Common knowledge  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Common knowledge is knowledge that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community in which the term is used. Common knowledge need not concern one specific subject, e.g., science or history. Rather, common knowledge can be about a broad range of subjects, including science, literature, history, entertainment etc. Often, common knowledge does not need to be cited. Common knowledge is distinct from general knowledge. 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 (Latin: "appeal to the people"). The fallacy essentially warns against assuming that just because everyone believes something is true, it is. Misinformation 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 is usually applied in cases involving phenomena associated with astronomy, mathematics, physics, and the general laws of nature. In legal settings, rules of evidence generally exclude hearsay (which may draw on "facts" someone believes to be "common knowledge").

"Conventional wisdom" is a similar term, coined by economist John Kenneth Galbraith, referring to ostensibly pervasive knowledge or analysis.

Examples

Examples of Common Knowledge:

  • "Paris is the [current] Capital of France." Many capital cities of states are considered common knowledge by most people.
  • "The Moon orbits the Earth." Observation of the moon shows us that this happens. In addition, scientific findings give confirmation.

See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Common knowledge" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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