Common knowledge

Common knowledge

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Common knowledge is knowledge
Knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

 that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community
Community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

 in which the term is used. Common knowledge need not concern one specific subject, e.g., science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 or history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

. Rather, common knowledge can be about a broad range of subjects, including science, literature, history, entertainment etc. Often, common knowledge doesn't need to be cited
Citation
Broadly, a citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source . More precisely, a citation is an abbreviated alphanumeric expression Broadly, a citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source (not always the original source). More precisely, a citation is an abbreviated...

. Common knowledge is distinct from general knowledge
General knowledge
General knowledge has been defined by differential psychologists as referring to 'culturally valued knowledge communicated by a range of non-specialist media' General knowledge therefore encompasses a wide range of knowledge domains...

. The latter has been defined by differential psychologists as referring to 'culturally valued knowledge communicated by a range of non-specialist media', and is considered an aspect of ability related to intelligence Therefore there are substantial individual differences in general knowledge as opposed to common knowledge.

The assertion that something is "common knowledge" is sometimes associated with the fallacy argumentum ad populum
Argumentum ad populum
In logic, an argumentum ad populum is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe it; which alleges: "If many believe so, it is so."...

(Latin: "appeal to the people"). The fallacy essentially warns against assuming that just because everyone believes something is true, it is. Misinformation
Misinformation
Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally. It is distinguished from disinformation by motive in that misinformation is simply erroneous, while disinformation, in contrast, is intended to mislead....

 is easily introduced into rumours by intermediate messengers.

Many techniques have had to have been developed in response to the question of distinguishing truth from fact in matters that have become "common knowledge". The scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

 is usually applied in cases involving phenomena associated with astronomy, mathematics, physics, and the general laws of nature. In legal settings, rules of evidence
Rules of evidence
Rules of evidence govern whether, when, how, and for what purpose, proof of a legal case may be placed before a trier of fact for consideration....

 generally exclude hearsay
Hearsay
Hearsay is information gathered by one person from another person concerning some event, condition, or thing of which the first person had no direct experience. When submitted as evidence, such statements are called hearsay evidence. As a legal term, "hearsay" can also have the narrower meaning of...

 (which may draw on "facts" someone believes to be "common knowledge").

"Conventional wisdom
Conventional wisdom
Conventional wisdom is a term used to describe ideas or explanations that are generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field. Such ideas or explanations, though widely held, are unexamined. Unqualified societal discourse preserves the status quo. It codifies existing social...

" is a similar term, coined by economist John Kenneth Galbraith
John Kenneth Galbraith
John Kenneth "Ken" Galbraith , OC was a Canadian-American economist. He was a Keynesian and an institutionalist, a leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism...

, referring to ostensibly pervasive knowledge or analysis.

See also

  • Common knowledge (logic)
    Common knowledge (logic)
    Common knowledge is a special kind of knowledge for a group of agents. There is common knowledge of p in a group of agents G when all the agents in G know p, they all know that they know p, they all know that they all know that they know p, and so on ad infinitum.The concept was first introduced in...

  • Common sense
    Common sense
    Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." Thus, "common sense" equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have...

  • Consensus reality
    Consensus reality
    Consensus reality is an approach to answering the philosophical question "What is real?" It gives a practical answer: reality is either what exists, or what we can agree seems to exist....

  • Conventional wisdom
    Conventional wisdom
    Conventional wisdom is a term used to describe ideas or explanations that are generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field. Such ideas or explanations, though widely held, are unexamined. Unqualified societal discourse preserves the status quo. It codifies existing social...

  • Cyc
    Cyc
    Cyc is an artificial intelligence project that attempts to assemble a comprehensive ontology and knowledge base of everyday common sense knowledge, with the goal of enabling AI applications to perform human-like reasoning....

    , an attempt to capture common sense in a computer system
  • Obliteration by incorporation
    Obliteration by incorporation
    In sociology of science, obliteration by incorporation occurs when at some stage in the development of a science, certain ideas become so accepted and common-use that their contributors are no longer cited...

  • Rule of thumb
    Rule of thumb
    A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination...

  • Social constructionism
    Social constructionism
    Social constructionism and social constructivism are sociological theories of knowledge that consider how social phenomena or objects of consciousness develop in social contexts. A social construction is a concept or practice that is the construct of a particular group...


Further reading

  • Cambria, E., Song, Y., Wang, H., Hussain, A. (2011) "Isanette: A Common and Common Sense Knowledge Base for Opinion Mining". Proceedings of ICDM11
  • R. Fagin, J. Y. Halpern, Y. Moses, and M. Y. Vardi. Reasoning about Knowledge, The MIT Press, 1995. ISBN 0-262-56200-6
  • Lewis, David
    David Kellogg Lewis
    David Kellogg Lewis was an American philosopher. Lewis taught briefly at UCLA and then at Princeton from 1970 until his death. He is also closely associated with Australia, whose philosophical community he visited almost annually for more than thirty years...

    . Convention: A philosophical study. Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

    , 1969.
  • J-J Ch. Meyer and W van der Hoek Epistemic Logic for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, volume 41, Cambridge Tracts in Theoretical Computer Science, Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 052146014X
  • Stalnaker, Robert
    Robert Stalnaker
    Robert C. Stalnaker is Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2007, he delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford University on the topic of Our Knowledge of the Internal World...

    . "Assertion". Pages 315–322 in P. Cole (ed.). Syntax and Semantics 9: Pragmatics, 1978.