Honors Theses (PPE)

These theses represent the depth and breadth of interdisciplinary research carried out by Penn's PPE students. In order to write a thesis, a student must have an exemplary record of academic achievement in PPE courses and complete an independent research project under the supervision of a Penn faculty member. The authors here have opted to share their insightful research as part of this repository.



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Now showing 1 - 10 of 52
  • Publication
    Convictions and Consequences
    (2013-05-01) Petsagourakis, John
  • Publication
    In Defense of Liberty: Social Order & The Role of Government
    (2022-12-22) Conrad, Dylan J.
    This thesis seeks to address some of the most central questions to the fields of political philosophy and political economy. First, how can social order and government rationally develop out of anarchy? Next, what acts of force, if any, are morally permissible for the State to perform in its relations with individuals, so as to maintain political legitimacy? Lastly, what policies ought the State implement to achieve the best welfare outcomes for a society? This thesis will first show that a laissez-faire capitalist social order can spontaneously emerge from a purely self-interested State of Nature, with the institution of government being a mere product of market forces. Then, this thesis will defend a theory of natural rights on the basis that persons are normatively separate, before establishing that a laissez-faire capitalist social order is uniquely in compliance with these universal moral standards of conduct that predate the institution of any government. Finally, it will be argued in this thesis that the key tenets of laissez-faire capitalism - strong individual rights to life, liberty, and property - produce maximal human welfare from both individualist and collectivist aggregations, before such conclusions are translated into a foundation for limited government. Cumulatively, these arguments serve to fortify libertarian political philosophy and demonstrate that laissez-faire capitalism is the optimal form of social order.
  • Publication
    A Survey In Network Economics: Spam Email, Internet Routing, Graphical Economics, and International Trade
    (2005-01-01) Haase, Mark E
    A survey of current topics in network economics, a relatively new and growing field of research at the intersection of economics and network theory. Case studies in spam email, Internet routing, and graphical economics are presented as practical applications. A network economic analysis of international trade is also offered. Most of the current literature addresses a highly technical audience. This paper intends to bridge the gap by presenting network economics in language that will be familiar to students of economics.
  • Publication
    Critical Theory and Social Media: Alternatives and the New Sensibility
    (2018-05-08) Becker Marcano, Philippe E
    Social media platforms are technological communication tools that dominate our social relationships. As we increasingly notice how little control we have over these platforms and how much influence they have on our behavior, the search for alternatives becomes even more pressing. Critical theory is a practical and theoretical framework we can use to develop a qualitative critique of social media platforms, in extension to the large body of work that addresses the quantitatively measurable effects of the platforms. The internet was originally conceived as a space that would open a more communitarian future, but now it has been reduced to a realm dominated by giant corporations like facebook. Critical theory alternatives include structural change recommendations, but they often lack a discussion of what the aesthetics of a new social internet space would look like. By turning to Herbert Marcuse’s concept of the “new sensibility,” I argue that, if altered, the social media platform space opens up a possibility to combine the practical and the aesthetic and lead us to a radically different social internet space.
  • Publication
    A Study of the Effect of Online News Consumption on Political Polarization and Deliberative Democracy
    (2015-01-01) Hofbauer, Tara
    This paper examines the effect that the Internet and online news consumption has had on American society. It looks first at the number and types of people who use the Web. These are the individuals liable to be impacted by online news consumption. The study then looks at the factors that control Internet users’ acquisition of information. These gatekeepers, as they are referred to here, play a role in determining the impact of online news consumption. At last, the study examines what exactly this effect is, showing that homophilous social networks and incivility online have limited the capacity for serious democratic deliberation and contributed to political polarization.
  • Publication
    Market Design in the Presence of Repugnancy: A Market For Children
    (2012-05-10) Olaleye, Shane
    A market-like mechanism for the allocation of children in both the primary market (market for babies) and the secondary market (adoption market) will result in greater social welfare, hence be more efficient, than the current allocation methods used in practice, even in the face of repugnancy. Since a market for children falls under the realm of repugnant transactions, it is necessary to design a market with enough safeguards to bypass the repugnancy while avoiding the excessive regulations that unnecessarily distort the supply and demand pressures of a competitive market. The goal of designing a market for children herein is two-fold: 1) By creating a feasible market for children, a set of generalizable rules and principles can be realized for designing functioning and efficient markets in the face of repugnancy and 2) The presence of a potential, credible and efficient market in the presence of this repugnancy will stimulate debate into the need for such markets in other similar areas, especially in the cases of creating a tradable market for organs for transplantation, wherein the absence of the transaction is often a death sentence for those who wish to but are prevented from participating in the market.
  • Publication
    The Essence of Morality: A Teleological-Formalist Conception of Moral Progress
    (2015-05-01) Zhang, Daniel L.
    This thesis considers the problem of how people should deal with moral change. I examine various conceptions of morality and induce the essence of morality, or the set of formal features that is fundamental to all moralities. In particular, I claim that the essence of morality consists of four features: (1) it performs some function (namely, solving the problem of cooperation); (2) it is prescriptive; (3) it is regarded as universalized; and (4) it is regarded as possessing overriding authority over other normative systems. From this, I derive a metamorality or standard of moral progress with which to evaluate moral change, namely the teleologicalf-ormalist conception of morality, which holds that morality progresses if and only if it increasingly exhibits its formal features. This is important because it allows philosophers and policymakers more generally to evaluate moral change and steer moral progress.
  • Publication
    An Overview of Positive Economic Rights in American Political Thought
    (2022-01-01) Ryan, Noah
    Positive economic rights are entitlements an individual has for the state to provide for their basic needs. Though codified in international law, the existence of such rights remains deeply controversial in the United States. This thesis will explore the concept of positive economic rights throughout American history, beginning in the Colonial Period and ending with the recent revival of positive economic rights discourse since Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. The thesis will explore political literature related to positive rights, state duties to the poor, and positive liberty—a concept frequently invoked by advocates for positive economic rights. Through political literary analysis, I will argue that while the concept of state duties to the poor spans the full duration of American history, the framing of such duties in terms of individual rights is largely a product of the New Deal Era. The thesis will also explore arguments against positive economic rights, which began to intensify during the late 1960s. Though positive economic rights receded to the fringes of American discourse during the Reagan years, support for these rights appears to be making a comeback.
  • Publication
    Truth Commissions and Reparations: A Framework for Post-Conflict Justice in Argentina, Chile Guatemala, and Peru
    (2021-05-01) Chen, Anthony
    This paper seeks to gauge the effectiveness of truth commissions and their links to creating material reparations programs through two central questions. First, are truth commissions an effective way to achieve justice after periods of conflict marked by mass or systemic human rights abuses by the government or guerilla groups? Second, do truth commissions provide a pathway to material reparations programs for victims of these abuses? It will outline the conceptual basis behind truth commissions, material reparations, and transitional justice. It will then engage in case studies and a comparative analysis of truth commissions and material reparations programs in four countries: Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, and Peru. From the case studies and analysis, I will argue that truth commissions are an effective way to achieve comprehensive justice because they are victim-centered mechanisms that create a legitimate basis from which governments can build prosecutions and reparations programs. Next, I will argue that truth commissions provide a more favorable political condition for the creation of reparations programs and that truth commissions and reparations programs reinforce each other’s effectiveness.