PPE Speaker Series: J.P. Messina

J.P. Messina from the University of New Orleans will give a talk on the topic “The Ethics and Politics of Private Censorship.” The talk will take place on December 4, 2019, from 4-5:30pm in Brush Mountain A (Squires Student Center). 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: Concerns about censorship have shifted away from the state and toward censorship by private parties (e.g., employers, social media companies, TV networks, twitter campaigns, and restrictive social norms). Regardless of its particular form, private censorship has generated roughly two families of response. The first is to call for legislation that would protect persons from the restrictions in question, perhaps by extending the reach of the first amendment (in U.S. contexts) to prevent infringement by private parties. The second is to deny that non-state agents can censor in ways that wrong others, and that in cases of so-called private censorship we have merely so many instances of private parties exercising their rights. This talk defends the claim that both reactions are mistaken in important ways but correct in others. Those concerned about private censorship are wrong to think that it should be treated analogously with state censorship, but correct to think that censorship by private parties involves something of crucial moral and political importance. Those who think that talk of private censorship is much ado about nothing are wrong in this, but correct to think that the parties involved often act well-within the boundaries of their moral rights. The talk concludes by characterizing various principles that govern the permissibility of private censorship.

PPE Speaker Series: Rosa Terlazzo

Rosa Terlazzo from the University of Rochester will give a talk on the topic “Paternalism and Adaptive Preference Interventions.” The talk will take place on November 13, 2019, from 4-5:30pm in Brush Mountain A (Squires Student Center). 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: On standard accounts, adaptive preferences are always bad for us, because they always involve settling for subpar but accessible states of affairs. Adaptive preference interventions, then, will always make their targets better off. But what if adaptive preferences, while always initially bad for people, can become robustly good for them over time as they are incorporated into their identities? In this case, the same adaptive preference intervention may make people newly forming adaptive preferences better off while harming those who have lived with their adaptive preferences for a long time. I propose an incentive-based solution for balancing these interests.

PPE Distinguished Public Lecture: Esther Duflo

Recent co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, Professor Esther Duflo, will deliver the 2020 PPE Distinguished Public Lecture at Virginia Tech.

Esther Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She is a Research Associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research, serves on the board of the Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development, and is Director of the development economics program of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Professor Duflo’s research focuses on microeconomic issues in developing countries, including education, access to finance, health, and policy evaluation – taking economics out of the lab to discover the causes of poverty and means to eradicate it. Her book (co-authored with Abhijit Banerjee), Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, was Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year.

Professor Duflo is the Editor of the American Economic Review and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She was honored as MacArthur Fellow in 2009, received the John Bates Clark Medal as the best economist under 40 in 2010, and won jointly the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on global poverty alleviation in 2019.

Professor Duflo is the youngest person and second woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. She hopes that “showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognized for success is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect that they deserve like every single human being.”

At Virginia Tech, Professor Duflo will speak about her new (co-authored) book, Good Economics for Hard Times, that addresses some of the thorniest social and political problems of our time. The lecture will take place in the Moss Arts Center on April 1, 2020, from 5-7pm. No tickets are required. The lecture will be followed by a public reception and book signing. You are cordially invited to attend.

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 Club at Virginia Tech Recognized as Local Chapter of the PPE Society

Under the guidance of Davis Rosser (President), the PPE Club at Virginia Tech was recognized as an official Chapter of the international Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Society.

The PPE Society’s mission is “to encourage the interaction and cross-fertilization of three intellectual disciplines that are, in their history, deeply intertwined and that now, and going forward, have much to offer one another.”

Each year, the PPE Society organizes a host of PPE-related events, including the annual PPE Society Meeting. Being a Local Chapter of the PPE Society provides the PPE Club at Virginia Tech with access to a network of peers at other universities to collaborate and consult.

Congratulations to our PPE Club!

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 Speaker Series: Charmaine Chua

Charmaine Chua from the University of California, Santa Barbara, will give a talk on the topic “Fast Circulation, Slow Life: The Racial Fix of Logistics.” The talk will take place on October 2, 2019, from 4-5:30pm in Brush Mountain A (Squires Student Center). 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: Mainstream understandings of “race” and racism often fail to interrogate the relationship between “race” and class. Such approaches often insufficiently understand the horizon of racial equality to be the inclusion of the previously excluded into the market, positing the economy as fundamentally race-neutral. In this lecture, I argue that racial inequality is not only reproduced through capitalist markets but fundamentally constitutes and structures the rules of the economy. I make this argument through an interrogation of the rapid growth of the just-in-time logistics economy. Drawing from ethnographic field work on board a container ship, I show that racism structures burgeoning and accelerating global supply chains in three ways: First, through the colonial legacy of market-based contracts; Second, through states’ own promotion of racialized stereotypes of its people; Third and finally, through the self-exploitation of logistics workers who internalize racialized rationalizations of their capacity to work. Taken together, my ethnographic account suggests that racism can only be fully understood as a component of racial capitalism (Robinson 2000), circulating through our lives through both structural and subjective domination, necessitating that we understand racial capitalism as a “technology of antirelationality” (Melamed 2015) that alternative visions of collective life must seek to undo.


PPE Club: Gobblerfest 2019

The PPE Club at Virginia Tech successfully participated at this year’s Gobblerfest.

Gobblerfest was conceived in 2008 as a festival welcoming people to the Blacksburg community. Since then the event has become a highlight of the start of the academic year.

More than 100 students visited the PPE Club and Philosophy tables and learned more about PPE at Virginia Tech. Thanks also to all PPE Undergraduate Student Ambassadors, PPE Graduate Teaching Assistants, and PPE Postdoctoral Fellows, who were involved in this event.


PPE Meet and Greet: Fall 2019

The Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Virginia Tech will hold its annual “Meet and Greet” event on September 10, 2019, 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 degree programs, and activities this academic year. Please join us for the event.

PPE Events: Fall 2019

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

Charmaine Chua (UC Santa Barbara) will speak on the topic “Fast Circulation, Slow Life: The Racial Fix of Global Logistics,” Rosa Terlazzo (University of Rochester) will give a talk on the topic “Paternalism and Adaptive Preference Interventions,” and J.P. Messina (University of New Orleans) will give a talk on the topic “The Ethics and Politics of Private Censorship.”

In addition, the PPE Reading Group will meet biweekly to discuss Darrell M. West’s (Brookings) book The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation

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