An epistemological plea for methodological individualism and rational choice theory in cognitive rhetoric

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 32 (1):51-70 (2002)
Some current attempts to go beyond the narrow scope of rational choice theory (RCT) in the social sciences and the artificial reconstructions it sometimes provides focus on the arguments that people give to justify their beliefs and behaviors themselves. But the available argumentation theories are not constructed to fill this gap. This article argues that relevance theory, on the contrary, suggests interesting tracks. This provocative idea requires a rereading of Sperber and Wilson's theory. Actually, the authors do not explicitly support RCT, and Sperber has even strongly criticized methodological individualism, which most of the time underlies RCT, in favor of infra-individualism. A key point of the argument presented here is to show that Sperber and Wilson do not firmly distinguish between infra-individualism and subintentionality. Only subintentionality is needed. Key Words: argumentation • rational choice • relevance theory • methodological individualism.
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DOI 10.1177/004839310203200103
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