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.

PPE News: PPE Student Studies Abroad at Oxford

The PPE Program is proud to feature Katherine Zhou, a rising sophomore who is majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Katherine has been admitted as a visiting student to the PPE program at Oxford University (Corpus Christi College) for the 2019-2020 school year. She was happy to provide us with an interview before she leaves.

Katherine, how did you learn about the Oxford PPE program?

I have known about the Oxford PPE program since high school. Oxford was the first to establish the PPE major about 100 years ago and I find it fascinating how it has educated generations of world leaders and has an immense influence on British politics, business, and media.

What courses will you be taking during the program?

Next academic year, I will be studying two major subjects: Philosophy and Economics.  At Oxford, subjects are taught through the tutorial system consisting of a rigorous schedule of weekly tutoring sessions where a professor teaches one or two students through discussion. I will take both Philosophy and Economics tutorials each term for three terms. The courses range from Ethics, Modern Philosophy to Quantitative Economics.  These courses are selected based upon the suggestions of professors at Oxford and my academic advisor at VT.

The University of Oxford’s undergraduate students are organized through constituent colleges, and each of these colleges has its own history and culture, allowing for a small-college community while still having the resources of a large university.  Colleges are where tutorial sessions are held and where students reside, and at the University, students go to lectures and labs with members of different colleges. Lectures are organized by academic departments.

I will be attending Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford.  It is a five hundred years old college well known for its excellence in philosophy and classics.  Its rich history includes playing a major role in the translation of the King James version of the Bible and has notable alumni such as philosopher Thomas Nagel (whose work I’ve studied in my Knowledge and Reality course.)

What was the application process like?

The application process is similar to applying for college admission in the US. A visiting student application consists of letters of recommendation, written samples, college transcripts, and a personal statement. Oxford’s visiting student program has a 3.7 minimum GPA requirement and colleges may have additional requirements.  A visiting student is registered with the university and becomes a full member of one of the constituent colleges. Since Oxford’s constituent colleges handle undergraduate admission, visiting students are also admitted directly by the colleges. Oxford’s website provides admission requirements and links to college admission offices.  Corpus Christi College has about 240 regular undergraduate students and accepts up to three visiting students a year, but some colleges admit many more.

Before I applied, I discussed my application plan with VT’s Global Education Office which also organizes helpful events for program selection and pre-departure preparations.

How do you think the PPE Program at Virginia Tech has prepared you for the program?

Virginia Tech’s PPE program is well designed to provide an interdisciplinary education through courses, seminars, and events in three important and related social sciences subjects.  This past year has been transformative and fulfilling for me. Studying these three subjects simultaneously expanded my perspective and encouraged me to draw connections among different disciplines.  When I analyze a macroeconomics problem, I am thinking about ethics and policy issues. Similarly, when I debate on a policy issue, I benefit from what I learned from economics and philosophy. VT’s PPE program helped me appreciate the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to address complex social and political issues.  I understand that the Oxford program is very intensive and rigorous. However, I felt confident that my study at VT has prepared me well for the challenge.

I would like to thank my professors, who believed in my ability to succeed, and my PPE academic advisor and college director, who have helped me throughout the process of course selection and preparing me to study abroad.

And finally, what are you most excited about?

I am most excited for the opportunity to study the subjects I love at a world-renowned university associated with giants in political theory, philosophy, and economics such as John Locke, Jeremy Bentham, and Adam Smith and where the PPE major originated.  I am also excited about the opportunity to experience Oxford’s famous tutorial teaching method.

Additionally, I will be at Oxford at a time when British and European politics and economy undergo major changes associated with UK’s exit from the European Union.  Some high-level debates are happening at the Oxford Union where Oxford students can witness UK politics in action. I hope that in addition to academic studies, I will also be able to gain a deep understanding of the British culture and study the major social and economic changes in real time.

We wish Katherine the best of luck on her upcoming adventure!


PPE Reading Group: Fall 2019

This semester, the PPE Reading Group will discuss Darrell M. West’s (Brookings) book The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation (books provided).

The PPE Reading Group will meet every other week during the semester on Thursdays 4:30-6pm 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). Please sign up with Gil Hersch (hersch@nullvt.edu) at the beginning of the semester to receive your book in time to read.

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).