vulgar knowledge



We explain what vulgar knowledge is, its differences with other types of knowledge, characteristics and some examples.

The morals of fables like "The Cicada and the Ant" are part of common knowledge.

What is vulgar knowledge?

It is known as vulgar knowledge, prescientific knowledge or naive knowledge to those forms of knowing that arise from the direct and superficial interaction with the objects of the reality. It can also arise from the opinion of the people around us.

In both cases, it is built without mediating any type of validation method or system, analysis or rational demonstration. It is a kind of empirical knowledge, accessible to all persons equally, depending on the environment in which they live.

The philosopher Greek Plato (427-347 BC) was the first to formulate the distinction between vulgar knowledge (doxa) and formal or scientific knowledge (episteme). Even then, there was a need for some legitimation of knowledge, which would make it possible to distinguish between informed or educated opinions, from wild and ordinary ones, especially in matters that were of vital importance.

Hence, vulgar knowledge is distinguished from other demonstrable, rational forms of knowledge because no applies method, no demonstration or validation system to achieve your results. It is only based on an opinion, on a feeling or on the repetition of (what has been understood about) something that has been heard there.

Therefore, there is no guarantee that this type of knowledge is true or not, although it may well serve to provide solutions to problems immediate, concrete and individual.

Characteristics of vulgar knowledge

The term vulgar in this context it does not mean rude, but popular, since it comes from vulgus, a term of Latin origin that simply means "common." It is a type of "non-specialized" or "non-formed" knowledge, in a natural or wild state.

Due to its origin and the lack of method, this type of knowledge is usually:

  • Superficial. It lacks the tools to go beyond what is apparent or what the senses can perceive.
  • Subjective. It is based on personal, emotional positions, far from a formal analytical character.
  • Critical. It does not employ a validation system to sustain itself.
  • Social. It is based on the popular and on sharing one's own life experiences and those of others.

Examples of vulgar knowledge

Prejudices can be part of vulgar knowledge.

Some examples of vulgar knowledge are:

  • The sayings, which usually have some kind of teaching expressed through metaphors, parables or stories, but that involve a certain social “common sense”.
  • Pseudosciences, which are false or half interpretations (when not overtly manipulative) of other more complex scientific knowledge.
  • The prejudices, which sometimes come from the transmission from generation to generation, without having authorship and without being based on the direct experience of the individual.

Differences with scientific knowledge

Common knowledge is shared by everyone, within the community in what makes life. On the contrary, scientific knowledge is handled only in academic, specialized or school settings, which are not freely accessible to everyone, in part because they require a training or initiation to be fully understood.

This leads us to the second important distinction: scientific knowledge is testable, demonstrable and reproducible, since it adheres to a critical and universal method: the scientific method. Common knowledge lacks method, the need for demonstration and any form of systematicity, since it is not a form of organized knowledge.

Other types of knowledge

Other forms of knowledge are:

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