Alban BOUVIER is Senior Fellow at the Institut Jean Nicod of the Ecole Normale Superieure of Paris and Professor in the Departments of Philosophy, Sociology, and Economics, at the University of Aix-Marseille I . The main areas of his teaching are the philosophy of social sciences, the philosophy of social phenomena, theoretical sociology, social epistemology, and cognitive sociology. Recently, he has also taught philosophy of science, with a special focus on social aspects of science. His area of specialization is argumentation theory and its links to social epistemology and cognitive sociology.
After his education in continental and analytical philosophy at the University of Rennes, Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) and Pantheon-Sorbonne (Paris I), his Ph.D. (Paris-Sorbonne) was devoted to the construction of a general theory of argumentation in line with Stuart Mill’s System of Logic, Pareto’s Trattato di Sociologia Generale (trans. as Mind and Society) and Chaïm Perelman’s Treatise on Argumentation. Within this framework, he introduced conceptual tools borrowed from the philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology and contemporary linguistics, such as Dan Sperber’s and Deirdre Wilson’s pragmatics (Relevance). This argumentation theory was applied to two philosophical masterpieces, Descartes’ Metaphysical Meditations and Rousseau’s Contrat Social. Then, he extended his investigations to many other case studies (scientific, ethical, political, aesthetical, religious argumentations - either classical or contemporary) and both reformulated and completed his theoretical framework. At the same time, he extensively wrote on the relevance of Pareto’s intuitions for contemporary argumentation theory. Recently he emphasized the relationships between argumentation theory and social epistemology, in line with Alvin Goldman’s work. He published several papers within the framework of contemporary social epistemology.
As an Assistant and an Associate Professor at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, he worked closely with Raymond Boudon, a French sociologist and philosopher who is a leading figure of both Methodological Individualism and an extended version of Rational Choice Theory, close to Popper’s situational analysis and Davidson’s principle of charity. While writing The Art of Self-Persuasion, Boudon had also been Bouvier’s supervisor for his Ph.D. thesis. In this second part of his scientific career, Bouvier focused on issues more typically linked to the philosophy of social sciences and social theory, although with a special interest in the connections between argumentation theory, on the one hand, and Rational Choice Theory and Methodological Individualism, on the other hand. His work includes assessments and extensions of contemporary social theories such as James Coleman’s, Jon Elster’s and other similar kinds of analytical sociology.
As a full Professor at the University of Provence (Aix-Marseille), Alban Bouvier's present focus is on the boundaries of classical Methodological Individualism and on the criticisms coming both from a new infra-individualistic trend (Sperber but also Ainslie, Coleman, etc.) and from the holistic tradition (e.g. Margaret Gilbert or Philip Pettit). Many of his recent papers are devoted to the relevance of various new accounts of collective intentionality (especially in science), always confronting theory with case studies. E.g., “Group commitments” can actually hinder the acceptance of logically valid arguments (case studies devoted to the Copenhagen School in Quantum Mechanics and to the Austrian School of Economics). Other papers concern deliberative and discursive democracy issues (see, e.g., Rawls, Habermas, Elster or Pettit), another domain where argumentation is supposed to play a major role (case studies devoted to French contemporary debates about protection of the environment and construction of the European Union).
The main issue tackled by Bouvier from the beginning of his scientific and philosophical career can be summarized in a unique and simple question: to what extent can collective beliefs be modified by logically valid reasons?