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.

PPE Speaker Series: Andrew Light

Andrew Light from George Mason University will give a talk on the topic “The Road From the Paris Climate Agreement” at Virginia Tech. The talk takes place on April 12, 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: In December 2015 over 190 countries met in Paris for the 21st meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change where they succeeded in creating a new international climate agreement. Many have heralded the outcome as a groundbreaking achievement for international diplomacy and global climate action. Others have argued that the climate commitments that parties brought to the table in Paris are ultimately too weak to achieve the agreements’ lofty aspirations. To better understand the significance of the new Paris Agreement we will review the recent history of the UN climate negotiations, how this outcome evolved from earlier failed attempts in this process, and be sure what its impact could be. A more pressing question however may be what new future for global climate cooperation is now required of us after Paris, especially in light of the recent federal election in the United States. To close the current gap between the Paris pledges for emission reductions, and what is needed to achieve our long-term goals for climate stabilization, we will need to continue to strengthen the profile of climate change as equal to other global priorities, and find new opportunities for enhanced climate action that all parties can embrace despite their differing domestic circumstances.

PPE Speaker Series: Gerald Davis

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.