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.

PPE Reading Group: Fall 2018

This semester, the PPE Reading Group will discuss Joseph Carens’ (University of Toronto) book The Ethics of Immigration (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). The first meeting will be on Tuesday, September 11, 2018. Sign up with Gil Hersch (hersch@nullvt.edu) to receive your book in time to read.

PPE Meet and Greet: Fall 2018

The Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Virginia Tech will hold its annual PPE Meet and Greet event on September 11, 2018, from 4-5pm in the Major Williams Atrium.

There will be a small informal reception for faculty, students, and anyone interested in PPE. Learn more about the PPE Program, its degrees, and activities this academic year. Please join us for the event.

PPE Events: Fall 2018

This semester, the PPE Program will host three guest speakers who will present their most recent work to faculty, students, and the general public.

Jessica Flanigan (University of Richmond) will speak about pharmaceutical freedom, Dan Shahar (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) will speak about our potential moral obligation to restrict our carbon footprint, and William A. Darity (Duke University), in the context of the PPE Speaker Series, will deliver the keynote lecture at the Advancing the Human Condition Symposium.

In addition, the PPE Reading Group will meet biweekly to discuss Joseph Carens’ book The Ethics of Immigration.

Please see the PPE Calendar for more details concerning these events.

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.