Theodore M. Lechterman

Postdoctoral Researcher in Political Theory

Professional website of Theodore M. Lechterman, postdoctoral researcher in political theory.


  Photo © 2017 by Charlie Russo

Photo © 2017 by Charlie Russo

Since September 2016 I am a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, splitting my time between the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society and the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. I received my Ph.D. in political theory from the Department of Politics at Princeton University in 2016. Born and raised north of New York City, I earned an A.B. in Government from Harvard College in 2008 and worked briefly in social advocacy before returning to academia. 

I am currently working on a book manuscript on the relationship between philanthropy, as a social practice, and democracy, as a moral ideal. Philanthropy and democracy both provide mechanisms for shaping social outcomes, but in markedly different ways. Philanthropy confers social decision-making power on the basis of individual initiative and level of wealth. Democracy requires that social outcomes issue from collective decision-making processes that abstract from differences in wealth. Philanthropy and democracy would thus appear to be odd bed fellows in a political society. The book argues that in certain areas philanthropy can in fact be a more serious threat to the democratic ideal than we generally realize, while in others it can actually work to support democratic principles. These conclusions carry unique implications for both public policy and individual behavior. 

Other research interests of mine include the relationship between property and democratic theory more broadly, and, at a more abstract level, the relevance of existing practices to normative theory-building. A lengthier description appears in the Research section of this site.

In 2017-2018 I will teach a course at Stanford titled "The Ethics and Politics of Effective Altruism." Effective altruism is a school of thought and social movement that urges individuals to do the most good they can for the world, and to do so based on careful reasoning and reliable evidence. The course explores the philosophical foundations and critical reception of this movement. In the past I have served as a teaching assistant for courses in Ethics and Public Policy, Global Justice, and Practical Ethics, and as a mentor for undergraduates in Princeton's Values and Public Life program. I encourage students with whom I work to regard political theory not only as a rewarding intellectual challenge but also as a tool for reflecting on our duties as citizens. A lengthier explanation of my teaching philosophy is available through the Teaching link.


McCoy Center for Ethics in Society
559 Abbott Way, Stanford, CA 94305


Those interested in landscape photography or jazz/funk/fusion may enjoy perusing my photo collections or curated Spotify playlists.