Sunday, October 13, 2013

Jack Russell Weinstein

Jack Russell Weinstein is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Dakota and the host of the public radio show Why? Philosophical discussions about everyday life (WHY? Radio for short). He is the author of three books and dozens of articles, and has edited four collections. He is the recipient of the 2007 UND Foundation/McDermott Award for Individual Excellence in Teaching, the top teaching award at his university. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University in 1998.

Weinstein's latest book is Adam Smith's Pluralism: Rationality, Education, and the Moral Sentiments.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Weinstein's reply:
My reading has been fairly eclectic lately. I just finished one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. It is a the history of “the Great Migration,” the roughly seventy-five year period when freed slaves and their descendants moved from the rural South to the urban North. I have no idea why it was on my shelf, I think I bought it when I was preparing to interview Taylor Branch on my radio show, but that’s a guess. Really, I have no idea. In any case, it sounds like it would be boring, but it is extraordinary. First of all, the writing is incredibly beautiful. When she starts, you think she’s going to romanticize poverty and rural living, but she doesn’t. It is brutal and lovely, infuriating and heartbreaking, and it is one of those rare books that says to me: “You think you know things. You think you know history, you think you know what other people went through, you think you know where you came from, but you know nothing. Nothing at all.” It’s long, but it is worth it.

I also recently finished Ska’d for Life: A Personal Journey with The Specials, the memoir by Horace Panter, bass player for the 1970s ska band, The Specials. This was my before-the-semester-begins fun reading, and while the writing isn’t super sophisticated, the book is a nice find for anyone who is interested in this period of music—ska, Two-tone, punk. It provides very personal insight into the transition between a successful local band and becoming the next big thing. It’s not for everyone, but I recommend it for the small niche that would be into it.

I’m reading Rethinking Thin: The new science of weight loss and the myths and realities of dieting by Gina Kolata for a class I’m teaching called (believe it or not) “Getting Fit with Aristotle.” Kolata is a science writer for the New York Times and the author of Flu, about the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Rethinking Thin is a really interesting look into why diets don’t work and the growth of America’s cultural obsession with them. I’m two chapters from being finished and want to know if she ever finds a way for anyone to lose weight. It does not look good.

I’m also reading Sex in the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World by Shareen El Feki, which is about the sexual habits of, mostly, Egyptians. It’s not prurient, but it really is a shocking looking at a very different way of looking at and thinking about sexuality. Tremendous insight into an area of the Arab world that does not get much attention. I think people should read it—it is quite well written and engrossing—but it is, in fact, the only thing I have ever read that gives credible credence to the “Clash of Civilization” point of view. The cultural anger it makes me feel actually makes me a little uncomfortable and when I’m done, I’m looking forward to reading critics reviews to see where other people stand.

Finally, because I was just in Paris, I’ve been returning to Victor Hugos’ The Hunchback of Notre Dame, one of my favorite novels. I assume I don’t have to explain why.
Visit Jack Russell Weinstein's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Adam Smith's Pluralism.

--Marshal Zeringue