Luc Bovens


Biographical data




I did my undergraduate and MA studies in Social Sciences and graduated with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota in 1990. I taught in the University of Colorado at Boulder from 1990-2003 and in the London School of Economics and Political Science from 2003 till now, where I am currently Head of the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method and Coordinator of the MSc Programme Philosophy and Public Policy.  


I have always had an affinity for the tools of analytic philosophy combined with modelling techniques from the social sciences and economics.  Over the years, I have set these tools to work on widely remote areas in philosophy, ranging from general philosophy of science and epistemology to various corners of value theory, as well as on projects in political science.  With few exceptions, my work has a strong empirical angle and is in some manner continuous with the practice of economics, the social sciences or policy-making, be it methodologically or in its subject matter. 



I developed a Bayesian Networks approach to confirmation, evidence and reliability in philosophy of science and to the coherence theory of justification in epistemology with Erik J. Olsson and Stephan Hartmann.   In the same probabilistic vein, there is a line of work on various puzzles and paradoxes in epistemology and rationality such as: the surprise exam; Moore’s paradox; the evidential value of miracles; the conjunction fallacy (with Hartmann); the lottery and the preface paradoxes (with James Hawthorne); the Monty Hall, the Judy Benjamin & the Sleeping Beauty (with José Luis Ferreira); and most recently the puzzle of the hats, adapted from a puzzle in computer science (with Wlodek Rabinowicz). 


In political philosophy and political science, Rabinowicz and I have written on democratic voting and the discursive dilemma. With Claus Beisbart, I published a range of articles on voting power and the representation in federal assemblies, such as the US Electoral College or the EU Council of Ministers.  More recently I have done empirical work on fairness and equal burden-sharing in EU asylum policies analysing UNHCR data with Laura Smead, Chlump Chatkupt and Günperi Sisman.   


I have always been intrigued by various topics of moral psychology, such as believing at will, preference change, moral luck, the nature of hope, the practice of apologies and forgiveness, and autonomy. The latter connects with my interest in the feasibility, desirability and permissibility of Nudge Policies--i.e. social policies based on behavioural economics. 




In recent years, my attention was drawn to the problem of policy choice for policies that involve risk for the affected parties, starting with a joint paper on life-or-death prospects with Marc Fleurbaey.  I am currently developing the Distribution View—an approach to ordering prospects which incorporates various distributional sensitivities of the social planner. 


Newest is a joint paper with Rabinowicz that lays out an Anatomy of Regret based on a curious Once-Is-not-Never game.  The challenge is to understand the many ways in which we can register and measure regret after making choices involving risk or uncertainty.  The game shows that, counter to what one would expect, single sampling can make a huge difference to betting strategies for choice under uncertainty.