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The Political Theory Project, which promotes the multidisciplinary study of political theory, launched a new interdisciplinary course this semester called POLS 1150: "Prosperity: The Ethics and Economics of Wealth Creation." The course, which addresses topics such as business ethics, liberty, market society and the relationship between wealth and happiness, is taught by Associate Professor of Political Science John Tomasi, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Jason Brennan and Postdoctoral Research Associate in Political Science Mark Koyama.

Currently, 106 students are enrolled in the course. The initial cap of 50 was expanded to 100 due to the course's popularity, Brennan said, adding that 125 to 150 students were at the first lecture.

The course is a chance for students interested in political science, philosophy and economics to "find out about the connections," Koyama said.

"This class is inviting people to synthesize tools from different fields in a rigorous way," Brennan said.

"Undergraduate students have very firm opinions" in these areas, Brennan said. "The point is, maybe it takes more study, maybe they shouldn't have as firm an opinion."

The implementation of the course comes in the wake of several unsuccessful attempts by the Political Theory Project to institute politics, philosophy and economics as an official concentration. Currently, PPE is available as an independent concentration.

During the course, the three professors take turns giving lectures, but each professor tries to go to every lecture. "We all attend every lecture as far as we are able to," Brennan said.

Brennan said that out of around 110 students present at one of the early lectures, about 90 claimed to have taken at least one economics class, at least 70 claimed to have had experience with political science courses, and about 60 had taken classes in philosophy. 

Students' enthusiasm for the course is "sort of a challenge," Brennan said. "We have to work hard to deserve that enthusiasm, at the end of the day."

Koyama and Brennan agreed that combining these three disciplines in a single course can be difficult. "We have enough topics to lecture on for a semester each," Koyama said.

"Putting all the pieces together in a coherent way rather than just piecemeal," can also be a challenge, Brennan said.

Brian Judge '11, a Herald opinions columnist, chose to enroll in the course "because of its multidisciplinary approach to the problem of wealth," he wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. "I think that the more ways you can look at something, the more likely you are to make sense of it."

Judge wrote that he hopes to "explore the assumptions and limits of each of the three disciplines as they relate to prosperity." 

"It's really useful to have a class in which the professors help to synthesize the political, philosophical and economic ramifications of different ideas," Aaron Jacobs '12, another student enrolled in the class, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The professors are allowing students to design their own final assignments for the course, which "allows us to pursue these ideas in a way that will prove most fruitful to our own particular goals," Jacobs wrote.

"I feel that most of the big issues today can't be understood without an understanding in these three disciplines," said PPE concentrator Kurt Walters '11, who added that pursuing an interdisciplinary independent concentration allows students "the freedom of actually deciding what it is you're studying."

The Political Theory Project is not a department on campus, wrote Dina Egge, program manager of the project, in an e-mail to The Herald, adding that the Political Theory Project is not currently pursuing the formalization of a PPE concentration.




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