8 junio, 2024

Common knowledge: characteristics and examples

The concept of common knowledge refers to those ideas and notions that are acquired from the experience of people and that are usually transmitted from generation to generation. It is knowledge that is accepted as true, without the need for verification and that is used to solve problems of daily life.

In general, this knowledge is incorporated spontaneously in daily dealings with objects and with other individuals. It is a learning that develops irregularly, naturally and unplanned.

Within a community, these ideas and notions pass from one to the other and are accepted as valid without the need for each individual to live or corroborate them in their own flesh. They can arise from an opinion, a feeling or the repetition of what has been heard, so they do not offer a guarantee of their veracity.

Common knowledge is opposed to scientific knowledge, which is that which is obtained through reflection, logical reasoning, methodical analysis and verification.


Characteristics of common knowledge

Its origin is not known

Common knowledge is characterized by having a diffuse origin and by not using any method or demonstration system to assert its validity. On the contrary, its structure is based on the apparent and does not seek to find a relationship with the facts.

sensitive and superficial

In addition, it stands out for being: a) sensitive, since it is based on the sensations and feelings of the person, b) and superficial, since it does not delve into its analysis.

Subjectivity and dogmatism

Other of its features are subjectivity, because its internalization depends on judgment, positions and own values; and dogmatism, while its acceptance is based on unproven beliefs and answers.


On the other hand, common knowledge is also unsystematic, since it does not conform to any logic or system or has a connection with other elements, and arbitrary, since it does not consider other notions or ideas.

it’s superficial

In the same way, in it there is no deepening in the process of knowing, but only reference is made to what is evident or to what emerges from a simple observation.

In short, it is practical knowledge that is accepted without any reflection and is generally based on emotional factors.

etymology and history

In this case, the use of the word «vulgar» does not refer to something inappropriate or rude, but points to what is common or general, as opposed to what is technical or special.

This term derives from the Latin “vulgaris” which means “belonging to the common people”. It comes from «vulgus», which translates as people or vulgar, and is understood as the group of people who do not know more than the superficial part of a subject.

The Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 BC), in his work The Republicwas the first thinker who distinguished between common knowledge (doxa) and scientific knowledge (episteme).

The first was qualified as a common belief or mere opinion, while the second was valued as knowledge justified as true, for being more true and truthful.

Examples of common knowledge


Prejudices are an example of common knowledge. In many cases these do not have a defined authorship, they come from the transmission from one generation to the other and are maintained without the person himself having a personal experience on which to base himself.


Proverbs are also a type of vulgar knowledge, since their teachings have a popular origin and end up being considered valid from repeating them so much.


Another case is that of superstitions, where certain beliefs are preserved without having any rational foundation. Thus, people often affirm that the color black, opening an umbrella in a closed place or breaking a mirror bring bad luck, without relying on any logic.

Tips and traditions

In the same way, the typical advice that comes from the times of our grandparents, such as that drinking a glass of water cures hiccups or that it is dangerous to go into the sea after eating, are examples of vulgar knowledge.

On the other hand, traditions can also be included within this group, such as the fact that wearing a ring on the finger means that the person is married or that gnocchi should be eaten on the 29th of each month.

popular knowledge

In addition, some popular knowledge, such as that the earth is round, or that it revolves around the sun, are also examples of common knowledge, since most incorporate them by repetition and not based on their own analysis.

Differences with scientific knowledge

Common knowledge differs from scientific knowledge in that the latter is that which is obtained through hypotheses, reasoning, study and verification.

This knowledge is acquired consciously, in response to an intentional search. It is not usually available to everyone, but is handled in academic and specialized fields.

Characteristics of scientific knowledge

Unlike the vulgar, this knowledge is characterized by having a specific origin and by using demonstration systems to assert its validity.

In addition, it stands out for being rational, since it is based on analysis and the elaboration of conjectures, and objective, since it refers to the facts themselves, regardless of one’s own way of thinking or feeling.

Another of its particularities is being methodical, because it follows a planning and an order that is intentional, and progressive, while there is a permanent advance.

On the other hand, scientific knowledge is also systematic, since it conforms to a logic and is connected to other ideas and elements, and cumulative, since it starts from other established knowledge and serves as the basis for others to come.

Finally, its main characteristic is that it is verifiable and can be tested empirically.

Themes of interest

Types of knowledge.

subjective knowledge.

Objective knowledge.

rational knowledge.

Technical knowledge.

intuitive knowledge.

Direct knowledge.

Intellectual knowledge.

Empirical knowledge.


Fagin, R.; JY Halpern, Y. Moses, and MY Vardi (1995). Reasoning about Knowledge, The MIT Press.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. What is Common Knowledge? Academic Integrity at MIT. A Handbook for Students. Available at: integrity.mit.edu
Plato (381 BC). The Republic.
Common knowledge. Available at: wikipedia.org
etymological dictionary. Available at: etimologias.dechile.net

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