What is PPE?



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Hi all,

When writing this, I was given the privilege to sit down and think about why I am in University doing PPE. After-all, amidst all 5 of formative deadlines (all of which are essays), and the Microeconomics test I have next week I have joked about how its time to finally drop-out (quite literally halfway my degree) or ranted about why I picked the ‘E’ alongside my ‘Ps’ in the first place so many times that typing that routine of a conversation would be easier for me than this.

The privilege of being able to do this degree is something I don’t think about a lot. However, tonight when reading over my old personal statement, tucked away in old folders that I haven’t used in years, I am reminded of a 17-year-old me pouring her heart out into a google doc at 2am believing wholeheartedly that PPE is the degree for her.

I have to admit, my introduction to anything related to PPE, came from a love for literature and art which stemmed from a love of humans. To understand the different perspectives and attitudes people have towards life, family and society in an intimate way through literature and art makes you want to know how to create a utopian world that could help reach that. A text I cited in my personal statement was Camus’ ‘The Myth of Sisyphus.’ What would a society that could satisfy a human’s “revolt, freedom, and passion” in a harmonious way be like was the question 17-year-old me asked. Furthermore, I was intrigued by how there could be different understandings of human nature — “nasty, brutish and short” according to Hobbes, and “born free and masters of himself” according to Rousseau. As demonstrated, this inevitably led me to the realms of Philosophy. Fundamentally, I enjoyed Philosophy for how it is essentially a crash course into the ‘human’. Want to know about what the soul is? What about time? What about the nature of meaning? Philosophy has got you covered. As for Politics, dystopian novels such as ‘The Hunger Games’ that talked about power, society and individuals made me wonder about political systems and the purpose of it. 

Thinking back about my University application process, it was filled with slightly melodramatic rants to my friends and family about how I want to do nothing but just “understand”. As a person, I am not much of a believer — there is no one defiant stance that I would stand by. This is a belief that is perfectly articulated by Russell’s quote “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” Perhaps this goes hand in hand with how I don’t see myself ever becoming a Politician. I also don’t think it is possible to truly understand through mathematics and quantifying phenomena. Perhaps why I don’t see myself becoming an Economist either. Maybe that’s why I am here writing about the importance of PPE as a journal editor. 

Now that I am pretty much half-way through my degree, I have seen how these three subjects inter-link. How disputing the moral understanding of harm can drastically change conclusions in population ethics and hence developmental economics. How understanding cultural and historical backgrounds of countries can affect the way they interact in International Relations and trade with other countries. In how concepts of liberty create a foundation of the norms and expectations in Classical Economics. How a concept such as ‘transitivity’ is at the centre of moral theory and Microeconomics.

SO WHAT IS ‘SPIRAL’? An interesting fact I learnt while editing the ‘Spiral’ website is that the spiral is traditionally used by many cultures to represent the evolution and expansion of one’s mind. What intrigued me the most about the PPE course is the unique way it blends Philosophy, Politics and Economics. The interesting intersection provides a unique approach to different things that are happening in the world right now. Spiral attempts this approach to current affairs in our articles as a way to distinguish us from other student publications such as ‘The Palatinate’. When talking to friends that don’t do PPE, I’ve noticed that they talk about the world through the lens of PPE, in a way where Economics is inseparable from Politics and where all of these are linked to Philosophy. To me this makes sense as Philosophy is where our values and beliefs lie, Politics is where our values are presented, and Economics is a tool to gain these values. Hence, I strongly believe that the way Philosophy, Politics and Economics interlink is intuitive to many students. As a result, I would like to promote Spiral as a platform for expression to all inquisitive and curious students in Durham and elsewhere. 

I can conclude that I do have lots of love for PPE despite what my daily rants may suggest. I love Philosophy, for the way I love life and the way it enriches my everyday personal life; Politics, for the way I love humans and society and would like to benefit them; and lastly, Economics, (despite it being my least favourite) as a means to enhance human life. Hopefully, I can share my passion for this unique ‘PPE’ approach to an audience through ‘Spiral’.


Lots of love,



P.S: While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out this dated but iconic interview with Matteo (our favourite PPE babe)

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Yuk-Ting is a 2nd year PPE student in Durham. She enjoys reading about virtue-ethics and ecofeminist theory and thinking about how this can be applied in Politics, IR and Economics.

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