Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)
Submitted by Sarah
As a Slovak who is conscious of my nation’s turbulent history, I have been fascinated by questions that fall within the domains of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. From questions about Slovakia’s Communist past, her current membership of the EU, and her economic future I am constantly grappling with broader issues and concepts that transcend my nation’s history and bring me to the great debates that constitute the lifeblood of my chosen course.
Influenced by my mother’s stories about her upbringing under Soviet rule I have long had an interest in both the theory and implementation of Marxist thought. Initially this interest brought me to ‘Communist Czechoslovakia’ by Dr Kevin McDermott which disturbed me with its description of real-world oppression, but it also brought me to Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’. Reading this text to better understand an ideology which played such a significant role in my nation’s history I found myself questioning the morality of Marxism and wondering if the attempt to move power from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat via the state would always end up – as was the case in Slovakia – with power simply being centralised in the hands of state bureaucrats. This question continues to intrigue me and provided the basis for my EPQ: “By eliminating the class system, Marxism ideology provides a just society.’ To what extent is this statement correct”.
Another debate that I find fascinating is the role and function of mathematical models in economic thought. At the University of Oxford UNIQ Summer School, I was introduced to the Neyman-Rubin causal model. This non-parametric model is revolutionary and seemingly of high utility; quantifying causal effect is vital to rational decision-making. However, reading George Szpiro’s ‘Price the Future’ and learning about how the Black Scholes’s model may have contributed to the 2008 financial crisis I am much more sensitive and alert to the way in such models may disguise more than they reveal. This is certainly not to say that such models are irrelevant to economics but we may need to show much more care in how we use them, and the possibly suspect assumptions upon which they are based.
Even though my background has brought me to important debates about society, I am also drawn to fundamental questions about truth, reality and ultimate meaning. I explored this interest when I entered the 2017 John Locke essay competition, arguing that the five-minute hypothesis (5MH) - the belief that the universe came into existence only five minutes ago, and all apparent knowledge of a past beyond that is a product of the time of creation – shouldn’t be believed. However despite my conclusion I found it both fascinating and a little disturbing that this theory, birthed to strengthen Russell’s argument about memory, is hard, if not impossible to disprove. The 5MH is certainly at odds with common sense and counter-intuitive but nonetheless it has a certain logical sense. It is such insights and challenges that I find deeply appealing about Philosophy and which can only add greater depth and value to my other areas of interest.
Apart from wider reading, essay competitions and summer schools there are many other ways in which I have fuelled my interest in PPE. For example, in my work experience at the United Nations in Geneva, I reflected on the importance of international cooperation to secure basic human rights and dignity worldwide. After visiting the Houses of Parliament, I completed an introductory MOOC into UK Politics to understand more about the dynamics of our bicameralism. While working at Deloitte, I learnt about how government regulation and systems of taxation shape the decisions of small business owners. As has hopefully been demonstrated I have deep and abiding interest in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and it is due to this that I seek to read them at university, finding answers to the many questions I have about the society, world and reality in which I live.