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Common Sense Explanations of the Social World.

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Introduction

Common Sense Explanations of the Social World What are the main limitations of "common sense" explanations of the social world? How do sociological explanations provide a more firmly grounded alternative? Throughout history, people have been trying to make sense of the changes that occur around them in every-day life. "Common sense" explanations can only provide a limited understanding whereas sociology offers considerably more accurate insights into the social geography of the society in which we live. These "common sense" explanations of the social world, both individualistic and naturalistic perspectives have their respective limitations. In this essay, I aim to examine these limitations and show how sociological explanations provide a more firmly grounded alternative. Common sense explanations of everyday life are based on a single reality that members of society tend to take for granted. These definitions are a form of social perspective, representing what is regarded as common knowledge about human behaviour. The main drawback of this perception is that it eliminates the need for arguments, which are blocked in favour of a conformity of belief. ...read more.

Middle

Contradictory to this argument, the modern tendency to promote individuality, social class, gender and ethnicity remain powerful predicators of, for example, how well students perform in school. Therefore, individualistic explanations of the social world are shown to be by no means conclusive. Naturalistic explanations are based entirely on natural or biological needs. Natural science provides explanations of how real-world events happen, giving both cause and effect to answer any given question. Such views directly link biological science with the development of social identities. However, naturalistic conceptions fall into the trap of biological determinism; attempting to explain all aspects of human behaviour in terms of inherited biological characteristics that people have as human beings. A good example of this would be the need to eat. The need for food is a basic instinct, but the types of food that people choose to eat varies greatly between cultures, social classes and historical periods. Sociological views note a difference between fundamental and biological needs and "media induced consumption", reflecting that much human action is not so much need as desire. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sociology does not attempt to produce a set of cast iron laws and rules, but instead acts as a guideline to follow when looking at current society. Sociological theories eliminate some of the problems these common sense explanations present by focusing on social conditions rather than on the genetic, biological or psychological factors which affect people. They can offer a much better understanding of social identity: the way in which each individual locates themselves within the society they live. Sociologist JS Mills said of the sociological perspective: "The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society". So, in conclusion, despite the fact that common sense explanations give us some understanding of why changes occur in our society, this way of looking at things is rather limited. A sociological perspective offers a much more firmly grounded alternative through research and tested theories. This method is preferable due to the fact that it is based on hard evidence rather than what is seen to be "common knowledge". F. Winter (Journalism 1, tutorial group Q) ...read more.

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