PPE Distinguished Public Lecture: Dan Ariely

Professor Dan Ariely will deliver the 2019 PPE Distinguished Public Lecture at Virginia Tech. The lecture is co-organized with the Data and Decisions Destination Area at Virginia Tech.

Professor Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics and author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty, Irrationally Yours, Payoff, and Dollars and Sense. Professor Ariely is a New York Times bestselling author and his TED talks have been viewed over 10 million times.

At Virginia Tech, Professor Ariely will speak about “Free Beer.” The lecture will take place in the Moss Arts Center on February 20, 2019, from 5-7pm. No tickets are required. The lecture will be followed by a public reception. You are cordially invited to attend.

PPE Visiting Research Scholar: Douglas Noonan

Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

During the spring semester 2019, Professor Douglas Noonan will be a visiting research scholar in the Program of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Virginia Tech.

Douglas Noonan is a Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. His research focuses on a variety of policy and economics issues related to the urban environment, neighborhood dynamics, and quality-of-life. His research has been sponsored by a variety of organizations (e.g., National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, National Endowment for the Arts) on topics like policy adoption, environmental risks, energy, air quality, spatial modeling, green urban revitalizations, and cultural economics. Noonan earned his Ph.D. in public policy at the University of Chicago.

ASPECT Books Session Features Work by PPE Faculty

The next ASPECT Books session will feature recently published works by Matt Gabriele, Andy Scerri, and Michael Moehler. The session should be of interest to PPE faculty and students.

The event will take place on November 30, 2018, from 1-3pm in the Center for Humanities Seminar Room that is located on the ground floor of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Building.

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 Research: Gil Hersch publishes on business ethics

Gil Hersch (PPE Postdoctoral Fellow) published an article on “The Irrelevance of Unsuccessful Traders” in the Business Ethics Journal Review 6(8): 41-46. Here is an abstract of the article:

Alasdair MacIntyre argues that moral virtues are antithetical to what is required of those who trade in financial markets to succeed. MacIntyre focuses on four virtues and argues that successful traders possess none of them: (i) self-knowledge, (ii) courage, (iii) taking a long-term perspective, and (iv) tying one’s own good with some set of common goods. By contrast, I argue that (i)–(iii) are, in fact, traits of successful traders, regardless of their normative assessment. The last trait – caring about the common good – is often counterproductive in most for-profit ventures, including trading, and so singling out traders is inappropriate.

PPE Research: Michael Moehler publishes on diversity

Michael Moehler’s (Director of the PPE Program) article on “Diversity, Stability, and Social Contract Theory” is forthcoming with Philosophical Studies. Here is an abstract of the article.

The topic of moral diversity is not only prevalent in contemporary moral and political philosophy, it is also practically relevant. Moral diversity, however, poses a significant challenge for moral theory building. John Thrasher (Synthese, forthcoming), in his discussion of public reason theory, which includes social contract theory, argues that if one seriously considers the goal of moral constructivism and considerations of representation and stability, then moral diversity poses an insurmountable problem for most public reason theories. I agree with Thrasher that moral diversity poses a significant challenge for orthodox multistage social contract theories. In fact, I even add a further problem for such theories under the assumption of deep moral diversity. Nevertheless, I argue that my (Moehler, Minimal morality: a multilevel social contract theory, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2018) recently developed multilevel social contract theory overcomes these problems. I focus on some of the underexplored features of this theory to show that multilevel social contract theory offers one conceptually coherent and plausible way to render social contract theory viable and relevant for modern diverse societies.

PPE Research: Gil Hersch publishes on research ethics

Gil Hersch (PPE Postdoctoral Fellow) published an article on “Educational Equipoise and the Educational Misconception; Lessons from Bioethics” in Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 6(2) 2018, 3-15. Here is an abstract of the article:

Some advances in bioethics regarding ethical considerations that arise in the context of medical research can also be relevant when thinking about the ethical considerations that arise in the context of SoTL research. In this article, I aim to bring awareness to two potential ethical challenges SoTL researchers might face when playing a dual role of teacher and researcher that are similar to the challenges physicians face in their dual role of physician and researcher. In this article, I argue that two commonly discussed concerns in bioethics—the need for clinical equipoise and the possibility of a therapeutic misconception—have analogies when conducting some types of research on students. I call these counterparts educational equipoise and the educational misconception.

PPE Research: Thomas Rowe’s article forthcoming in Philosophy & Public Affairs

Thomas Rowe (PPE Postdoctoral Fellow) and Alex Voorhoeve’s (London School of Economics) article on “Egalitarianism under Severe Uncertainty” has been accepted for publication with Philosophy & Public Affairs. Here is an abstract of the article:

Decision-makers face severe uncertainty when they are not in a position to assign precise probabilities to all of the relevant possible outcomes of their actions. Such situations are common – novel medical treatments and policies addressing climate change are two examples. Many decision-makers respond to such uncertainty in a cautious manner and are willing to incur a cost to avoid it. There are good reasons for taking such an uncertainty-averse attitude to be permissible. However, little work has been done to incorporate it into an egalitarian theory of distributive justice. We aim to remedy this lack. We put forward a novel, uncertainty-averse egalitarian view. We analyse when the aims of reducing inequality and limiting the burdens of severe uncertainty are congruent and when they conflict, and highlight practical implications of the proposed view. We also demonstrate that if uncertainty aversion is permissible, then utilitarians must relinquish a favourite argument against egalitarianism.