PPE (Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics)

The PPE stream considers various questions, including:

  • How does an economic decision, like raising minimum wage, influence social and political issues?
  • What are the strengths and drawbacks of having a capitalist economic system in a democratic society?
  • How much influence should Government have in the everyday lives of citizens? Are there risks associated with too much or too little influence?
  • How do scholars produce new knowledge? How do first-year students participate in knowledge-making activities?
  • How to ask and answer questions about ethics, morality, and the meaning of life?

PPE is organized around ideas that are fundamental to understanding the social world. Critical thinking and a multi-disciplinary approach are emphasized when considering issues like government policy, economic organization, social ills, relativism and universal values, and transnational and social justice. Students will develop theoretical and practical skills associated with scholarly research and discussion in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Loosely modeled on a successful undergraduate program at the University of Oxford, this stream engages students via four disciplinary perspectives: Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, and English. Though the focus is aimed primarily at the Canadian context, courses in this stream will also consider global scenarios, and students are encouraged to apply broadly the knowledge they gain in PPE.

This stream may be of particular interest to students who plan on majoring in Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, Commerce, and International Relations.

Term One Courses

ASTU 100B Arts Studies Seminar

(3 credits/1 term) – First Year CAP Seminar: Focuses on academic reading, writing, and research. This course provides an interdisciplinary foundation for academic writing and related research communicative practices within an interactive learning environment. Students will choose one out of five different sections, based on their scheduling needs and academic interests.

  • ASTU 100B Section P01 -  Crisis and the Everyday in Academic Research and Writing
    Mon, Wed & Fri 10 - 11
    Dr. Evan Mauro

In this CAP stream, we investigate how our ways of thinking about politics, economics, and philosophy overlap, and how they differ. Our section of ASTU 100A will focus on the concept of crisis, a term that is increasingly used in each of these disciplines to describe our contemporary condition. We will investigate what happens when an event or situation is termed a crisis today. How are crises defined, and what cultural and political work do these definitions do? If “crisis” once meant an extraordinary situation, it has more recently become part of the fabric of everyday life:  subprime crisis, Eurozone crisis, environmental crisis, jobs crisis, and so on. We will investigate who defines these different crises, who benefits from those definitions, and what it might mean that our sense of crisis has been normalized to the point that we now understand our everyday state of affairs as a prolonged crisis, unfolding slowly.

  • ASTU 100B P02, P03 -  Forceful Feelings
    Tues, Thurs 2 - 3.30 / 3.30 - 5
    Carmen Mathes
This course teaches academic research and writing through explorations of the power of feeling to shape human interactions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. We will ask questions about love, anger, happiness and sadness, and we will ask how scholars from psychology, literary studies and history think about “forceful feelings.” This is to say, that in this course you will be asked to think about feelings and emotions from the perspective of a researcher. Throughout the term, we will read and analyze six academic articles from different disciplines on the topic of “forceful feelings.”
Scholarly writing is an on-going conversation about ideas, and this course is designed to bring you into that exchange. You will learn about the goals, research methods, citation practices, vocabularies and standards of different disciplines. Journal articles are the currency of academic discourse, and although you may not have been exposed to them before, they need not be mysterious or intimidating. Approaching academic writing as a socially situated praxis, we will acquaint ourselves with the disciplinary contexts through which different forms of scholarly writing are produced. By the end of the term, you will feel confident reading and critically engaging with journal articles from this range of scholarly disciplines.
  • ASTU 100B Section P04 
    Mon, Wed & Fri 11 - 12

Course description TBC.

  • ASTU 100B Section P05 
    Mon, Wed & Fri 1 - 2

Course description TBC.

Economics (ECON) 101

(3 credits/1 term) – Principles of Microeconomics: Elements of theory and of Canadian policy and institutions concerning the economics of markets and market behaviour, prices and costs, exchange and trade, competition and monopoly, distribution of income.

Microeconomics is the study of how individuals,households, firms, and societies use scarce resources. In this course we will examine questions like: Is a market system a good way to organize economic activity and allocate society’s scarce resources? What is the best way for the government to raise the tax revenues itneeds? Does increasing the minimum wage make sense? Should the City of Vancouver use rent controls to keep housing affordable? How does international trade affect the well-being of Canadians and their trading partners?

The main goal of the course is to give you a framework for thinking about these sorts of important questions. This framework, which is often called “the economic way of thinking”, will help you better understand the world around. It will also help you make better decisions in your personal life and your professional career. Specific topics covered include how consumers and firms make decisions and interact in markets; what determines market prices and how those prices help allocate society’s scarce resources; how firms decide what type and quantity of goods services to produce; how various government policies affect market outcomes and social welfare; why economists typically think using free markets to organize economic is good thing; and how economists view some of the problems caused by pollution, public goods, and common property resources.

The required text for the course is “Principles of Microeconomics” by N. Gregory Mankiw,Ronald D. Kneebone, Kenneth J. McKenzie and Nicholas Rowe, most recent Canadian Edition, Thomson Nelson.

Political Science (POLI) 100

(3 credits/1 term) – Introduction to Politics
M, W, F 9 - 10
Christopher Erickson

Political issues and case studies, drawn from Canadian and international contexts, will be used to introduce students to central debates and concepts of politics and political analysis.

Term Two Courses

Philosophy (PHIL) 102

(3 credits/1 term) – Introduction to Philosophy: In this course we will engage with some of the most fundamental questions of the human condition: What is the purpose of life? Is life ultimately meaningless? Do human beings have genuine free choice or is all our behaviour simply determined by physical laws? Is morality merely subjective or are there universal moral laws? What principle or principles could provide us with the standard of right and wrong? What makes for a just society? In this course we will read and discuss influential philosophical texts addressing these topics, all the while subjecting our own beliefs and those of others to the standards of reason.

This course will provide an introduction to normative philosophical thinking in ethics and social-political philosophy. We will learn the skills and methods for philosophical argumentation by reading and writing on a number of philosophical topics related to CAP themes, including relativism and the possibility of universal values, torture and terrorism, censorship, sexual morality, and the challenge of global poverty and transnational justice.

Economics (ECON) 102

(3 credits/1 term) – Principles of Macroeconomics: Elements of theory and of Canadian policy and institutions concerning the economics of growth and business cycles, national income accounting, interest and exchange rates, money and banking, the balance of trade.

Macroeconomics deals with important questions like: Why are some countries rich while others are poor? What is economic growth and why do different countries grow at different rates? Why is the government so concerned about controlling inflation? What determines the unemployment rate and how is it measured? Why do economies experience cycles of booms and busts rather than a steady increase in the level of economic activity? What are monetary and fiscal policies and how does the government use these policies to influence economic activity?

This course will give you some basic frameworks for thinking about questions like these and many more. It will also help develop your skills of economic analysis and critical thinking. By the end of the course, you’ll have gained some insight into how an economy functions and into some of the policy issues that are the subject of serious debate.

Political Science (POLI) 101

(3 credits/1 term)
M, W, F 11-12
Allan Craigie

The Canadian state presents a unique opportunity to explore politics within one of the world’s oldest constitutional democracies.  Canadian politics is not simply about winning elections.  Politics in Canada deals with the basic nature of what Canada is, who we are, and the type of society we want to live in.  The Government of Canada engages students in the exploration of government structures and political cleavages in Canada.  The State, Nationalism and Regionalism, Foreign Affairs, Elections and Political Parties are some of the topics covered.  Students will come away with a strong understanding of the Canadian context, as well as broader political themes, to prepare them for more advanced study within political science.

POLI 101

Article Review: Students are given a choice of topics on which to write a short paper. They are asked to choose one article that they will use for the short paper and write a separate article review on it. This assignment is designed to aid the student in choosing appropriate materials for research papers, understand the key arguments from the material, and succinctly communicating that argument.


Literature Review: Students choose a research topic (based on the focus of their section of ASTU 100B), and then write a scholarly literature review. Students learn to identify major abstractions (or concepts), find appropriate secondary sources using the library databases, place academics in discussion with one another, and take a position within this conversation.

Please note that students will only register in one ASTU 100B section, and one discussion section for POLI 100, POLI 101, ECON 101, and ECON 102. This timetable is subject to change.