Dr. Helfer's research focuses on the history of political philosophy, with emphasis on the tradition of Socratic philosophy in 4th Century BCE Athens. His first book, Socrates and Alcibiades: Plato's Drama of Political Ambition and Philosophy (UPenn Press, 2017) is a study of the philosopher Plato's presentation of the infamous Athenian statesman and general Alcibiades, whose interviews with Socrates are presented through Platonic dialogues in such a way as to illuminate the phenomenon of great political ambition and its profound corruption. His current project is a study of Plato's own political career as presented in his Letters, a text which Helfer maintains is an authentic and unified work of Platonic politcial philosophy that has for centuries been mistaken for a sheaf of disjointed epistles.
Dr. Helfer has taught a broad range of courses in the history of political thought. Some of the thinkers covered in these 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).
In addition, Dr. Helfer has a long-standing interest in quantitatve work. After majoring in Physics as well as Political Science as an undergraduate at Kenyon College (Gambier, OH), Helfer took up a secondary specialization in Stastical Political Methodology as a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. He has collaborated on research into 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.
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 in Detroit, MI.
Research Interest/Area of Expertise
Political Theory and Quantitative Political Methodology
Education – Degrees, Licenses, Certifications
- PhD in Government - The University of Texas at Austin (2015)
- MA in Government - The University of Texas at Austin (2013)
- BA in Political Science and Physics - Kenyon College (2008)
Socrates and Alcibiades: Plato's Drama of Political Ambition and Philosophy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017)
PS 2510 - Introduction to Political Ideologies
PS 7550 - Topics in the History of Political Thought