PPE Movie Night: “I, Daniel Blake”

Please join us on March 26, 2018, for a screening of the movie “I, Daniel Blake”, followed by a discussion of the welfare state led by faculty of the PPE Program.

The movie has won 25 international awards, including the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The film screening will start at 7pm (Newman Library Multipurpose Room). Snacks will be provided.

This event is co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. All faculty and students are welcome to attend.

PPE Speaker Series: Marion Fourcade

Marion Fourcade from the University of California Berkeley will give a talk on the topic “Faust in the Digital Era.” The talk takes place on March 21, 2018, from 4-6 PM in 135 Goodwin 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: The modern digital economy is built upon an implicit Faustian bargain: companies provide online services for free, and individuals ‘pay’ them back by signing intrusive terms of service that provide access to their personal data. The data is then refined and recombined to sort individuals into marketing niches, skill sets, rankings and reputations, and more. It is used for price discrimination, product differentiation, and the distribution of financial and symbolic rewards and penalties. This presentation will provide an overview of these new sorting processes, and of their existing and potential consequences for how we think about inequality in today’s society.

PPE Distinguished Public Lecture: Amartya Sen

This semester, Professor Amartya Sen (Harvard University) will deliver the PPE Distinguished Public Lecture.

Professor Sen is Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also Senior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and was Professor of Economics at Jadavpur University Calcutta, the Delhi School of Economics, and the London School of Economics, and Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University.

In 1998, Professor Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory. In 1999, he was awarded India’s Bharat Ratna, which is the highest civilian award of India, and, in 2017, the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science for his work on democracy and its potential power to redress and relieve human deprivation.

At Virginia Tech, Professor Sen will speak about “Democracy and Elections.” The lecture will take place in Haymarket Theatre on April 18, 2018, from 5-7pm. No tickets are required for the lecture. The lecture will be followed by a public reception. You are cordially invited to attend.

PPE Speaker Series: Fabian Wendt

Fabian Wendt from Chapman University will give a talk on the topic “Defending Unfair Compromises” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on February 21, 2018, from 4-6 PM in 135 Goodwin 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: It seems natural to think that compromises ought to be fair. But it is false. In this paper, I argue that it is never a moral desideratum to have fair compromises and that we are sometimes even morally obliged to try to establish unfair compromises. The most plausible conception of the fairness of compromises is David Gauthier’s principle of minimax relative concession. According to that principle, a compromise is fair when all parties make equal concessions relative to how much they can gain from an agreement and relative to how much they would lose without an agreement. To find out whether fair compromises sometimes are a moral desideratum, I discuss several paradigmatic cases in friendships, economics and politics, and I try to show that even when the parties have principled moral reasons to refrain from trying to maximize utility in the negotiations, they do not have moral reasons to aim at a fair compromise. My second claim is that we are sometimes even morally obliged to try to establish unfair compromises, in particular when we are dealing with parties that try to establish morally very bad political arrangements. In such cases, we should try to concede as little as possible to achieve an outcome that is morally acceptable. Fair compromises, in other words, are morally much more dubious than is usually appreciated.

New Major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

The PPE Program, in collaboration with the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Political Science, and the Department of Economics, launched a new Major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.

The PPE Major allows students to study systematically some of the most important social, ethical, economic, and political problems that our contemporary societies face. It offers a highly interdisciplinary curriculum with distinct learning outcomes centered on an undergraduate research project. For more information, please see here. Enroll now!

On February 15, 2018, the PPE Program will hold for students and faculty a PPE Major Launch Information session. The event takes place in the Major Williams Atrium from 11:30am-1:30pm. Please join. Free pizza and soft drinks!

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.