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Sociology and Common Sense

Common sense is defined as routine knowledge that people have of their everyday world and activities. It is usually base on naturalistic and individualistic explanation based on taken for granted knowledge. Sociology is distinguished from common sense on various levels. Common sense usually takes cues from what appears on the surface whereas sociology looks for inter connections and root causes that may not be apparent. According to Peter Berger the fascination of sociology lies in the fact that its perspective makes us see in a new light the very world in which we have lived our lives. Sociology uses logic and reason; common sense uses conjectures and stereotypical beliefs. The common sense views are based upon the images that get reinforced through tradition. Sociological knowledge challenges these traditions and stereotypes. A single perspective does not bind sociology. Common sense is based upon assumptions whereas sociology looks for empirical evidence. Empirical testing does not have any value in common sense which is critical in sociological research. Sociological knowledge is objective and it can results into generalization and even theoretical formulations where as common sense is intuitive and even personal. Sociological knowledge is change oriented. Common sense is unreflective since it does not question the origin. Therefore every common sense observation about society is not a sociological, it is the way of looking at things that distinguishes sociology and common sense. However sociology and common sense complements each other on some points. Sociology is framed by taking into consideration the commonsense knowledge. Common sense helps sociologists in hypothesis building. The common sense provides raw data for sociological imaginations. It tends to answer questions generated from common sense knowledge.

Common sense helps sociology by challenging its conclusions and thereby enriching the discipline. According to Anthony Giddens sometimes-sociological knowledge also becomes part of common sense knowledge. According to Post Modernists the sociological knowledge is no superior to common sense as there is no such thing as complete gospel and sociological principles and equally uncertain as a common sense. According to Goffman this is the knowledge that people use to make judgments and navigate their way around the world. According to ethno methodologists, though the words used by the people in everyday speech are not subject to rigorous definition and there are no set criteria for establishing what other people mean or are talking about people manage well enough with this seemingly unsystematic body of knowledge called common sense. According to Gramsci common sense can be identified with the masses and theoretical thoughts with the elite. Sociologist's perception towards common sense changed over time as the discipline evolved.