Studying Politics, Economics and Philosophy at the University of York

Today the disciplines of Politics, Economics
and Philosophy are often treated as separate from each other. Yet intellectual giants like
Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx: they didn’t make such distinctions. We sometimes jokingly say that a PEP graduate is someone who can
read the newspapers and see what is really going on. They can evaluate and analyse the arguments and methods being used by people in public life. They can recognise ideas,
their origins and their consequences: enough that they can separate the good from the bad in among all that noise. No other university brings the three disciplines
together in the way York does. You will study specially designed, integrated
modules. One of the main things I really enjoy about
my degree is political philosophy: equality, justice and what those mean, what’s wrong
and what’s right. And it’s that area of the degree that I enjoy so much. It’s one of the reasons I chose York over other universities. Because we have those specific modules
which do straddle the disciplines. You will be taught by economists, political
scientists and philosophers who are distinguished in their fields. The students particularly enjoy the differing,
and sometimes conflicting perspectives, that the teachers in Politics, Economics and Philosophy
bring to such topics as rationality, justice and democracy. The public sphere is informed by the study
of all three subjects. For example the recent crisis in Europe
clearly indicates that economic
measures alone are unlikely to meet the challenges facing the eurozone if there’s a lack of political will. My own research falls at the intersection
of Economics and Philosophy: on topics such as well being which is very hard for economists
to make significant headway without grappling with philosophical questions about the good life. Take the idea of national interest, and think
about what this might mean in the context of the UK current economic policy. A key characteristic
has been to keep interest rates very low. While this clearly advantages people who owe
debt, but it clearly disadvantages who are trying to live off the income from their savings.
So how do we weigh the interests of one group against those of another when deciding what’s
in the national interest? So what I find fascinating is comparing cost-benefit
analysis economics to utilitarianism and philosophy. By comparing the two I can use utilitarianism
to maximise total happiness in a cost-benefit analysis situation. But then of course that
depends on how we define hapiness. The interdisciplinary study of Politics, Philosophy
and Economics enables a graduate to engage constructively and positively in urgent questions. They will enjoy careers as thinkers and leaders,
equipped to address the challenges of the coming decades.

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