Degree Requirements

The PPEL program aims not simply at breadth of knowledge, but detailed understanding. To do this the major is composed of 42 units.

General Education

The General Education curriculum described below applies to all students who matriculate in Fall 2021 or earlier.


  • 1st Year English or equivalent
  • Math: PHIL 110, LING 123, MATH 105, 107, 112 or higher
  • 4th semester second language proficiency

General Education

  • 6 units Tier 1 Individuals & Societies
  • 6 units Tier 1 Traditions & Cultures
  • 6 units Tier 1 Natural Sciences
  • 3 units Tier 2 Humanities
  • 3 units Tier 2 Natural Sciences
  • 3 units Tier 2 Arts
  • 3 units Diversity

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The General Education curriculum described below applies to all students who matriculate in Spring 2022 or beyond.

UNIV 101

1 course, 1 unit - Introduction to the General Education Experience 


3 courses, 9 units (number of units is variable depending on method of meeting writing & second language requirements)

  • Math
  • Writing
  • 4th semester second language proficiency

Exploring Perspectives

4 courses, 12 units

  • Artist
  • Humanist
  • Natural Scientist
  • Social Scientist

Building Connections

3 courses, 3 units

UNIV 301

1 course, 1 unit - General Education Portfolio

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Disciplinary Foundations (9 units)

In their first and second years of university study, potential PPEL majors must complete three courses of disciplinary study.

Economics Foundations

  • Complete one course (3 units)
National and international economic issues. An introduction to economic analysis.
The study the ethics and the economics of such phenomena as market competition, institutions of private and public property, trade restrictions, globalization, and corporate welfare.
An introductory course in the fundamentals of modern statistics with applications and examples in the social and behavioral sciences.

Philosophy Foundations

  • Complete one course (3 units)
  • Choose one of the following:
It is important to "do the right thing". But how can anyone tell what "the right thing" is? The aim on this course is to gain an overview of this area of philosophy. We shall examine three main ways of thinking about ethics: those that focus on the outcomes of actions, those that focus on the nature of the actions themselves, and those that focus on the character of the one who acts. We shall also glimpse a couple of emerging alternatives. While we certainly cannot pretend to cover everything that is important in ethical theory, we can hope to gain a good familiarity with several main issues, which can serve as a solid background for more advanced work in ethics, as a resource for thinking about moral issues, and as a piece of general education valuable for understanding certain practical aspects of human life.
In a world in which we disagree deeply about the ends of life and the requirements of morality, how can we live together? The social contract tradition has sought to base society and political life on an agreement by individuals to live according to rules of justice. This course focuses on the search for this agreement, in the classical theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, as well as contemporary theories such as that of John Rawls.

Politics Foundations

  • Complete one course (3 units)
  • Choose one of the following:
Basic issues in political thought, with emphasis on contemporary problems of democracy, liberty, authority, obligation, and ideology.
Theory and practice of executive agencies, including policy making and other functions, processes, personnel and fiscal management, and administrative law.

Core Curriculum (21 units)

Students admitted to Advanced Standing are required in their junior year to take PPEL 401 (formerly 301), 410 (formerly 310), 320 and 326; in their senior year they must take PPEL 440 (formerly 340) and 418 (formerly 350), as well as the capstone seminar, PPEL 496.

The PPEL program guarantees course and place availability, allowing all students to complete the core in their third and fourth years of university study. Except with special permission, only students who have completed their disciplinary foundation courses can enroll in the core courses.

Junior Year Core Curriculum (2018-19)

This course acquaints students with the contributions to PPEL by, among others, John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, J.S. Mill, Karl Marx, F.A. Hayek and John Maynard Keynes. The course considers why the field of political economy, combining social philosophy, politics, and economic analysis, flourished for most of the nineteenth century, but broke into separate fields at the end of the century, and the consequences of this rupture.
This writing-intensive course explores basic legal doctrine and legal theory in one or another central area of the law. In general, philosophical and/or economic analysis will be brought to bear on substantive areas of law. In a given semester, the course might focus on basic constitutional law and constitutional theory, basic property law and theory, the law of torts and tort theory, or criminal law and the philosophy of criminal law. The focus of a course in a given semester TBA.
A survey of economic analysis covering topics in microeconomics and welfare economics.
This course introduces students to the ways in which economic analysis has been applied to issues in social philosophy and the study of politics. Game theory, axiomatic social choice theory, and public choice theory are discussed.

Senior Year Core Curriculum (2018-19)

Given the growth of interest in behavioral considerations, experiments are increasingly used to test theories of behavior, gather stylized facts and design public policy. Experimental Economics may be the fastest growing field in economics today. It is a field that began with the proposition that economic theory can be testable in a controlled laboratory setting. Experimental work has been conducted in all fields of economics including Industrial Organization, Game Theory, Public Finance, General Equilibrium Theory and even Macroeconomics. Students will be introduced to the methods of experimental science, explore major subject areas that have been addressed through laboratory experiments, and learn how to design experiments of their own. Topics to be included reflect a variety of splits in the field: behavioral economics is more closely linked to psychology, neuroeconomics records brain wave activity during the experiment in an attempt to link behavior to specific areas of the brain, while the main branch, experimental economics, tries to learn about individual and group behavior given economic institutions and questions.
This course considers what constitutes a better economic distribution, or a fair way to sustain social and economic cooperation. The course centers around two broad families of approaches: those that focus on fairness or justice, and those that evaluate on the basis of welfare improvements. Topics to be considered include the morality of markets, egalitarianism, the Pareto criterion, economic desert, and mutual gain.
In their fourth year all PPEL students take a capstone seminar, of no more than 15 students. This seminar will be on a topic in philosophy, politics, economics or law chosen by the faculty member, but the aim of all the seminars will be to bring the student's PPEL skills to bear on a problem or issue.

Areas of Concentration (12 units)

The third element of the PPEL major is 12 units of advanced work in the allied disciplines.

concentration options