Core faculty in the Kellogg Center for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics plan to welcome prolific researchers in celebration of the center’s in-person launch.

The Kellogg Center is one of the first research centers in the world dedicated to interdisciplinary research in philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE). The fast-growing research field considers the ethical, political, and economic dimensions of complex social problems to develop comprehensive and sustainable solutions for society.

The center will host a one-day workshop to mark its creation on Aug. 13 from 8:45 a.m. to 6:10 p.m. in the Hyatt Place Blacksburg conference room.

Open to the public, the workshop will feature a select group of scholars who conduct research at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and economics.

The workshop will provide a friendly and welcoming environment and, in addition to faculty, encourages students to attend. Attendance is not required for the whole day. Instead, faculty and students are welcome to join only the sessions of interest to them.

The speakers will provide brief presentations of their work. With a workshop format, the event will provide plenty of room for discussions and interactions with the guest speakers and PPE faculty.

“The workshop does not have an overarching theme. Instead, in line with the Kellogg Center’s mission, which offers research expertise across the field of PPE, the workshop features explorations on a variety of topics in PPE,” said Michael Moehler, director of the Kellogg Center.

Speakers include:

  • Harrison Frye, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia. Frye is a political theorist whose research interests include the ideal of freedom, the morality of the market, and the value of social norms. In general, Frye believes it is important for normative political theory to engage with the social sciences and the realities of how social and political institutions function. His work appears in venues such as the Journal of Political Philosophy and Economics and Philosophy.
  • Mary Eschelbach Hansen, a professor of economics at American University. She is an expert in U.S. social policy and is widely published in the fields of child policy, bankruptcy, and economic history. Her work addresses key issues in race, gender, and economic inequality. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Institute for New Economic Thinking. She has been quoted or cited by various news outlets and has given public testimony before the DC City Council and in Federal District Court.
  • Dan Haybron, the Theodore R. Vitali C.P. Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy at Rutgers University. His research focuses on ethics, psychology, and political philosophy, particularly issues of well-being. He has published numerous articles in these areas and is the author of “The Pursuit of Unhappiness: The Elusive Psychology of Well-Being” and “Happiness: A Very Short Introduction.”
  • Jennifer Jhun, an assistant professor of philosophy and a faculty fellow at the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University. She works in the philosophy of economics, but has many auxiliary interests in the philosophy of other sciences, social and political philosophy, and applied ethics. Her work has been published in journals such as Philosophy of Science, Synthese, and Erkenntnis. She has a forthcoming journal entry in “The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Economics.”
  • John Thrasher, an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy at Chapman University. His research focuses on the relation of individual practical rationality to social rules. He is the author, with Dan Halliday, of “The Ethics of Capitalism” and, with Jerry Gaus, of “Philosophy, Politics, and Economics: An Introduction.” His articles have been published in numerous journals, such as Philosophical Studies, The Journal of Politics, Synthese, and Political Studies.

The workshop schedule is as follows:

  • 8:45 to 9 a.m. — Welcoming Remarks: Michael Moehler
  • 9 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. — John Thrasher: “Contract and Consensus”
  • 10:40 a.m. to 12 p.m. — Jennifer Jhun: “Economics and Epistemic Infrastructure”
  • 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Lunch Break (at the Kellogg Center)
  • 1:30 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. — Harrison Frye: “The Threat of Domination at Work”
  • 3:10 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. — Dan Haybron: “Snapshots of Well-Being for Policy”
  • 4:50 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. — Mary Eschelbach Hansen: “Economics and Ethics in Adoption Policy”

The center’s core faculty members selected each speaker and invited them to the workshop.

Core faculty member Fabian Wendt, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Political Science, said Frye’s timely work connects empirical social science and normative political theory.

“Among other topics, Dr. Frye has written about how a better understanding of the role incentives play in our economy affects popular arguments that posit a trade-off between equality and efficiency,” said Wendt. “In his presentation at Virginia Tech, he will talk about freedom at the workplace, arguing that it is not the ownership structure that is a threat to freedom as non-domination, but the extent of the managerial prerogative.”

Core Kellogg Center faculty member Melinda Miller, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics, invited Hansen.

Hansen has done important work on race, gender, and economic inequality. Her workshop paper focuses on the economics and ethics of adoption, with specific consideration of U.S. policy and the collective benefit and obligations of adaption policies.  

“Hansen is an expert in U.S. social policy. She is widely published in the fields of child policy, bankruptcy, and economic history. Her work addresses key issues in race, gender, and economic inequality,” said Miller. “At the workshop, Hansen will present a paper on the ethics and economics of adoption. Over 60,000 children are adopted through the foster care system annually in the U.S. An additional 18,000 babies are adopted privately. The large number of children adopted dictates that understanding the ethical and economic implications of adoption is critical.”

Gil Hersch, an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, selected Haybron.

“Dr. Haybron’s work on well-being — including its measurement and how public policy can promote it — is philosophically insightful and connects with the work of both social scientists and policy makers,” said Hersch. “Haybron’s current research is focused on advancing criteria by which we can assess well-being measures that will eventually be used in the public policy realm.”

Juhn was selected for the workshop for her research in the philosophy of economics. Her work is informed by and engages with real-world economic models. She argues that models can be linked by analogical relations, rather than by reduction or emergence relations, which most philosophers of science have focused on.

Moehler chose to invite Thrasher, who has a wide range of interests in the history of moral, political, and economic thought, in addition to rational choice theory, political economy, justice, and PPE.

“At the workshop, Dr. Thrasher will discuss recent developments in social contract theory, in particular with regard to the increased diversity in contemporary societies that often makes it difficult to reach a consensus on questions of justice,” said Moehler, who is an associate professor of philosophy, politics, and economics in the Department of Political Science. “To accommodate such diversity, Dr. Thrasher suggests a dynamic approach to social contract theory that rejects the search for consensus on high-level principles of justice.”

To receive an advance copy of the workshop papers, email Moehler at

PPE at Virginia Tech has grown quickly since its origin as a program five years ago. Last year, the program officially expanded into the Kellogg Center. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, a majority of the center’s programming last year took place virtually.

“I am pleased for our faculty and students that, after more than a year of virtual interactions, the Kellogg Center is able to host this in-person workshop at Virginia Tech,” said Moehler.

Written by Andrew Adkins