Sociology is criticized for being merely common sense and stating the obvious but in more detail than

what we already know. Read and be informed…
Sociology and other social sciences focus on the study of certain aspects of human behavior. Yet human behavior is something with which we all have experience and about which we have at least a bit of knowledge. In our daily lives, we rely on common sense to get us through many unfamiliar situations. However, this knowledge while sometimes accurate is not always reliable because it rests on commonly held beliefs rather than systematic analysis of facts. Common sense is knowledge and awareness that is held communally (shared by majority of people). It does not depend on specialist education and in some respects states the obvious. Sociology is study of society and of people and their behavior. Positivists claim that it produces scientific knowledge. Many people argue that sociology merely state the obvious by reporting what common sense already tells us. In other words, sociology is criticized for being merely common sense and stating the obvious but in more detail than what we already know. Many sociologists have responded that common sense is wrong and obvious truths are not so obvious. Common sense ideas and explanations represent a form of social perspective since they claim to represent the things that everyone knows about the social world and / or human behavior. These ideas are not necessarily incorrect but they seem to be different from sociological forms of knowledge. Differences between sociology and common sense: 1. Common sense views are based on people’s immediate and often limited experiences. This leads to a distorted view of reality. Hence common sense knowledge is statement of the obvious which is simply based of assumption. Sociological views are based on rigorous research and therefore evidence based. This can either be based on large scale quantitative research or in-depth qualitative research. Sociology knowledge is, therefore, the product of theory development and testing. 2. Common sense views tend to reflect social traditions and conventions and therefore tend to reinforce the status quo and resist social change. Conflict approaches in sociology raise serious questions about the status quo and call for social change.

They see it as biased. Some postmodernists would claim that sociological knowledge is not superior to common sense knowledge. As sociology becomes a profession. E. Whether sociological knowledge is superior to common sense forms is a matter of debate. The only way to test common sense assumptions about society is to do it scientifically. Sociological knowledge has relatively greater reliability and validity. sociologists do not accept something as fact because ‘everyone knows it’. Common sense is often wrong but that does not prove that all common sense wrong. then analyzed in relationship to other data. the findings of sociologists may seem like common sense because they deal with facets of everyday life. Instead. Sociological views based on quantitative data are high in reliability and those based on qualitative data are high in validity. However. repeated and varying observations of the world. 4. Like other social scientists. This is because they claim that there is no such thing as the truth and therefore all knowledge is uncertain. each piece of information must be tested and recorded. Giddens claims that sociological knowledge often becomes common sense knowledge. On most important issues in sociology there are two or more theories and statements often contradicting each other. Sometimes sociological findings confirm the common sense view. Common sense is shown to be not only wrong but also contradictory.3. Some people possess more valid and empirical knowledge than others and this knowledge is indispensable for social life. It actively challenges stereotypes. Interactionist / social action theories recognize that social life is socially constructed and relative to time and place. However. Common sense views lack validity and reliability. sometimes they do not. . practitioners have more time to study individuals. At times. Sociologists of course stand up for sociology over common sense. Common sense – knowledge and understanding of social life – must be correct some of the time otherwise people who are not sociologists could not survive. groups and societies thereby having more advantages over most other people. this method is also partial and limited. Common sense views tend to be historically and culturally specific and are often based on stereotypical images. there are instances where people have profound understanding of the social world gained through careful. out of sight out of mind and absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sociology is more important than common sense as it is evidence based and challenges common sense views of the world and enhances human life and freedom. But there are also many cases in sociological writings where beliefs long held as factual have proven to be wrong or unsubstantiated. Sociology relies on scientific studies in order to describe and understand a social environment. Most sociologists describe common sense in very negative terms. subjective and incomplete.g.

is mainly concerned with what are usually called questions of methodology. Read more: http://socyberty. Collecting data to test these ideas in a systematic way. providing a framework for our research (in short a “research process”). This Unit. therefore. at least one crucial difference from sociological knowledge. therefore. “taken for granted” (if common sense knowledge is “what everyone knows”. This idea. why this distinction should be important. by and large. This everyday knowledge (or common sense) has. The hunch must be tested by the methods of science. is why do we need to “do research” in order false”. therefore. by noting that the objective of all research is to produce knowledge and the point of “doing research” is to produce knowledge that is true.This does not mean that there is no place for intuition or common sense in sociology. We will look at the concept of methodology in more detail in a moment. . but we can begin to understand the idea of a research process by thinking about the difference between common sense and sociological relates to the and. Analysing the collected data. produce and consume knowledge all the time without ever “doing research” (sociological or otherwise). Sociologically we usually express this as “not The key question. by knowledge principles we use as a means of extension. in their daily lives. in basic It is important that we view social research as something more than simply asking people a few questions. We’ll see why this distinction is important to “produce knowledge”? later The basic answer to this question is that we don’t. Drawing conclusions based on sociological evidence. But they can provide only hunches. getting their opinions and then trying to make some sort of sense out of the whole process. it is. These approaches are rich sources of insights. however. In this unit we are going to begin by looking at the idea that social research is planned and organised to reflect the idea that it involves such things as: • • • • Putting forward ideas that can be tested. then it follows that it goes unquestioned). People. We can start.

after all. knowledge that is not simply assumed to be true. actively contribute to the store of human knowledge that appears “self-evidently true” (until. Chemists. specifically. .) study the social world. It is. be impossible to society might include the idea that live in any society without taking some things for granted. the process of sociological research. Psychologists etc.This is not to say that sociological knowledge is never sociological knowledge from our “taken for granted” . it suggests that sociological knowledge is superior to common sense knowledge because it is based on evidence that comes from the systematic testing of ideas through research. assumptions that sociologists take Additionally. it suggests there are at least two ways of interpreting “social reality”. without overstating the case. in short. natural scientists (Physicists. lead us towards a consideration of sociological methodology or. It does. if you prefer. the distinction I’ve made between common sense (untested) and sociological (tested) knowledge is a device that helps us to think generally about the way knowledge can be produced and. sociological knowledge is not always opposed to common sense knowledge . Before we look at this question of methodology. about how sociological knowledge can be produced. someone else comes along and shows it to be false…). of behaviour (regularities) that must have a social cause. that we live in a class-based society and that gender inequalities exist between men and women. • Secondly. like any other social or natural scientists may. of course. one of the main This is not to say that common sense knowledge is for granted is that the social world always wrong. after all. Biologists. it is to say that sociological knowledge has been tested in some way. etc. it follows that they cannot both be right. However. in short. In addition. nor that sociological knowledge is always is characterised by certain patterns right (the relationship is much more complex than this). Just as social scientists ( would. since if it is possible for common sense and sociological knowledge say different things about the same phenomenon. there are two further points we can note arising from the distinction between common sense and sociological knowledge: • Firstly. Examples of “taken for granted” Rather. the powerful exploit the weak.sociologists.) study the natural world.

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