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The Structure of Common Sense and Its Relation to Engagement and Social Change – A Pragmatist Account

Srđan Prodanović (2022)

Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 51(3), pp. 211-226. Open access.

Abstract. There are three approaches one can take toward the epistemic value of common sense. The pessimists will argue that common sense, due to its intrinsic tendency to reproduce prejudice and ideology, should somehow be displaced. Conversely, the optimist will maintain that common sense is a valuable type of knowledge because it prevents us from overlooking evident practical problems. This article aims to show that (a) neither of these two widespread accounts can explain why public invocation of common sense is, in fact, a reliable indicator that the reproduction of norms and rules of a given society is in crisis, and is therefore essentially a call for social engagement. And, more importantly, that (b) only the third, pragmatist approach to common sense can provide insight into its structure. This more diversified and interdisciplinary view can, in turn, shed new light on the relation between everyday knowledge and social theory.

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