The Duke-UNC PPE Program

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Our world is shaped by a variety of extremely complex organizations and institutions that have a profound impact on our lives and future. Understanding how they work, appreciating their interactions, seeing their impact, and being able, against that background, to evaluate their value, is crucial. With this in mind, the PPE Program trains students to look beyond the borders of academic disciplines by offering them an integrated study of philosophy, politics, and economics.

Historically, the separation of the social sciences, in particular the divide between philosophy and economics, and between philosophy and political science, occurred only recently. If we look back to the founding fathers of economics such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, and John Stuart Mill, it becomes clear how close these disciplines once were. Economics grew out of the moral considerations of those theorists and their aim of finding socially stable ways of mutually beneficial cooperation. Similarly, the political theories of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau shaped the work of the founding fathers, and indeed, the political constitutions of a broad range of other countries.

The separation of the social sciences allowed the disciplines to narrow their fields of investigation and, as a consequence, to develop specific tools for their particular domains. In our highly interconnected world, however, such separation stands in the way of people developing the sort of comprehensive understanding that is demanded by the social, economic, and political problems that we face.

To overcome this shortcoming, the subjects of philosophy, politics, and economics need to be (re-)integrated. The PPE Program does precisely this. It provides a common framework that enables students to identify the key aspects of complex decision-making processes and to analyze both their normative and positive dimensions.

The Duke-UNC PPE Program  offers a minor at UNC and a certificate at Duke. Students pursuing either the minor or the certificate can take courses at the other school to meet the relevant requirements. The Gateway and Capstone courses are co-convened, meeting for half the semester at Duke and for half at UNC.