COVID-19 Rapid Response Seed Funds Provided By OVPRI

The Office of the President for Research and Innovation (OVPRI) at Virginia Tech provides internal seed funds for projects that address COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a paradigm of a collective action problem with significant social, ethical, political, and economic implications (among others).

The PPE Program is happy to collaborate with other researches on campus. Here is more information about the available rapid response seed funding.


PPE Research: Michael Moehler publishes on climate change

Michael Moehler, Director of the PPE Program, published a book chapter on contractarianism and climate change.

The chapter is part of an edited volume on Moral Theory and Climate Change: Ethical Perspectives on a Warming Planet, Ben Eggleston and Dale E. Miller (eds.), Routledge, 139-156.

Here is the abstract of the chapter: Contemporary moral contractarianism originates with Hobbes’s moral theory. When considering the structure of Hobbes’s moral theory, however, it is often argued that moral contractarianism does not justify any specific moral demands concerning questions of climate change because currently no global Leviathan in Hobbes’s sense exists that could enforce any such demands in our world. I do not dispute the fact that currently no global Leviathan in Hobbes’s sense exists in our world. Nevertheless, I argue that Hobbesian moral contractarianism offers an adequate moral framework to guide our considerations concerning questions of climate change. Methodologically, the approach is sufficiently pluralistic to consider ethical and economic considerations as well as political feasibility constraints. Conceptually, I argue that, despite the fact that currently no global Leviathan in Hobbes’s sense exists in our world, a Hobbesian-inspired modus vivendi is sufficient as a starting point to address some of the most pressing issues of climate change in our world. Specifically, I argue that the shift in climate change negotiations from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement could be considered to be guided by reasoning that underlies Hobbesian moral contractarianism.

PPE Research: Gil Hersch

Gil Hersch (PPE Postdoctoral Fellow) published an article on “The Need for Governmental Inefficiency in Plato’s Republic,” in The Journal of the History of Economic Thought (forthcoming). Here is an abstract of the article:

In book II of Plato’s Republic, Socrates discusses the cities of necessity and luxury (372d-373a). Discussions of these cities have often focused on citizens desiring more than they need, which creates a demand for luxury. Yet the second part of the equation, which is not usually recognized, is that there must be sufficient supply to meet this demand. The focus of this article is on the importance of supply in the discussion of the first two cities in book II of the Republic. This article argues that the way Plato models the cities makes it the case that a surplus above levels of necessity will be generated from time to time. That the unwanted surplus cannot be spontaneously disposed of entails that the first two cities are institutionally incomplete. A government is needed in order to coordinate the disposal of the surplus supply the city will produce.

PPE Research: Book Symposium on Minimal Morality

The journal Analytic Philosophy featured a book symposium on Michael Moehler’s Minimal Morality: A Multilevel Social Contract Theory (Oxford University Press, 2018):

D’Agostino, Fred, “Pluralism, Prudence, and Political Theory: Comments on Minimal Morality by Michael MoehlerAnalytic Philosophy 61 (2020): 37-45

Thrasher, John, “On Minimal Morality,” Analytic Philosophy 61 (2020): 46-56

Morris, Christopher W., “Morality’s Many Parts: Symposium on Michael Moehler’s Minimal Morality,” Analytic Philosophy 61 (2020): 57-69

Vanderschraaf, Peter, “Stability Challenges for Moehler’s Second-Level Social Contract,” Analytic Philosophy 61 (2020): 70-86

Moehler, Michael, “Minimal Morality, Bargaining Power, and Moral Constraint: Replies to D’Agostino, Thrasher, Morris, and Vanderschraaf,” Analytic Philosophy 61 (2020): 87-100

PPE Research: Gil Hersch

Gil Hersch (PPE Postdoctoral Fellow) published an article on “No Theory-Free Lunches in Well-Being Policy,” in The Philosophical Quarterly 70 (2020): 43-64. Here is an abstract of the paper:

Generating an account that can sidestep the disagreement among substantive theories of well-being, while at the same time still providing useful guidance for well-being public policy, would be a significant achievement. Unfortunately, the various attempts to remain agnostic regarding what constitutes wellbeing fail to either (a) be an account of well-being, (b) provide useful guidance for well-being policy, or (c) avoid relying on a substantive well-being theory. There are no theory-free lunches in well-being policy. Instead, I propose an intermediate account, according to which well-being is constituted by endorsed veridical experiences. This account refers back to theories of well-being but does so as agnostically as possible. An intermediate account of well-being is meant as a policy guiding compromise between the different theories of well-being that make claims regarding what constitutes well-being. An intermediate account does as well as can be hoped for in providing a basis for well-being policy.

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 Research: Thomas Rowe

Thomas Rowe (PPE Postdoctoral Fellow) published an article on “Risk and the Unfairness of Some Being Better Off at the Expense of Others,” in the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 16 (2019): 44-66. Here is an abstract of the paper:

This paper offers a novel account of how complaints of unfairness arise in risky distributive cases. According to a recently proposed view in distributive ethics, the Competing Claims View, an individual has a claim to a benefit when her well-being is at stake, and the strength of this claim is determined by the expected gain to the individual’s well-being, along with how worse off the individual is compared to others (Voorhoeve and Fleurbaey, 2012: 397). If an individual is at a lower level of well-being than another, their claim to a given benefit is stronger. On this view, the strength of individuals’ claims are a function of their comparative well-being levels. In this paper, I instead argue that competing claims obtain only when a particular relationship obtains between the fates of individuals: that one individual’s gain is at the expense of another. This is a particular complaint that obtains when the fates of individuals are tied together in such a way that inequality that is to the detriment of the person who is worse off is guaranteed (or likely) to obtain. I demonstrate that this complaint arises only when individuals are exposed to a particular type of risk that allows some to gain only if others lose. As such, I propose that complaints of unfairness occur less frequently than we might think if we take the Competing Claims View to be true. A purely comparative view is unable to account for this unique complaint of unfairness. I argue that this complaint is not only independently plausible, but can serve as a foundation for a more general account of competing claims complaints.

PPE Research: Colloquium Talk Michael Moehler

Michael Moehler, Director of the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, will give a talk on his most recent research on social contract theory and diversity in the context of the Philosophy Colloquium Series.

This year, the Colloquium Series is organized by Karen Kovaka, a faculty member in philosophy and a PPE Affiliate. The talk will take place on September 26, 2019, from 4-5:30pm, in Smyth Hall 232. Here are the title and abstract of the talk:

“Diversity, Stability, and Contractarian Moral Theory”: The topic of moral diversity is prevalent in contemporary moral philosophy. 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 coherence 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 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

Gil Hersch, a postdoctoral fellow in the PPE Program, will give a lunch-time talk that is organized by the Center for Humanities.

Dr. Hersch will speak about the topic “Can Your Boss Make You Work Out?”. The talk will take place on April 9, 2019, at noon in the Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Building (Room 005).

Here is an abstract of the talk: To what extent is corporate-level paternalism legitimate? Since there has been an increase in both quantity and variety of corporate-level wellness programs and workplace well-being policies in recent years, this is an important question to address. I compare corporate-level paternalism with state-level paternalism, and argue that the former is more permissible than the later. Consequently, if paternalistic policies are deemed legitimate by the state, they can be deemed fair game for corporations. To make this argument I rely on the difference between citizens, for whom the main expressive tool available is ‘voice,’ and employees, for whom ‘exit’ is the main expressive tool available (Hirschman, 1970). Focusing only on this difference, I argue that paternalistic policies are more permissible when the employee can avoid them through ending their relationship with the corporation (exit) than they are when the citizen can influence whether the paternalistic policy is implemented (voice).