Sociology Index

Mundane Reasoning

The existence within the everyday world or mundane world of the way in which we share conceptions of social facts is mundane reasoning. Commonsense reasoning is also referred to as mundane reasoning. Since the objectivity of the world as a practical accomplishment is the focus of ethnomethodology, mundane reasoning is a primary topic of investigation.

Melvin Pollner’s sociology of mundane reasoning and conversation analysis provides a revolutionary view of the role of accounts in everyday life, and also provides a basic framework for understanding how norms of conversational organization are sustained across time periods. Conversational Analysis is one of three central themes that are the focus of ethnomethodology, the other two being mundane reasoning and membership categorization.

There is an objective world that exists independently of the knower and that is accessible to competent perceivers, and this assumption forms the basis of mundane reasoning. Commonsense reasoning is a term derived from Alfred Schutz, referring to the practical or everyday reasoning used by members of society to create and sustain a sense of social reality as being objective, factual, predictable and external to themselves.

If there is one real world available to all, how can two people see or experience it differently? But mundane reasoning also provided ways of resolving these nascent reality disjunctions while preserving the notion of one common real world; notably, by “discrediting one version as the product of a faulted or inadequate method of observing the world.”

Mundane reasoning by settling on a plausible model - M. Derthick. Artificial Intelligence Archive.

Mundane Reasoning - Melvin Pollner - Philosophy of the Social Sciences. 1974. Melvin Pollner examined the ways in which this reality – the ordinarily unquestioned conviction of “an ‘out there,’ ‘public’ or ‘objective’ world” - is produced and sustained in ordinary interaction. This work on mundane reasoning is remarkable on several counts. First, Mel turned these issues from airy philosophical speculations to grounded empirical evidence studies, examining the actual uses of mundane reason in an ordinary setting, a municipal traffic court.

Melvin Pollner showed how the very same problems in recognizing and sustaining a sense of an objective reality routinely arose and were handled in ordinary, everyday exchanges in traffic court through the processes of mundane reasoning. Melvin Pollner provided a detailed case study of these processes of reality construction by analyzing how a family produced and sustained a version of their five year old daughter as of normal intelligence and verbal competence against clinical diagnoses of profound retardation. Melvin Pollner argued that mundane reasoning's assumption of the objectivity of the world generated everyday puzzles or anomalies on the order of “how come he saw it and you did not?”

Mundane reasoning by parallel constraint satisfaction - Mark Derthick, Publisher Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh.

Beyond mundane reason: Conversation analysis and context. Jenny Mandelbaum.