Is Peace-Building Common Sense?
Download article in PDF

Issue 1:2

Richard Lappin

Is Peace-Building Common Sense?

Peace, it is often claimed, is common sense. Whilst many of us feel a normative bond to this claim, the continuation of violence would suggest that the fostering of sustainable peace remains an elusive goal. Perhaps it is time to re-examine this most fundamental of claims if we are to accept the true complexities that are involved in peace building.

Common sense is one of those fantastically frustrating phrases that is used with significant frequency, yet is annoyingly difficult to comprehend. The Collins English Dictionary defines common sense as: ‘Plain ordinary good judgement; sound practical sense.’ In terms of semantic usage, I have no qualms with this definition. Indeed, most people often follow up their appeals to common sense by claiming ‘its obvious’ or ‘everybody would have done that’. However, this is where I begin to doubt exactly what knowledge is obvious or what is common to the majority. Interestingly, the bulk of research on common sense comes in the discipline of Artificial Intelligence which seeks to instil a range of basic information to help computers/robots function with a greater fluency and naturalness. The common sense they attribute includes basic facts such as ‘fire is hot’ and ‘people do not walk on their heads.’

Could the principles of peace building be added to this canon of common sense? Advocates would argue a resounding yes. They would state that you do not need any esoteric knowledge or a postgraduate degree in conflict resolution to understand that peace is a “good thing.” However, this claim is immediately rendered insensible by the continuation of violent conflict which clearly illustrates that some people profit from war, whilst others see it at the very least form of ‘common sense’ and the only way that they can maintain or change their world order.

2020 - Volume 14 Issue 1