Conference “Science versus Common Sense?”
February 25-27, 2016. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


This conference seeks to address the nature, limits, and value of common sense, especially in relation and possibly in contrast to science and scientific knowledge.

It is often claimed that science debunks common sense: much of our naïve physics, chemistry, and biology has been replaced by superior scientifically informed accounts of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. In recent years, various bits of our commonsensical self-understanding as free, rational, moral, and self-knowing beings has also come under attack from science. Various kinds of scientific debunking arguments are flourishing.

At the same time, it seems obvious that we cannot do without common sense. Arguably, science and the scientific method itself was built on, and continues to depend on, common sense and common sense still plays an important role as a touchstone in much philosophical theorizing.

All of this raises questions about the nature of common sense, its relation to science and philosophy, and its tenability in the face of various kinds of attacks from science and philosophy.

Key questions include:

  • What is common sense? A source of knowledge, a fixed body of knowledge, an approach to knowledge, or something else?
  • What is the nature of scientific knowledge? How does it differ from commonsensical knowledge?
  • How are common sense and science related? Is science best thought of as ‘the long arm’ of common sense or are they more discontinuous? To what extent does science gives us reason to become skeptical about common sense (e.g., through debunking arguments)?
  • How are common sense and philosophy related? What role ought common sense to play in philosophy? Are there philosophical reasons to distrust common sense?
  • What are suitable epistemological pictures / models to think about the relations between science, common sense, and philosophy?


  • Russ Shafer-Landau (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
  • Katia Vavova (Mount Holyoke College)
  • Duncan Pritchard (University of Edinburgh)
  • Noah Lemos (William & Mary University)

Please find the booklet here.