PPE Speaker Series: Itai Sher

Itai Sher from the University of Massachusetts Amherst will give a talk on the topic “Reasons and Preferences” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on November 29, 2017, from 4-6 PM in Holden Auditorium. The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: The notion of preferences is fundamental to welfare analysis in economics, and one of the most basic principles concerning preferences is the Pareto principle: If everyone prefers x to y, then x ought to be socially preferred to y. The notion of preference that is used in economics does not include a representation of the reasons that people have for their preferences. Yet it is essential to preferences that people have reasons for holding them. This paper considers the consequences of taking reasons seriously. In particular it considers criticisms that have been leveled against the Pareto principle with an emphasis on the role of reasons for the preferences that people have. I consider two arguments for the Pareto principle, one that considers the satisfaction of preferences to be a good, and the other in terms of decision rights, which resonates with the anti-paternalistic rationales that are often given for Pareto. I find that neither argument fully justifies the principle.

PPE Distinguished Public Lecture: Martha C. Nussbaum


Professor Nussbaum is a highly accomplished scholar, a role model for women inside and outside of academia, and a pioneer with regard to issues of diversity and inclusion, especially in the context of the topic of social justice. Most recently, Professor Nussbaum won the 2016 Kyoto Prize for Thought and Ethics. The prize is often considered to be the most prestigious award offered in fields that are not eligible for a Nobel Prize.

Professor Nussbaum will speak on the topic of “Anger and Revolutionary Justice.” Her talk is based on materials presented in her most recent book Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (2016), which is based on her 2014 John Locke Lectures at Oxford University. In this book, Professor Nussbaum argues for a politics without anger that is guided by forgiveness. Professor Nussbaum’s talk should be of relevance to anybody who is interested in the political discourse in our society and its future, especially after the recent presidential election in the US.

No tickets are required for the lecture. The lecture will be followed by a public reception. You are cordially invited to attend.