PPE Reading Group: Spring 2018

This semester, the PPE Reading Group will discuss Jeremy Waldron’s (NYU) book The Harm in Hate Speech (books provided). The PPE Reading Group will meet every other week during the spring semester on Tuesday 5-7pm at 215 Major Williams Hall. Enjoy free pizza and soft drinks with our discussion!

Participation is open to any interested student (whether already a PPE student or interested in becoming one), and capped at 10 participants. Sign up by January 26th (to receive your book in time to read) with Gil Hersch (hersch@nullvt.edu). The first meeting will be on Tuesday, January 30th.

PPE Speaker Series: Spring 2018

In the context of the PPE Speaker Series, this semester the PPE Program will host three guest speakers who will present their most recent work to faculty, students, and the general public. Fabian Wendt (Chapman University) will address the topic of unfair compromises, Marion Fourcade (University of California Berkeley) will speak about the digital economy, and Catherine Herfeld (University of Zurich) will discuss the epistemic potentials and limitations of rational choice theory in philosophy and the social sciences. Professor Herfeld’s talk is co-sponsored by the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience at Virginia Tech.

SGA Policy Grant Award

Thomas Rowe (PPE Program), Adam Dominiak (Economics), Sudipta Sarangi (Economics), and Michael Moehler (Philosophy) have been awarded a Policy Strategic Growth Area Planning Grant for the project “Ethical Decision-Making Under Ambiguity.”

The grant will be used primarily to fund an experimental study that will be conducted in the Virginia Tech Economics Laboratory. The experimental study will invoke a unique combination of methods from economics and philosophy: it will borrow techniques from economics for establishing how individuals act in scenarios where there is a lack of probabilistic information, with methods from philosophy for establishing the fairness of different alternatives.

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.

PPE Meet and Greet

The Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Virginia Tech will hold its annual PPE Meet and Greet event on October 10, 2017, from 4-5pm in the Major Williams Atrium. There will be a small informal reception for faculty, students, and anyone interested in PPE. Please join the event.

PPE Speaker Series: Javier Hidalgo

Javier Hidalgo from the University of Richmond will give a talk on the topic “The Ethics of Integration” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on October 04, 2017, from 4-6 PM in Surge 107. 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 is a chapter of a book in progress. The book argues that immigration restrictions are generally unjust and explores some of the implications of this claim for individual ethics. In this chapter, I ask: do immigrants have obligations to integrate into their new societies? Many people answer “yes.” They think that immigrants are obligated to learn the local language, adopt mainstream cultural norms, avoid segregating themselves, and assimilate in other ways. I reject this view. I instead advance a liberal view on the ethics of integration. On my view, it is both permissible for immigrants to integrate and permissible for them to refuse to do so. I defend the liberal view on integration against a range of objections, such as the objections that immigrants consented to assimilate, that immigrants should integrate out of gratitude, and that a failure to integrate would bring about bad consequences.

PPE Publications

Gil Hersch recently published a journal article on the relationship between happiness, income, and well-being policy. Here is a link to the article. Michael Moehler recently published a journal article on productivist welfare state capitalism. Here is a link to the article.

PPE Reading Group

The PPE Program will offer a reading group for undergraduate students and faculty this semester. It is a great opportunity for everyone interested in discussing PPE-related topics. For more information, please contact Gil Hersch (hersch@nullvt.edu).


Gil Hersch and Thomas Rowe Join the PPE Program at Virginia Tech

The PPE Program welcomes two postdoctoral fellows with research expertise at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and economics: Gil Hersch, who received his PhD from the University of California, San Diego, will join us from George Mason University, and Thomas Rowe will join us from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Please feel free to reach out to both postdoctoral fellows to welcome them to Virginia Tech and potentially to establish research collaborations with them.