PPE Speaker Series: Michael Douma

Michael Douma from Georgetown University will give a talk on the topic “Creative Historical Thinking.” The talk will take place on April 10, 2019, from 4-5:30pm in Brush Mountain A (Squires Student Center). 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.

The talk will be based on Professor Douma’s new book Creative Historical Thinking (Routledge, 2018). It will entail an interactive presentation about what it means for a historian to be creative and how to think about history in new ways and explore topics such as visualizations of time in spatial form, creative classroom diagrams, and the history of why men stopped wearing hats.

PPE Speaker Series: Douglas Noonan

Douglas Noonan, a PPE Visiting Research Scholar from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, will give a talk on the topic “Freeing the Freelancers: Innovation, Crowds, and Markets.”

The talk is co-organized with the Center for Humanities and will take place on February 6, 2019, from 4-5:30pm in the Squires Student Center (Brush Mountain A). 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: Crowdfunding has grown in popularity in recent years, and it offers a useful vantage point to observe some major forces at play in our economy and communities. How does crowdfunding tap into the wisdom of the masses and leverage the crowd? What kind of entrepreneurship uses crowdfunding, and how does that relate to more conventional entrepreneurship? As an innovation itself, how and where might we expect crowdfunding platforms to spur more innovation? Examining crowdfunding platforms as new marketplaces can help highlight some important insights about the power of markets, crowds, and geography.

This talk brings together several studies about entrepreneurship among freelancers and how and where new platforms like Kickstarter can catalyze innovation. Preliminary data analysis indicates a stronger draw for marketplaces like Kickstarter in markets where labor regulations are more restrictive. Further, smaller markets are disproportionately drawn to Kickstarter as it expands the audience for niche products thereby reducing minimum scales needed to launch. Expanding markets and reducing frictions enables these new ventures, and freeing these freelancers reflect the wisdom (and power) of the crowds. The crowd’s influence in individual projects can also be seen in the aggregate when examining where crowdfunding activity occurs. The world is still not flat, and clusters of economic activity – crowds – still drive successful crowdfunding locations.

Yet the geography of crowdfunding is not merely a mapping of people, wealth, human capital, and industry concentrations. First, the number of Kickstarter campaigns in any given city or town is rather evenly spread around the U.S. and Canada, while the total amount of funds raised or the total number of backers for campaigns in those cities and towns is far more geographically concentrated. Ideas can be found anywhere, but successful ideas tend to cluster where economic activity does. Second, digital media projects (e.g., music, videos) tend to geographically cluster more than location-specific projects (e.g., community gardens, theaters). Third, the hotspots of crowdfunding map onto pre-existing clusters of population and economic activity differently for digital media projects than for location-specific projects. The digital media projects cluster more than economic activity does, making a spiky world spikier. Crowdfunded innovations in digital media tend to concentrate more in a few big markets, as creators have freedom to relocate to key hubs while still being able to reach global markets. Conversely, the local projects tend to flatten out the already spiky world. For these location-specific projects, the new online crowdfunding marketplace tends to serve more geographically dispersed crowds.

PPE Speaker Series/Advancing the Human Condition Symposium: William A. Darity

William A. Darity, the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, will give a PPE Talk on the topic “Bold Policies for Social Change.” The talk will also serve as the Keynote Lecture for the Advancing the Human Condition Symposium at Virginia Tech.

The talk will place on November 28, 2018, from 4-5:30pm in the Latham Ballroom (Inn 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 full program of the 2018 Advancing the Human Condition Symposium.

PPE Speaker Series: Dan Shahar

Dan Shahar from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will give a talk on the topic “Are We Morally Obligated to Restrict Our Carbon Footprints?” The talk will take place on November 7, 2018, from 4-5:30pm in 155 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: For those who worry about climate change, our ‘carbon footprints’ are a major concern. According to a common view, individuals have an ethical obligation to restrict their contributions to climate change even in the absence of public policies that tackle the problem. But does this view accurately capture our moral duties? In this talk, Dan Shahar will argue that individuals are not obligated to act unilaterally to restrict their carbon footprints and, moreover, trying to convince people to reduce their carbon footprints is a misguided way to fight climate change. If Shahar is right, then climate activists may need to fundamentally revise the way they think about our moral obligations in a rapidly warming world.

PPE Speaker Series: Jessica Flanigan

Jessica Flanigan from the University of Richmond will give a talk on the topic “Pharmaceutical Freedom.” The talk takes place on October 17, 2018, from 4-5:30pm in 155 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 (and book): If a competent adult refuses medical treatment, physicians and public officials must respect her decision. Coercive medical paternalism is a clear violation of the doctrine of informed consent, which protects patients’ rights to make medical decisions even if a patient’s choice endangers her health. The same reasons for rejecting medical paternalism in the doctor’s office are also reasons to reject medical paternalism at the pharmacy, yet coercive medical paternalism persists in the form of premarket approval policies and prescription requirements for pharmaceuticals.

In Pharmaceutical Freedom Jessica Flanigan defends patients’ rights of self-medication. Flanigan argues that public officials should certify drugs instead of enforcing prohibitive pharmaceutical policies that disrespect people’s rights to make intimate medical decisions and prevent patients from accessing potentially beneficial new therapies. This argument has revisionary implications for important and timely debates about medical paternalism, recreational drug legalization, human enhancement, prescription drug prices, physician assisted suicide, and pharmaceutical marketing. The need for reform is especially urgent as medical treatment becomes increasingly personalized and patients advocate for the right to try. The doctrine of informed consent revolutionized medicine in the twentieth century by empowering patients to make treatment decisions. Rights of self-medication are the next step.

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 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 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.

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 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.