These ideas might be true/false, but people just assume them. An example would be: you need some kind of money/currency for a civilization to be functional.

  • why not just call those "assumptions"?
    – user5172
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 21:26
  • sure, that fits, I just thought that this is a very specific form of it, which I imagined would've been researched already, thus having some more specific terminology. After all, most assumptions are not shared between all people, and do not live for thousands of years.
    – Ashnur
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 22:02
  • 1
    "Ideas which are commonly held without justification or questioning" hehe, that describes most of the ideas anyone holds. Very rarely do you have cast iron irrefutable proof of anything you think is true. You only start expecting justification when you disagree. If you agree, you just accept. If you disagree, your standard of proof suddenly skyrockets or you simply dismiss or ignore.
    – AndrewC
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 23:20
  • Because people have very high standards of proof for things they don't initially agree with, they wrongly assume they were very careful, rigorous and skeptical before accepting everything they believe and see themselves as very logical, rational or empirical. This is a commonly held fallacy. Imagine your least favourite political group were in charge for the last 5 years and your friend tells you "68% of households actually became worse off in the last 4 years". What if it said better, not worse? The truth is that you probably decide whether to believe it or not without moving a muscle.
    – AndrewC
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 23:43
  • 1
    Conventional wisdom? Common knowledge?
    – user4894
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 0:25

4 Answers 4


There are quite a few terms; I originally phrased my question What is an “unarticulated background”? to as for other terms. Here are the terms I've discovered so far:

  1. "tacit knowledge"
  2. "unarticulated background"
  3. "form of life"
  4. "social fact"/"taken-for-grantedness"
  5. "collective unconscious"/"collective representation"
  6. "context"
  7. "rule"

I particularly suggest looking at social fact, it comes from the sociology of knowledge, which began to exist in its current form after Berger and Luckmann published The Social Construction of Reality.


These could be referred to variously as common knowledge, common sense, assumptions, conventional wisdom and various other terms, depending on the correctness or otherwise that you are ascribing/insinuating of them.

For instance, if you wish to imply that something without known proof is true, you may choose to state that "it is common knowledge that...", but to imply that you believe an assumption is false you may choose "it is conventional wisdom that ..." . All such arguments encourage the listener to proceed without explicit proof, and should in such a case be carefully scrutinised.

  • Thank you, although not what I expected, but the term "conventional wisdom" fits what I was looking for.
    – Ashnur
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 22:28

Looking for specific term to describe those ideas which are commonly held without proper justification or questioning? What about "putative"?

  • it's a good word :)
    – Ashnur
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 8:06

Two words in the English language accurately describe any belief, confidence or trust in a person, object, religion, idea or view despite the absence of proof. Those words are faith and prejudice.

Whereas the word "faith" carries a positive conotation and the word "prejudice" carries a negative conotation, both represent the same fundamental concept.

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.

-- Albert Einstein

  • This was what I expected, sorry that I only see it now :)
    – Ashnur
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 9:21

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