March 13, 2017 – Each academic year, the PPE Program selects up to three undergraduate students to serve as ambassadors for the program. The primary tasks of the student ambassadors are to (i) promote the PPE Program at Virginia Tech, (ii) work closely with the PPE Program Director as well as with the program’s faculty and staff, and (iii) serve as a student contact for PPE events, such as the PPE Speaker Series and the PPE Distinguished Public Lecture.
The application process for next year’s PPE Student Ambassadorships is now open. Any student who is enrolled for the PPE Minor (or will enroll for the PPE Minor) is eligible to apply. Please submit (i) a short personal statement that explains your interest in becoming a PPE Student Ambassador and (ii) your resume, which includes your academic credentials and extracurricular activities. The application materials must be submitted to Professor Moehler (email@example.com) by April 10, 2017.
For additional questions, please contact Professor Moehler in the Department of Philosophy at Virginia Tech. We look forward to receiving your applications!
March 01, 2017 – Gerald Davis from the University of Michigan will give a talk on the topic “New Institutions for a New Economic Order” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on March 22, 2017, from 4-6 PM in Surge 117a. 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: Ubiquitous information and communication technologies are radically changing what organizations look like, and in many cases rendering formal organizations unsustainable. As ongoing organizations are replaced by supply chains and pop-up enterprises, we face renewed philosophical questions around ontology (what counts as a ‘firm?’), epistemology (can organizations know things?), and ethics (who can and should be held responsible in a world of dispersed enterprise?). Organization theorists have a number of advantages in helping construct both new theories and new institutions to help channel the economic forces unleased by information and communication technologies for human benefit.
UPDATE. Due to illness, Martha Nussbaum has had to postpone the PPE Distinguished Public Lecture that was scheduled for February 24. We will try to reschedule the lecture for a later date and apologize for any inconvenience.
January 18, 2017 – The Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics will host its PPE Distinguished Public Lecture on February 24, 2017 (Haymarket Theatre, 4-6pm). The lecture will be delivered by Professor Martha 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! For more information, please follow this link!
January 12, 2017 – Here is the program of the PPE Speaker Series for Spring 2017. The PPE Speaker Series forms an integral part of the curricula of the PPE Gateway Course and the PPE Capstone Course. All students and faculty are welcome to attend the talks!
November 10, 2016 – Jonathan Anomaly from UNC-Chapel Hill will give a PPE Talk on the topic “What’s Wrong with Factory Farming” at Virginia Tech. The talk will take place on Wednesday, November 16, from 4-6 PM, in 223 Engel Hall. 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: Factory farming continues to grow around the world as a low-cost way of producing animal products for human consumption. However, many of the practices associated with intensive animal farming have been criticized by public health professionals and animal welfare advocates. The aim of this essay is to raise three independent moral concerns with factory farming, and to explain why the practices associated with factory farming flourish despite the cruelty inflicted on animals and the public health risks imposed on people. I conclude that the costs of factory farming as it is currently practiced far outweigh the benefits, and offer a few suggestions for how to improve the situation for animals and people.
November 01, 2016 – The Department of Engineering Education has joined the PPE Program at Virginia Tech as a new affiliated core department of the program.
October 18, 2016 – Cedric de Leon from Providence College will give a PPE Talk on the topic “The Origins of Right to Work: Race, Class, Party and the Freedom of Contract” at Virginia Tech. The talk will take place on Wednesday, October 26, from 4-6 PM, in 223 Engel Hall. 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: ‘Right to work’ states weaken collective bargaining rights and limit the ability of unions to effectively advocate on behalf of workers. As more and more states consider enacting right-to-work laws, observers trace the contemporary attack on organized labor to the 1980s and the Reagan era or the early 1950s and the immediate aftermath of the Taft-Hartley Act. In contrast, I argue that this antagonism began a century earlier with the Northern victory in the U.S. Civil War, when the political establishment revised the English common-law doctrine of conspiracy to equate collective bargaining with the enslavement of free white men.
September 30, 2016 – The Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Virginia Tech will host the PPE Distinguished Public Lecture in February 2017. The lecture will be delivered by Professor Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago).
The lecture is open to the public with no tickets required. You are cordially invited to attend the lecture and the public reception afterwards. For further information concerning the lecture, please follow this link.
September 20, 2016 – Gwen Bradford from Rice University will give a PPE Talk on the topic "The Badness of Pain" at Virginia Tech. The talk will take place on Wednesday, September 28, from 4-6 PM, in 223 Engel Hall. 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: Why is pain bad? The literature abounds with discussion of well-being, but there is so little about what is bad for us that you would think we’re in denial about it. Ideally, an account of pain’s badness will fulfill these desiderata: (1) capture the badness of pain broadly construed, i.e., both physical and psychological, (2) give a univocal explanation for human and animal pain, and (3) entail that only pain that is indeed intrinsically bad is bad. There are two central puzzles, namely pain that is enjoyed and pain that is not painful (as experienced by people with asymbolia for pain). A new view is proposed, reverse conditionalism, and it is argued that this view does best in fulfilling the desiderata and capturing enjoyable pain and asymbolia cases.
August 22, 2016 – Here is the program of the PPE Speaker Series for Fall 2016. The PPE Speaker Series forms an integral part of the curricula of the PPE Gateway Course and the PPE Capstone Course. All students and faculty are welcome to attend the talks!
March 23, 2016 – Bas van der Vossen from UNC Greensboro will give a talk on the topic “When Enough and As Good Isn’t Good Enough” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on April 06, 2016, from 4-6 PM in Surge 117a. 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 Lockean project in political philosophy aims to justify individual rights of private property. In such a society, people have rights of ownership that enable them to accumulate and exchange possessions, that protect their freedom to use these possessions more or less as they please, and that allow them to exclude others. I will call such a society a propertied society. One of the aims of Lockean theory is to defend the justice of propertied societies. Traditionally, Locke’s ‘enough and as good’ proviso forms, in one way or another, an important part of this defense. In this paper, I argue that our standard conceptions of the proviso are mistaken and need to be replaced with one that focuses on a particularly Lockean idea of freedom. This idea of freedom requires the non-subjection to the wills of others. The point of the proviso, then, is to ensure this non-subjection in propertied society. I close by exploring the ways in which robustly competitive labor markets may help societies approach this Lockean ideal.
March 03, 2016 – The School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech will organize a roundtable discussion on the topic “Financial Inclusion and Digital Platforms” on March 24, 2016, from 6-8pm.
The event will take place at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, but will be broadcasted simultaneously to Blacksburg via polycom (CAUS’s Dean Conference Room, 202 Cowgill Hall). For more information about the event, please follow this link.
February 22, 2016 – Kevin Vallier from Bowling Green State University will give a talk on the topic “Three Concepts of Political Stability” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on March 02, 2016, from 4-6 PM in Surge 117a. 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 dominant approach to state legitimacy in political philosophy, public reason liberalism, includes an ideal of political stability where justified institutions reach a kind of self-enforcing equilibrium. Citizens of a stable society generally recognize that all, or nearly all, people have sufficient reason to comply with directives issued by publicly justified institutions, such that unilateral deviations from those directives leads to a worse outcome from the defector’s point of view. In this talk, I contend that a more sophisticated model of social stability, specifically an agent-based model, yields a richer and more accurate ideal of political stability than what has appeared in the literature thus far. In particular, an agent-based model helps us to distinguish between three concepts of political stability—durability, balance, and immunity. A well-ordered society is one that possesses a high degree of social trust and cooperative behavior among its citizens (durability) with low short-run variability (balance). A well-ordered society also resists destabilization caused by non-compliant agents in or entering the system (immunity). Previous work on political stability within public reason liberalism has depended upon a single, coherent notion of stability. My tripartite distinction weakens attempts to elaborate, defend, and refute public reason views that employ a single, coherent notion of stability.
February 03, 2016 – Christopher Freiman from the College of William & Mary will give a talk on the topic “Should States Allow Markets in Citizenship?” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on February 10, 2016, from 4-6 PM in Surge 117a. 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: Recent work in economics and philosophy defends the state’s sale of citizenship. This paper defends the private sale of citizenship or a citizenship market—I argue that people ought to be permitted to privately exchange their citizenship with citizens of another country for their citizenship plus financial remuneration. Citizenship markets would enable Pareto improvements and create new opportunities to raise the income of the global poor. I then address a variety of objections and conclude that whatever vices citizenship markets have are outweighed by their virtues.
January 26, 2016 – Professor David Bieri, a Core Affiliate of the PPE Program at Virginia Tech, will give a talk on the topic “Back to the Future: Lösch, Isard, and the Place of Money and Credit in Regional Science” at West Virginia University on January 28, 2016, from 12:30-1:30pm. Here is an abstract of the talk:
In a radical break with its origins over half a century ago, the contemporary canon of regional economic theory has enshrined the classical dichotomy, treating the spheres of money and production as analytically distinct. Regional analysis thus handles the monetary-financial system as the proverbial veil which renders money and financial interrelations at best a source for short-term frictions, but not relevant to the determination of regional market equilibria. In short, real factors determine real regional variables. The recent financial crisis has been a powerful reminder that money and finance are also – always and everywhere – local phenomena with real effects. In a renewed engagement with regional aspects of money and credit, this talk re-examines the monetary content in the foundational works of two of the central intellectual pillars of the project of North American regional science, August Lösch and Walter Isard – the former a student of Joseph Schumpeter's and the latter a student of Alvin Hansen's, both Lösch and Isard represent important branches in the long lineage of 20th century Continental and U.S. monetary thought, respectively.
January 18, 2016 – Here is the program of the PPE Speaker Series for Spring 2016. The PPE Speaker Series forms an integral part of the curricula of the PPE Gateway Course and the PPE Capstone Course. All students and faculty are welcome to attend the talks!
November 15, 2015 – Andrew Barber, the current PPE Student Ambassador, will present a paper at the XII. Conference of the International Network for Economic Method (INEM) in Cape Town, South Africa, November 19-22, 2015. The keynote speakers of the conference include Nancy Cartwright (Durham University, formerly London School of Economics) and Glenn Harrison (C.V. Starr Chair in Risk Management and Insurance, Georgia State University).
November 12, 2015 – The Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Virginia Tech will host its first annual PPE Distinguished Public Lecture in the fall semester 2016 and seeks nominations from students and faculty for the speaker of the event.
The PPE Distinguished Public Lecture aims to foster dialogue among students, faculty, and the general public about core problems that our contemporary societies face. The speaker will be a distinguished scholar of international reputation whose research cuts across the disciplinary boundaries of philosophy, political science, and economics and has significant social relevance, including in areas such as business, engineering, public policy, and environmental conservation.
The PPE Distinguished Public Lecture is supported by the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Political Science, and the Department of Economics, as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the College of Science at Virginia Tech.
October 28, 2015 – Barry Maguire from UNC-Chapel Hill will give a talk on the topic “Rational Choice in Deontic Contexts” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on November 11, 2015, from 4-6 PM in Pamplin Hall 30. 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: A number of puzzles focus pressure on a deep structural assumption shared by Act Consequentialism and Orthodox Rational Choice theory. These include Warren Quinn’s classic ‘self-torturer’ puzzle along with other sorites cases, infinite goods cases, imprecise goods cases, sunk costs, and time-stamped options. In all these cases the agent knows that her action is one in a series the whole of which has an evaluative significance not identical to the evaluative significance of the aggregate of the parts. The deep structural assumption is that the deontic status of an action is explained just by facts about that action and its consequences and never by facts about the deontic status of sets of actions of which it is a possible part. By rejecting this assumption and replacing it with something better we can develop solutions to these puzzles while fully vindicating the core motivations for value-first ethical theory.
October 15, 2015 – The Pamplin College of Business is holding its 25th Annual Del Alamo/Hogan Business Ethics Symposium on October 20th at 5 PM in Torgersen Hall 2150. Aaron Beam, a founder and chief financial officer at HealthSouth and a convicted felon, is the speaker. Admission is free and open to all members of the Virginia Tech community and the general public.
October 01, 2015 – David Lefkowitz from the University of Richmond will give a talk on the topic “Institutional Moral Reasoning and Secession” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on October 14, 2015, from 4-6 PM in Pamplin Hall 30. 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: Outside the colonial context, international law does not include a right to unilateral secession. Does that make it unjust? Should we reform international law so that it includes a right to unilateral secession, say for groups subject to widespread and systematic violations of their members’ basic human rights, or for any nation that wishes to have its own state regardless of how its members are currently treated? My position, which I briefly defend near the end of this talk, is that we should not, but my primary interest here is with two methodological questions. First, how should we argue for or against a right to secession? I contend that secession is an inherently institutional concept – there is no pre-institutional moral right to secession – from which it follows that we can only argue for or against a right to secession by using institutional moral reasoning. The need to theorize secession institutionally leaves any specific argument regarding the morality of secession vulnerable to the criticism that we lack the empirical evidence necessary to sustain its conclusion. This presents a second methodological question: how should we proceed when our identification of the just institutional rule depends on data of which we have little, and/or in which we (should) have little confidence? With respect to secession, I argue that we ought to adopt a precautionary approach, and that under such an approach we should not give any weight to promoting political self-determination per se when deliberating about whether to reform international law governing secession. I conclude with several reasons to think that even a remedial right to unilateral secession, one limited to groups suffering grave violations of their basic human rights, will not enhance the international legal order’s ability to promote the minimal moral aims of peace and the secure enjoyment of basic human rights.
September 10, 2015 – Chad Van Schoelandt from Tulane University will give a talk on the topic “Constructing Distributive Justice” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on September 23, 2015, from 4-6 PM in Pamplin Hall 30. 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: This talk highlights two features of Rawls’s approach to distributive justice and shows how these features support an ongoing research agenda. The first feature is that for Rawls a conception of justice is meant to serve a social function and thus proposed conceptions can be assessed at least in part on their ability to so function. We highlight how this differs from more orthodox moral questions. Going forward, we suggest that the understanding of justice as a tool to serve a function brings a wide array of tool into philosophy. We illustrate this by discussing the relevance to assessing conceptions of justice of both psychological work on the emotions and social scientific work on constitutional political economy. Philosophic work need not be mired in conflicting intuitions about obscure counterfactual cases, for we may gain traction on questions of justice by drawing on many other disciplines. The second feature we highlight from Rawls is the fact that the conception is meant to be ‘political’ and to constitute a ‘political point of view.’ We can thus say, for instance, that one state of affairs is to be preferred ‘from the political point of view’ even if not from the point of view of my self-interest, religion, or deep moral beliefs. The political point of view must be one we can share at least to give us common answers to certain questions and should be expected to differ from the way we might assess things if we did not have to coordinate with others. The possibility of such a political point of view and the way an individual can integrate it into her comprehensive point of view raise important questions for ongoing research. As a suggestion for future research, however, we specifically point to the options opened up by seeing the political perspective as artificial and we argue that contrary to Rawls it need not be supported by any shared values, though each individual member will have to be able to relate the political conception to whatever values she does hold.
August 10, 2015 – This academic year, the PPE Program at Virginia Tech will launch a speaker series and establish a student ambassadorship.
The PPE Speaker Series will form an integral part of the curricula of the PPE Gateway Course and the PPE Capstone Course. Per academic year, up to six guest speakers will be invited. The guest speakers will present their most recent work to the PPE students and faculty at Virginia Tech. PPE students will have the opportunity to go for lunch or dinner with the guest speakers and thereby develop their academic and professional skills as well as network. Here is the program of the PPE Speaker Series for Fall 2015.
The PPE Student Ambassadorship allows one PPE student to serve as ambassador for the PPE Program at Virginia Tech for one academic year. The primary task of the PPE Student Ambassador is to promote the PPE Program at Virginia Tech and work closely with the PPE Program Director as well as faculty and staff of the program. The PPE Student Ambassadorship allows the student to develop leadership and professional skills, as well as to gain a unique networking experience at Virginia Tech.
May 16, 2015 – This summer, Professor Moehler will be serving as the John Stuart Mill Visiting Chair of Social Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hamburg (Germany) and as Visiting Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Graz (Austria).
Professor Moehler will teach three graduate seminars (one of which will be co-taught with a colleague from the Department of Economics at the University of Hamburg), give research talks in both Hamburg and Graz, and will be a guest speaker at the Peter Löscher Chair of Business Ethics at the Technical University of Munich.
In addition, Professor Moehler will organize a 1.5-day workshop at the University of Hamburg. The workshop will focus on his work on contractarian ethics and related topics and is sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
Apr 07, 2015 – Brian Chaffin, a National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Associate at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, will give a talk on the topic “From Negotiating Rural Water Rights to Managing Urban Stormwater” at Virginia Tech on April 10, 2015. The talk takes place in 136 McBryde at 12:20 PM.
Dr. Chaffin’s research is focused at the intersection of water governance and global environmental change. He investigates the role of law, values, and collaboration in catalyzing water governance transformations towards increased flexibility in the face of extreme complexity and uncertainty. His research aims to identify and actively support the socio-political elements of environmental governance that increase capacity for adaptation and transformation in coupled social-ecological systems.
All are welcome to attend.
Apr 02, 2015 – Michael Moehler will give a seminar presentation on the topic of productivist welfare state capitalism at the University of New Orleans. In his seminar, Professor Moehler will defend a democratic form of the productivist welfare state that, so he argues, can best cope, theoretically and practically, with the diversity of deeply morally pluralistic democratic societies.
The seminar presentation is sponsored by the Alexis de Tocqueville Project at the University of New Orleans that, among other things, aims to examine the values of democratic society and their justification, as well as the role of the state in making its citizens virtuous. The seminar takes place on April 16, 2015.
Mar 17, 2015 – Andrew Barber, a current PPE Minor student, was selected to present his paper "Why Bitcoin Needs a Philosophy of Money" at this year's ASPECT Graduate Conference at Virginia Tech.
Andrew will present his paper also at the ACC Meeting of the Minds Undergraduate Research Conference at North Carolina State University in April this year.
Feb 26, 2015 – Professor Christian Wernz, a Core Affiliate of the PPE Program at Virginia Tech, gave a seminar on “Engineering a SMART Healthcare System” at the Public Health Grant Rounds organized by the Department of Population Health Sciences and the Center for Public Health Practice and Research at Virginia Tech. A video of the 50-min talk is available as a webcast.
On March 4, 2015, Professor Wernz will also give a talk on a related topic with the title "Realigning Incentives in Healthcare: A Multiscale Decision Theory Approach" at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The talk will be accessible via WebEx.
Feb 20, 2015 – The PPE minor was featured by the Collegiate Times this week. For the full story, please click here.
Jan 08, 2015 – Please sign up for the PPE Listserv in order to receive news and updates about the PPE Program, degree requirements, course offerings, and events.
Jan 05, 2015 – The Minor in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics has been approved by Virginia Tech’s Governance System. The new interdisciplinary minor involves eleven departments in seven colleges at Virginia Tech. Students can now enroll for the minor. For further information, please contact Professor Michael Moehler or Holly Belcher in the Department of Philosophy.