Lydia Goehr has been Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University for twenty years. Her work is primarily in the history, ancient and modern, of aesthetic theory. Engaged with the history and politics of the arts, her work focuses on understanding how norms and power have come to be contained in and by concepts that structure and regulate practices. She has written extensively on concepts of the musical art, although recently her work has turned to the complex and agonistic role that the very concept of music has had in generating the age-old contest of the arts, a contest that has pitted not only the different arts against each other but also philosophy and religion against the arts. Although she has not worked in feminist philosophy, her engagement with critical theory and the ideology of war has allowed her to pursue parallel arguments that test the grounds or legitimation of different forms of authority.
In addition to many articles on the thought of Theodor W. Adorno, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Arthur Danto, she is the author of three books, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music; The Quest for Voice: Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy; and Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory, and co-editor with Daniel Herwitz of The Don Giovanni Moment. Essays on the Legacy of an Opera (2006). With Gregg Horowitz, she is series editor of Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts, Columbia University Press.
At Columbia, she offers courses in the history of aesthetic theory, the contemporary philosophy of the arts, critical theory, and the philosophy of history. Her current seminar is on thought-experiments in philosophy and the arts. In 2009/2010 she received a Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award, in 2007/8 The Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC)'s Faculty Mentoring Award (FMA), and in 2005, a Columbia University Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching. She is a recipient of Mellon, Getty, and Guggenheim Fellowships, and in 1997 was the Visiting Ernest Bloch Professor in the Music Department at U. California, Berkeley. She has been a Trustee of the American Society for Aesthetics and is a member of the New York Institute of the Humanities. In 2012, she was awarded the H. Colin Slim Award by the American Musicological Society for an article on Wagner's Die Meistersinger. She has also spent much time in Europe. In 2002-3, she was the visiting Aby Warburg Professor in Hamburg and a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. In 2005-6, she delivered the Royal Holloway-British Library Lectures in Musicology in London and the Wort Lectures at Cambridge University. In 2008, she was a Visiting Professor at the Freie Universität, Berlin (Cluster: "The Language of Emotions") and in 2009, a visiting professor in the FU-Berlin SFB Theater und Fest. Although educated in London, she lives intellectually and emotionally on the plane between Berlin and New York.