VT News: New Major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

Anticipation, adrenaline, confidence, hope, and a touch of anxiety fill the waiting room. A dozen well-educated college graduates wait for an interview at a major Wall Street firm. But one candidate stands out among the intense competition, showcasing high-level critical thinking that arrives at solutions that are not only economically sound, but also socially, ethically, and politically informed.

A new interdisciplinary major at Virginia Tech prepares undergraduates for this post-graduation scenario. The philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) major is a collaborative degree between the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the Department of Economics in the College of Science.

“The PPE major attracts driven students in the humanities and social sciences who have a genuine interest in working across disciplines and a desire to…

To read more, please follow this link: VT News Story.

PPE Discussion Colloquium on Foreign Aid

On April 14, 2018, the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics will co-organize a day-long discussion colloquium for selected undergraduate students on the topic “The Economics of Foreign Aid.” The colloquium will explore the questions and challenges raised by a set of readings on the topic of foreign aid that will be provided in advance. The reading list entails work by Nobel Prize Winner Amartya Sen who will be on campus for the PPE Distinguished Public Lecture in the week after the discussion colloquium.

PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassadorships

Each academic year, the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics selects several undergraduate students to serve as ambassadors for the program. The PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassadorships offer a unique leadership and network opportunity for undergraduate students at Virginia Tech.

The primary tasks of the 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. For more information about PPE events, please follow this link.

The application process for next year’s PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassadorships is open now. Any student who is enrolled (or will enroll) for the PPE Minor or PPE Major is eligible to apply. Please submit (i) a short personal statement that explains your interest in becoming a PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassador and (ii) your resume. The application materials must be submitted to Professor Moehler (moehler@nullvt.edu) by April 12, 2018. We look forward to receiving your application.

PPE Publication: Minimal Morality

Michael Moehler, Director of the PPE Program at Virginia Tech, recently published a book at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and economics.

The book includes discussion of the relationship between morality and self-interest, utility theory, rational choice theory, social and economic productivity, distributive justice, the welfare state, and global justice. In the book, Professor Moehler applies formal methods to moral and political philosophy and develops a new type of social contract theory that aims to ensure mutually beneficial peaceful long-term cooperation in deeply morally pluralistic societies.

Here is more information about the book.

PPE-GFURR Lecture: Catherine Herfeld

Catherine Herfeld from the University of Zurich will give a talk on the topic “The Many Faces of Rational Choice Theory.” The talk takes place on April 2, 2018, from 4-6 PM in 118B Surge Building. Professor Herfeld’s talk is co-sponsored by the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience at Virginia Tech and 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: Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, theories of rational choice have been extensively employed in economics and the social sciences more generally. They have been used in the hope of solving a variety of distinct conceptual, methodological and epistemic problems and are thus to be found in nearly any context in which economists aim at generating knowledge about the economy. At the same time, theories of rational choice have been attacked from various sides. As they have been empirically falsified countless times, they have often been identified as responsible for the explanatory and predictive shortcomings of economic models and theories. In this talk, I aim to provide a fresh perspective on persistent debates about the epistemic potentials and limitations of rational choice theory. First, I suggest that rational choice theory has many conceptually and methodologically distinct faces that remain prevalent in contemporary economics, but have emerged from a history of earlier attempts to conceptualize the behavior of human agents. By looking more closely at a set of historical and contemporary cases, I argue that the way in which rational choice theories have been used and justified in economics has depended crucially upon the problems that economists addressed. They should accordingly be evaluated against the backdrop of precisely those problems they were meant to provide a solution for. Second, I argue that even if economists could draw upon an empirically more adequate theory of human behavior, it remains to be seen whether they have found an appropriate solution for the empirical difficulties that economic models and theories actually confront.

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

Professor Amartya Sen (Harvard University) will deliver the 2018 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.

Please see here for the VT News story about the event.