PPE Research: Michael Moehler publishes book on Contractarianism

Michael Moehler, Director of the PPE Program at Virginia Tech, recently published a book on contractarianism that integrates methods in philosophy, politics, and economics.

The book provides a systematic defense of moral contractarianism as a distinct approach to the social contract. It elucidates, in comparison to moral conventionalism and moral contractualism, the distinct features of moral contractarianism, its scope, and conceptual and practical challenges that concern the relationship between morality and self-interest, the problems of assurance and compliance, rule-following, counterfactualism, and the nexus between morals and politics. It argues that, if appropriately conceived, moral contractarianism is conceptually coherent, empirically sound, and practically relevant, and has much to offer to contemporary moral philosophy.

Here is more information about the book.

PPE Speaker Series: Erik Kimbrough

Erik Kimbrough from Chapman University will give a talk on the topic “How Norms Shape Ideology.” The talk will take place on February 5, 2020, from 4-5:30pm in 223 Engel 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: Are Americans’ policy preferences constrained by ideological belief systems? If so, what does this imply? We bring clarity to these long-debated questions by addressing three vital concerns: First, constraint is typically operationalized based on researchers’ understanding of “what goes with what,” but how valid are these assumptions? Using an incentivized coordination game, we find substantial variability in ideological norm clarity across issues. Second, the extant literature equates lack of constraint with ignorance, but how many seemingly “ideologically innocent” voters simply choose to flout ideological norms? When we measure political beliefs and knowledge of ideological norms separately, it becomes clear that ignorance and pragmatism are typically conflated. Third, does constraint facilitate accountability, or does it indicate adherence to ideological norms? Using a survey experiment, we find that priming norms increases adherence. This suggests that the most ideologically constrained are the strongest norm followers and perhaps not best-suited to ensure democratic accountability.

PPE Reading Group: Spring 2020

This semester, the PPE Reading Group will discuss Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s book, Good Economics for Hard Times (2019).

Together with Michael Kremer, Banerjee and Duflo won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2019 for their work on global poverty alleviation. On April 1, 2020, Professor Duflo will deliver the 2020 PPE Distinguished Public Lecture at Virginia Tech. 

The PPE Reading Group will meet every other week during the semester on Thursdays 4-5:30pm at 225 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). Please sign up with Gil Hersch (hersch@nullvt.edu) at the beginning of the semester to receive your book in time to read.

PPE Events: Spring 2020

This semester, the PPE Program will organize a biweekly reading group and a daylong discussion colloquium, as well as host two guest speakers.

Erik Kimbrough (Chapman University) will speak about how norms shape ideology and Esther Duflo (MIT) will deliver the 2020 PPE Distinguished Public Lecture. In 2019, Professor Duflo jointly won the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on global poverty alleviation. For more information about Professor Duflo and the event, please see here.

Christopher Freiman (William & Mary) will lead an all-day discussion colloquium on the topic “Economics and a Free People,” and the PPE Reading Group will meet biweekly to discuss Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s book, Good Economics for Hard Times (2019).

All PPE events are open to faculty, students, and the general public. For more details concerning these events, please see the PPE Calendar.