Ariel Helfer

Ariel Helfer

Assistant Professor


313-993-3435 (fax)

2005 Faculty/Administration Building

Curriculum vitae


Ariel Helfer


Political Science

Dr. Helfer's research focuses on the history of political philosophy with emphasis on ancient Greek philosophy, and his teaching covers a broad range of topics in the history of political thought.  Some of the thinkers covered in Dr. Helfer's courses are Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Thucydides, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Friedrich Nietzsche.  Dr. Helfer has also taught courses in the history of American political thought, focusing on primary texts both from the Founding Debates (Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Hamilton, Monroe) and on the history of African American political thought (Douglass, Washington, Du Bois, King, Baldwin).

Dr. Helfer's current research project is a book on Plato's Letters, which will include a new English translation as well as a commentary that will argue for reading the Letters as a unified work of Platonic political philosophy.  His work on this project has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Wayne State University.  His first book was a study of political ambition in the work of Plato entitled Socrates and Alcibiades: Plato's Drama of Political Philosophy and Amibition, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2017.

In addition, Dr. Helfer has a long-standing interest in quantitatve work, having taken up a secondary specialization in Stastical Political Methodology as a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin.  He has collaborated on research on the measurement of learning in informative political processes, and has taught courses in statistical methods for political scientists at the graduate level.  Dr. Helfer has also taught "Math Camp" refreshers in Algebra, Calculus, and Linear Algebra to incoming political science graduate students since 2010, having brought this program to Wayne State University for the first time in August, 2020.

Dr. Helfer was born and raised in Montreal, Canada, enjoys chess, ice hockey, and languages, and is a lifelong fan of the Montreal Canadiens.  He currently resides with his wife and son in Ferndale, MI.

Research interest(s)/area of expertise

  • Political Theory and Quantitative Political Methodology


  • Ph.D. in Government - The University of Texas at Austin (2015)
  • M.A. in Government - The University of Texas at Austin (2013)
  • B.A. in Political Science and Physics - Kenyon College (2008)

Awards and grants

  • Dr. Helfer has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (2019) and a Wayne State University Research Grant (2018) for his work on a new translation and interpretation of Plato's Letters.

Selected publications

Socrates and Alcibiades: Plato's Drama of Political Ambition and Philosophy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017)

"Socrates' Political Legacy: Xenophon's Socratic Characters in Hellenica I and II," Interpretation: a Journal of Political Philosophy, 2018

Currently teaching

  • PS 3515 - American Political Thought
  • PS 7560 - Contemporary Political and Social Theory: Interpretations of the History of Modern Political Philosophy

Courses taught

  •  PS 2510 - Introduction to Political Ideologies
  •  PS 3515 - American Political Thought
  •  PS 3530 - Great Political Thinkers 1
  •  PS 5630 - Statistics and Data Analysis in Political Science 1
  •  PS 7550 - Topics in the History of Political Thought: Plato's Republic
  •  PS 7550 - Topics in the History of Political Thought: Aristotle's Moral and Political Philosophy
  •  PS 7560 - Contemporary Political and Social Theory: Interpretations of the History of Modern Political Philosophy