, and also timely, as people everywhere turn against the technocratic and elite control of politics.’ - Stuart Derbyshire, National University of Singapore
"This is a delightful book. Bransen is not only an interesting writer he also has the ability to make his points with ease and insight by telling stories from our shared repertoire of stories, or using thought experiments to tease out the main points of his extended argument." - Bob Lane, Vancouver Island University, Canada