Towards a critical sociology: an essay on commonsense and by Zygmunt Bauman

By Zygmunt Bauman

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This ineptness of unaided commonsense to uncover the sternly deterministic order of the world and to account for its own hidden causes also provides the stuff of which the distinction between ‘essence’ and ‘existence’ have been ultimately forged. The impression usually given, and often deliberately enhanced, of scientific knowledge being an implacable enemy of commonsense (while, in fact, remaining its symbiotic adjunct) is due mostly to this circumstance. Science is expected only to ‘explain’ how the necessity of the outer world—already experienced as nature-like—comes into being; but it has to ‘prove’, in defiance of pre-scientific experience, that the kingdom of necessity embraces the totality of human life processes.

Deep in his heart a terrifying suspicion gnawed at his very ability to take part in the show: life was but a walking shadow; it was a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing… But to admit this to himself, to articulate this intolerable dread, was to refuse to act, to reject life and to choose death. It was the job of the priests to see to it that the suspicion never surfaced; in this they co-operated with the man-made structure of the life-process, designed in such a way as never to give the opportunity for ultimate questions and final 28 Towards a Critical Sociology: An Essay on Commonsense and Emancipation choices.

If they render meaningful and intelligible the available knowledge of the individual situation, and lend apparent coherence to the disparate odds and ends of the individual’s previous experience. The probability of their acceptance will be further augmented if, in addition, they succeed in pointing out a hopefully reliable way of resolving a task experienced as unpleasant, or stabilizing a situation felt as satisfactory. Their rejection, on the other hand, will by no means be inevitable, unless they appear grossly to contradict previously amassed, experience-supported knowledge.

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