Advanced Interdisciplinary Courses



PPE's advanced interdisciplinary courses (PPE 4500+) are the highest level classes offered by the program for our majors. They offer advanced students a quasi-graduate environment inviting students to the frontiers of research. Classes are taught by interdisciplinary instructors, on interdisciplinary topics, reserved for PPE majors. All PPE majors must take one to complete the major.

Note that you can take several of these courses to count towards your theme.

Course Goals

  1. Students should be able to accurately and clearly summarize a scholarly article. This requires basic understanding of the article's field, as well as the ability to write or speak clearly.

  2. Students should be able to raise and evaluate arguments on both sides of issues that an author has raised.

  3. Students should be able to criticize, without being unfair, without setting up straw men, and without neglecting possible counter-arguments to the criticism.

  4. Students should be able to give a presentation, effectively using visual aids as appropriate.

  5. Students should be able to synthesize readings into a position and defend that position against possible objections. They should know how to search efficiently for relevant literature.

Apart from our 4500+ Capstone courses, we also offer PPE 4000 courses, which are very small research-based seminars, capped at only 6 students. Topics change every year, depending on the projects and interests of our post doctoral researchers. Please see below, or check Path@Penn, for 4000 courses taught in the current semester.


Advanced Interdisciplinary Courses, Spring 2024

PPE 4000-301 Research in PPE: Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Work (Patel)

R 10:15 - 1:14 PM

In this research capstone, we will explore the novel challenges that arise from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its profound impact on the future of work. Through a broadly interdisciplinary lens (with a primary focus on political philosophy and ethics), we will engage with cutting-edge research, consider emerging ethical challenges, and analyze the socioeconomic effects of automation and AI on employment and job displacement, workforce dynamics, and wealth inequality on a global scale. More specifically, to gain a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the complex policy issues at the intersection of AI and labor, we will address topics such as the influence of AI on power dynamics in the workplace, including its potential to exacerbate unjust wealth distribution and exploitative labor conditions. We will also consider concerns related to fairness and discrimination when AI systems are involved in hiring processes (given potential biases present in AI training data). Moreover, we will explore the implications of AI for worker rights, such as the right to privacy, considering AI's capacity to monitor and analyze behavior on a massive scale. Lastly, we will explore how AI has the potential to reshape the nature of work itself by potentially reducing the need for human skills and abilities that have been valued in the past. In addition to these topics, we will consider various other issues related to AI and labor through analysis of real-world case studies.


PPE 4000-302 Research in PPE: Experimental Design for Empirical Research (Deutchman)

T 12:00 – 3:00 PM

This course will focus on how to design rigorous experiments for empirical research. We will cover the basics of experimental design such as translating research questions into testable hypotheses, operationalizing independent and dependent variables, randomization and counterbalancing, and how to address potential issues such as confounding variables and bias in the research process. We will read a number of interdisciplinary empirical research papers—primarily from psychology, behavioral economics, and experimental philosophy—focusing on their methods and experimental design. Additionally, you will receive hands-on experience proposing and designing your own research study. By the end of this course, you will have a comprehensive understanding of experimental design and methodology and be equipped to critically evaluate empirical research across disciplines.


PPE 4601-301 Advanced Seminar in Social Policy: Money, Power, Deceit (Patel)

T 1:45 – 4:45 PM

In this capstone, we will explore the complex dynamics surrounding corporate and financial corruption and its profound social, political, and economic impact on society. We will address important and timely questions related to corporate corruption, such as the causes and consequences of unethical business practices, the responsibilities and obligations corporations have toward the relevant stakeholders, and the role of national and international regulation in curbing corporate and financial misconduct. Questions we may consider include: What is a corporation? What kinds of legal and ethical frameworks (e.g., international conventions, anti-bribery laws, and corporate governance mechanisms) are effective at curbing corporate and financial corruption? What are the psychological and sociological factors that influence individuals within corporate structures to participate in corrupt practices? What are best practices with respect to public and corporate policy aimed at promoting transparency, accountability, and integrity within corporate environments? We will approach these questions (and others) by analyzing notable corruption scandals as case studies through a broadly interdisciplinary lens.


PPE 4650-401 Advanced Seminar in Political Science: The Politics of Climate Change (Bergquist)

R 1:45 – 4:45 PM

The purpose of this course is to explore the political dynamics that shape the debate, enactment, and implementation of policies to address climate change. By reading the latest research on the political determinants of climate policy, the course will help students develop a nuanced understanding of the ideas, institutions, and behaviors that structure the climate policy process. We will focus primarily on climate policy and politics in the United States, while occasionally incorporating comparative perspectives to provide insight into the US case. Throughout the course, we will discuss why climate policies are designed in particular ways; when and why policies pass or fail to pass; how various institutional, organizational, and public interests influence the climate policy process; and what questions remain unanswered about how to address the problem of climate change.


PPE 4800 – 301 Advanced Seminar in Psychology: Modelling Choice Behavior (Bhatia)

R 1:45 – 4:45 PM

This course will examine mathematical and computational models of individual choice behavior. It will cover modeling techniques from psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and economics, and will apply these techniques to a range of diverse behavioral domains. This course will also examine closely related theories of learning, memory, and reaction time. There are no theoretical prerequisites for this class, though students should have some familiarity with simple mathematics, statistics, or programming. Pre-requisite: PPE 313 / PPE 3003. Please submit a permit request. If you have completed the pre-req, your permit will be approved.


PPE 4800 – 302 Advanced Seminar in Psychology: Moral Psychology (Deutchman)

M 12:00 – 3:00 PM

This course explores human morality and its importance to human behavior and society. We will read theoretical and empirical work on morality, primarily from the psychological literature, but supplemented with work from moral philosophy, evolutionary biology, and behavioral economics. We will start the class by discussing the evolutionary origins of morality and cover major themes of moral psychology spanning moral judgements and decision making, moral emotions, and moral development. We will conclude the course by synthesizing the concepts and ideas from moral psychology with philosophical theories of morality and will discuss the implications of moral psychology to contemporary societal issues. Over the length of the course, we will address questions such as: Where does morality come from? How does morality change across childhood? Why are there cross-cultural differences in morality? How can the empirical study of morality inform ethical decision making and public policy?



PPE 4900 – 301 Advanced Seminar in PPE: Toward Everyday Altruism (SNF Paideia Program Course) (Cordero

MW 3:30 – 5:00 PM

Humans are often motivated and act to benefit the well-being of others. In this course, we will explore altruism as a process and investigate its affective, cognitive, behavioral, social, and ecological components. We will investigate questions such as, what are the causes, conditions, and impediments of altruism? Can altruism be developed within individuals, and if so how? What would an altruistic society look like, and how might it be achieved? These questions will be analyzed by considering topics from empathy, compassion, and well-being, generosity, trust, and cooperation, to uncertainty, fear, guilt, and suffering. We will engage with these questions and topics through reading and responding to material from a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, and economics, as well as contemplative studies and literature. In addition to conceptual learning, students will be introduced to tools and practices to support the exploration of altruism in their everyday life. Primary emphasis will be given to dialogue, including introspection and conversations with others, which will be considered as a fundamental activity in the exploration and training of altruistic intentions and actions. As part of the course, students will regularly engage in personal and interpersonal reflections and write analytical essays. Students will complete a final project in which they explore selected course material at a deeper level, apply core concepts from the course to solve social or environmental problems, or create materials and resources that others may use to develop altruism. At the end of the semester, each student will complete a dialogical examination. A foundational theme of this course is a focus on moving in the direction of greater altruism, a shift of balance from preoccupation with the magnitude of progress. By the end of the semester, we will discover how every life experience is an opportunity to take a step in the direction of altruism. 


PPE 4950 – 301 Advanced Seminar in Research Methods (Lahiri)

T 10:15 – 1:15 PM 

This course is aimed at understanding how to do research in the interdisciplinary methods of PPE. Whether it is a scientific paper, a thesis proposal, a research statement for grant or fellowship applications, or a report for a public or private employer engaged in any type of research, it is essential to know all the steps and the elements to make the final manuscript captivating and exhaustive. In this course, among other things, you will be learning (i) how to choose a topic of your interest, (ii) how to formulate specific research questions, and (iii) what tools you can use to turn your initial idea into a well-structured written production. This course is strongly encouraged for juniors intending to pursue the Senior Honors Thesis track in PPE and upperclassmen in PPE with serious research aspirations here at Penn and beyond. While the final project in this course will depend on the individual student's purpose for taking this methods seminar, this course will fulfill the capstone requirement in the PPE major. Interested students must apply.


Previous Advanced Interdisciplinary Courses