Theodore M. Lechterman

Postdoctoral Researcher in Political Theory

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

Bio


 Photo credit: Stefanie Wetzel

Photo credit: Stefanie Wetzel

Since September 2018 I am a postdoctoral fellow at Justitia Amplificata, a Centre for Advanced Studies housed at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt. From 2016 to 2018 I was an Interdisciplinary Ethics Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University (where I also founded The Philosurfers — a surf club for the philosophically inclined). 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 policy research before returning to academia. 

My research principally concerns how democratic ideals apply to economic practices. I am currently working on a book manuscript on the relationship between philanthropy and democracy. 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 Spring 2018 I taught a popular course at Stanford on "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 explored 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.

Contact:

Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Am Wingertsberg 4

61348 Bad Homburg v.d. Höhe, Deutschland

lechterman”at”em.uni-frankfurt.de

 

Those interested in landscape photography or jazz/funk/fusion may enjoy perusing my photo collections or curated Spotify playlists. Those interested in surfing are invited to come out and catch some waves with me.