The Minor Details: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

The Minor Details: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

Choosing a major is a big part of college, and it's certainly something to be excited about. But minors deserve love, too.

Choosing a major is a big part of college, and it’s certainly something to be excited about.

But minors deserve love, too. They allow you to learn a lot about something else you’re interested in and can spice up any resume.

In The Minor Details, we’ll be featuring some cool, lesser-known minors at colleges in the Triangle.

Today, let’s talk about Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Also known as PPE, it’s offered as a minor at UNC and a certificate program at Duke.

To learn more about the program, I talked to professor Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, director of the PPE program at UNC. He’s a philosophy professor who teaches several classes within the minor. He said that philosophy, politics and economics give students a more holistic view of each subject when combined.

“The idea is to exploit the fact that there’s a robust intersection of the three disciplines,” he said, “that when you’re squarely in any one of the disciplines, don’t really see clearly.”

That could mean things like bringing questions of ethics and morality into economics. Or applying philosophical ideas to society with game theory, which is borrowed largely from political science.

“You don’t understand the social world you’re living in without understanding all of this together,” Sayre-McCord said.

The first PPE program was started at University of Oxford in the 1920s. You might recognize some of the people who attended, like Bill Clinton, Christopher Hitchens and David Cameron.

UNC students can minor in PPE by completing five courses. All minors take the same gateway and capstone courses and choose the other three from this list.

Since PPE is a joint program between UNC and Duke, the gateway and capstone classes are held jointly at Duke and UNC, with students traveling between campuses at different times during the semester. Look for the Robertson bus, which connects the two campuses.

To complete the PPE certificate program at Duke, students will need a total of six courses: the gateway and capstone shared with UNC, and four more courses from this list.

Sayre-McCord said that completing the program could be useful for students’ future careers.

“Fairly often the PPE minor catches the eye of consulting firms, think tanks, and various companies, often because the people doing the hiring have a sense of the Oxford PPE degree but also because the combination of the three disciplines, on seeing it, makes sense as a useful combination,” he said.

Robert Kinlaw

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