Aspects to Commonsense Reasoning

Are there fundamentally any more? Please add to the list. 

(Some of these relate to each other).

  1. a) By definition – medicine is “good” (by definition medicine heals/cures).

          b) Relates to basic or definitive property – car will take you faster than walking,

if it’s at the bottom of the sea, its not visible from outside,

waiter telling a customer to bring a dish to eat,

not recognizing your brother.

  1. Something less important as against more important – 

Saw some statues, but not the Eiffel tower on visit to Paris. 

Fighting with the car-owner who dashed your car as against taking your injured friend to the hospital

  1. Alternative – if not this, something else.   

           If this pen doesnt work, take some other one.

  1. Relates to (reinforces or defeats) the very reason or purpose of saying or doing or of existence, of something – 

“killed with a gun” implies shot with a gun and not say banged the gun on the head 10 times. 

I called out to him, implies I can speak.

  1. ‘Disproportionate’ness/proportion – 

Every American has a President (same for all; not one for each), every American has a mother (different for each, not the same one for all)

More the price lesser the demand

Early bird catches worm

  1. Pivotal dependence –   

If the phone is not charged in the first place, then no use of the numerous functionalities and features


Gateway to a lot” : (multiple/most number of/monumental things depending upon a single one/very few) –

wedding without the bride or the groom

  1. a) Unnecessary – a note-book for writing a letter, need to steal something you own, something happens on its own – no need to do anything for it

b) Misdirected efforts – push an object with a string, cutting a tree with a razor, cutting hair with an axe.

  1. Completeness – One thing useless without the other (left shoe without the right shoe). 
  1. Inclusive implication – 

If you own a Mercedes, then you own a cell phone.

            If a building has a “5th floor” it has a 2nd floor (but not necessarily a 7th floor).

  1. Relating to Cases of maxima / minima /abundance / rarity – 

            Hit where it hurts the most, score 100/100 – you will stand first whatever be the competition.

            If it’s once in a decade, preserve it

  1. What else/more (could be)? – Set of conceivable possibilities. 

All of a total of known-to-be hundred items, numbered 1 to 100, have been checked while packing. What else could remain? (5 out of 5 means everything is present, nothing can be left out).

The human thief could be a male or a female. What else?

Psychology and Commonsense

Can obvious ‘workings of the mind’ be also said to be commonsense? That is, when someone says words of encouragement and inspiration to you, you become positive in outlook. Upon winning, sometime later, you automatically reflect back on the hardships you had to go through to reach where you have. Or something simpler – upon completion of an eventful journey you look back upon it.

These are Psychological tendencies – can they be considered to be a part of our ‘commonsense’? Does someone have to teach them to us? No. They come naturally, with age and development. But is this “development”, somehow the very learning of these processes? I don’t know. 

Note – these aren’t inferences one draws, they are mere “neutral” and general reflections/introspections. Does someone need to teach us to self-reflect/self-introspect? Or is it purely a matter of mental maturity which comes with age? Because, as a matter of fact, even a little kid introspects – but those are simple logical inferences it draws when it feels “that means I am no good, I am poor” upon failing in an exam in school. But the encouraging words making us positive or the recalling of the hardships upon winning aren’t quite inferences, in format. 

Here is one technical dispassionate Psychological principle I see – ‘At time of reflections, upon happening of significant events in life, we delve into the past or future’ – past, to relate it to the present situation – causes in the past that led to it / signs in the past having coming out to be true through that event / comparing how you felt then and are feeling now etc.…. & future, for the consequences of that significant event on the long-range plans.

Can such conversions of principles of Psychology into technicalities which are –  simple and obvious, common to all, and which involve adequate purposes (like why delve into the past?, why into the future?, as in the above case) for our reactions to situations, be called Commonsense the way we use the word Commonsense as a trait of our intelligence? 

To put this in a slightly different way – when we say that to know that parents love their children is commonsense, is it commonsense for the parent to love its child i.e. can that Psychological tendency be also called commonsense? Or when we say that stealing a string might make its owner angry, is the tendency of the owner becoming angry upon his string being stolen, also “commonsense” on his part?

The “definitive role” of a word – A new kind of a Semantic role.

Take a word. Invoke some sentence containing that word. That word should be in-between the sentence i.e. it shouldn’t be the first or the last word of the sentence. 

The definitive role of the word is the way it connects the meanings of the parts preceding it and following it. It tells the role its meaning plays.

Examples – 

  1. NICE

Sentence – This is a nice phone.

Part preceding it – This is a

Part following it – phone

Meanings of the parts : 

Preceding – Talking about something

Following – a communication device

So, the way the word nice connects the meanings is that “it is talking about a communicating device”.

This is the (“definitive”) role played by the meaning of the word ‘nice’. 

  1. WITH

Sentence – I ate dinner with my wife. 

Part preceding it – I ate dinner

Part following it – my wife

Meanings of the parts : 

Preceding – I ate food at night

Following – the lady I am married to

So, the way the word connects the meanings of the 2 parts is – What relative relation I bear with the lady I am married to as regards to having food at night. 

This is the role the meaning of the word ‘with’ plays in the sentence. This is the definitive role of the word ‘with’ here.


Sentence – It is raining today

Part preceding it –  It is

Part following it – today

Meanings of the parts : 

Preceding – So is the case

Following – present day

The way the word ‘raining’ connects the 2 meanings is that “it tells what is the case today”. This tells the role the meaning of the word ‘raining’ plays in this sentence.

Definition of a link/connection

Let’s begin with something else. When we talk of ‘change’, it is by definition, change in the same thing – the same specific property of something.

When we compare 2 things, we can only compare their same corresponding properties. You cannot compare the weight of a book with the colour of a chair. So, when we say there is a similarity or a difference between 2 things, it is so between the same properties of the 2 things. 

The above leads us to the definition of a link – a typical connection between 2 entities : 

When 2 DIFFERENT properties of 2 entities are same/common, there is a link between the 2 entities. 

In fact, if there is a sameness between any 2 properties (one of each) of 2 entities, there is a link between the 2. In the second sentence, the definition is broadened to ANY 2 properties; that includes similarities as described in the first paragraph, as subsets of connections/links. 

If a chair is made of silver and a book has its name written on it in silver colour, there isn’t any similarity between the 2 entities since different properties of the 2 entities bear sameness (material making up one and colour of ink of text written on the other) with each other, but a link.

The spotting of links between 2  entities is generally of value while thinking, in general.

An example of the above definition – Car and Petrol are connected – bear a link.

Firstly, what is the link? 

  1. Car runs on petrol (car connecting to petrol)
  2. Petrol resides in the tank of a car (Petrol connecting to car)

In the first case, the 2 properties (one of a car and one of petrol) – what car runs on, of a car – and what petrol is i.e. petrol itself, of petrol – bear sameness.

In the second case, the 2 properties (one of petrol and one of a car) – where petrol resides, of petrol – and what a car is itself, of car – bear sameness. 


Sense or awareness of something being the mind’s internal process, in itself is or relates to a process inside the mind. And awareness of this is also an internal process of the mind. So the more you become aware of yourself the more you are invoking processes internal to the mind. But, as can be seen, you will never catch up. So you will never become aware of every internal process of the mind. So you cannot understand your own mind fully. An eye can see everything but not just itself! 

The only way this race can stop is if memory gets “exhausted” and doesn’t give you the data of the internal processes to look at. But since you are reflecting on something that you have just thought of recently, memory will serve rightfully.

But how come this stark distinction of – internal and external i.e. the mind’s internal processes and the mind interacting with the world? While the mind is interacting with the world, there are simultaneously internal processes active too (and as regards to the same signals that are coming from the external world and thus signals which are involved in the mind’s interaction with the external world). So there is simultaneity of internal and external processes. So why not the analogous i.e. why aren’t there external influences while the mind is engaged in internal processes i.e. influences of the external world while the mind is looking at its own workings/processes? Are there world-data influences while the mind is self-reflecting? Doesn’t seem so because one might say – my mind is looking at myself; and thus, this ‘mind’ (that is looking at myself) is not looking at the external world at that time – so nothing from the external world is entering the mind at that time! But what about sensory inputs (disturbances from the surroundings)? But still, somehow, there seems to be this apparent absence of external disturbances and tremendous tranquility while the mind is looking at itself. How come? This only prompts that the mind and senses are fundamentally different machineries, which are merely connected to each other. There is no integration to a great extent. And the mind can shield or numb itself from sensory inputs too (which are external to this ‘looking at itself’ process) to a significant extent while it is looking at itself.

A broad theoretical explanation for a Commonsense phenomenon

When we hear something like – “…and he hit the ball”, commonsense brings to mind something like, say, (there being) a bat (for hitting the ball with) since hitting a ball with a hand (which is the hypothetical literally-default connotation) is odd and uncommonsensical.

Let’s see a broad explanation for the above.

Firstly, the explanation rests upon an intuitive argument that the commonsense part of the natural language understanding of the mind rests upon phrasal processing – that is picking up words as chunks, to the extent possible, instead of isolated words. We read fast, and there are “auto-complete bubbles” that arise in the mind when we read something like “beat him to”, containing “death”. That is, when we read something till “beat him to”, there is an auto-complete bubble of “death” that arises in the mind.  

Now, there are 2 aspects to the commonsensical part of this phrasal chunk processing. One is the one described above – auto-completing the words of the chunks. This has to be clearly syntactic in nature, and is based upon memory (networks of memory). It depends upon having repeatedly heard the phrases (like “beat him to death” or “won the prize”). 

Coming to the explanation – allied to this syntactic aspect of common sense, to the phrasal chunk processing, has to be a (commonsensical) semantic one too. This is the one we are referring to here in this discussion, wherein commonsense-MEANING-completion too has to happen in the mind (like the commonsense syntactic word completion). This is what leads to the arousal of the entity ‘bat’ upon reading something like “hit the ball”. This is commonsensical semantic auto-completion. This also proves that there have to be commonsense knowledge-base semantic networks in the brain, (as are used in tools like MIT’s ConceptNet), to enable the process. 

So, to summarize, the natural language understanding in the mind is phrasal in nature, to the extent possible. This mechanism has 2 commonsense aspects – 1) Syntactic, memory-based auto-completion of words, and 2) Semantic ‘commonsense knowledge-base semantic networks’-based auto-completion of “meaning”. It is the latter which leads to the arousal of things which aren’t actually present in the given data.

Default aspect of data – via Commonsense & Sensory mechanism

Every piece of entity has aspects to it. Depending upon the context, we take the requisite/appropriate aspect of the entity. But there is a default aspect (commonsensical) aspect to entities also. When there is no particular context, we take the default aspect. For example, when there is no particular context in the case of a sentence like – John gave a ball to Jack – we take the default aspect of Jack (or John) as just a person i.e. ‘an alive human body’; not the other aspects like his religion/ethnicity, his mind, his feelings, his profession, he as a father/son/brother/..etc. This is the default commonsense aspect of John. 

Going by another track, the first sensory path of perception of any data is visualisation (visual imagination). We first try to visualise anything being told or taught to us. When we read such as the above sentences, our mind conjures up an image, and it is of a person which is just an alive human body – nothing more (and which is handing over a ball to some other one). 

So the two tracks match – Commonsense and Visual imagination. Both have their default perception-aspect of a person in a context-less environment, as an alive human body. Is there a reason for this match? 

Is it that because our primary sensory faculty is vision (60% of the brain is used to process visual signals), our commonsense has gotten modeled based on that? The other possibility seems less likely – that somehow there is an internal mechanism called commonsense, and our senses have evolved as functionaries of this fundamental sense. Or is it so?


Linguistically violating Commonsense

Linguistically, common sense can be violated at 3 fundamental levels – 

  1. Cells contain cytoplasm

Here, the words ‘cells’ and ‘cytoplasm’ aren’t common sense. 

There is no uncommonsensicalness otherwise i.e. at the connectionist level i.e. the way the elements connect to each other. The sentence simply says that ‘A contains B’. We all know and understand things of this format which make common sense.

  1. (a) John is Jack’s uncle’s 2nd cousin’s maternal aunt’s brother’s 2nd cousin.

Here the words are all common sense. They are simple and familiar – names of people, uncle, maternal aunt, brother etc.

But the way the data elements connect to each other (John and Jack) is uncommonsensical because it’s too complicated.

Hence the sentence is uncommonsensical at the level of connectionism in the sense of sheer complicatedness.

       2)   (b) i) I was playing the water. 

       ii) I was playing the pen.

Here also, the elements are familiar (commonsensical) – playing, water, pen. The way they connect with each other is also simple i.e. not complicated. Hence, commonsensical, in that sense too.

But the way the elements connect with each other, at the semantic level is uncommonsensical. The way they connect with each other in the sense of naturalness/oddness is uncommonsensical. 

Both these sentences are odd and uncommonsensical since you can play the piano or a drum but not a pen or water. But these sentences can be force-fittedly made to make sense. You can hold a pen at an end, in one hand and keep hitting it with the other hand and thereby generate sound, thus creating music and hence ‘play the pen’. Similarly, with water in a bucket.

Note : Every sentence which makes mere grammatical sense can be made to make sense in some force-fitted way. 

3) Obvious combinatorial derivatives of the above. 


Ask a kid – What is a chocolate box? Immediately pops the answer – A box containing chocolates.

Now, logically (as well as analogically), one might say  

Box made up of chocolates?  – just as a wooden box is made of wood.

Box inside chocolates? – just as a house-chair is inside a house and an office-chair is inside an office.

Box with ‘chocolate’ written on it? – just as a bournvita can is a can with ‘Bournvita’ written on it?

The above 3 alternatives are “wrong” not because they violate any logic, but because they violate commonsense. Hence they are odd, weird and just don’t quite “make sense”.


Consider these statements Jack told John –

1. A gave a pen to B.

2. C gave a pen to B.

One of the first things John would say (react with) is – 

Oh, so it seems to be a pen-day for B! or say Oh, it’s all gifts pouring in today for B!’. 

It is very unlikely that John would say something like – ‘The flow while writing with a pen is so smooth!’ (This seems “odd”.) But note that logically speaking, the remark is connected to the 2 statements i.e. the statements and the (odd) remark both ARE ABOUT a pen.

So my question is – WHAT IS RELEVANT?

5 aspects to it – 

  1. Logic v/s commonsense : 

1. ‘I said it and he came’. (Why is this special? Logically there is nothing special about it.)

2. ‘Nobody must have done this’. (One might say – So what? But it is a rationale we use to de-justify someone’s action. Logically, it is not a reason to justify or dejustify).

2. What we react to in our every-day data-consumption : 

1. Spotting contradictions. e.g. first you said this, and now you are saying that.  E.g. – Such less furniture, for such a large house?

2. Spotting opposites/contrasts. E.g. Father’s nature is completely the opposite of mother’s nature. 

3. Special arrangements of data : 

1.. ‘all’/ ‘full’/’everything’ are special constructs. (They leave nothing behind…they create blankness).

Phrases like “all of it was used”, “everything was taken” etc. are made with an emphasis. The cyclone washed away everything – not a nail of the house was left. 

2. We question ‘too much change’ in anything in a short time.

4. Interesting :

Some things are interesting by default.

E.g. – 1. First and last times are interesting by default. 2. Extremes (min and max) are interesting by default.

5. Precursors to thinking :

This is what can be called as the prelude to thinking. 

Examples – 

  1. Repetition is of value by default! (In the pen example, the spotting of the repetition of the word ‘pen’ was the precursor to the remarks – Oh it seems to be a pen day for John

2. Too much of same together is interesting.

If you enter a room and see everyone is wearing a yellow shirt, it would trigger a thinking process (to find what it is about that).

Note – They happen even before thinking begins. In isolation, just by themselves, they are mindless, but are the initial processes before thinking. 

Context – provided by the ‘Human-centeredness’ of the Meaning

We all know that meaning rests upon context.

Claim : It is provision of human-centered meaning / personification, that provides context.

Suppose you are holding a cell-phone for the first time. You see the screen. On the top right corner, you see ‘5:43 pm’. (Exclude factors like maybe the clock is not adjusted to the current local time). You intuitively and immediately conclude that it is the current time. Now, logically speaking, there is a cell-phone with a display, containing a data-element which reads as ‘5:43 pm’. That, in no way, necessarily implies that the current time is 5:43 pm!

What then makes you immediately feel that the current time is 5:43 pm? It is awareness of the context you are in – you are holding a phone – an electronic gadget; it is supposed to DISPLAY things to you (you are holding it FACING YOU) i.e. information, etc. So a time-mention should convey the current time since conveying time to anyone by anyone, in general too, is mostly, the current time. The ‘5:43 pm’ MEANS the current time to you, because of the CONTEXT you are in. 

Now look at this from the human-centered meaning or personification angle – you have sort of given a human identity to the phone by seeing it as an entity telling you things, talking to you, showing things to you etc. So, one can say that Psychologically speaking, it is the human-centered meaning provision or the personification angle given to entities one is interacting with (even seeing things – without holding them, as in this case) which runs the context-program (associated with the meaning of the entity), in the brain.