Dakota Student IPPL Profile
Seen This Man?
with a microphone, an open mind and the thoughts and feelings of millions of
Americans, Jack Weinstein is doing something truly (un)conventional
The Dakota Student, January 16, 2009
think therefore I am."
When you think of the philosophical
greats, you think of Rene Descartes, Socrates, Marx, Nietzsche, Thoreau,
Emerson, Confucius, Locke, Hobbes, and Plato; add to that list, Jack Russell
Weinstein (who oddly enough shares a name with another famous philosopher).
For years, the New York native has been spreading the power and the magic of
thought to students (and anyone who will listen) around the world.
But for Jack, that wasn't enough.
The last several years of his life have been devoted to the proliferation of
philosophical expression and reasoning to college students. While eager to learn
and open to new ideas, Jack is seeking to broaden his horizon beyond his
Generation Y following. Just 39 years old, Jack has spent a lifetime giving
students the avenue to express themselves and talk openly about topics ranging
from current events to prevalent philosophical ideals dating to the early years
of modern man.
It's the most modern of man, however, that the University of North Dakota
associate professor of philosophy and religion plans on tackling next.
Enter the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life-Jack's next big move in
empowering people to think and to express themselves.
"I have always had very mixed emotions about the insular nature of philosophy,"
he said. "I love philosophy but I have always loved talking with the general
public and talking with students and people in the community … I want to present
philosophy in an interesting and exciting way so that people can still see that
it is an interesting and relevant subject."
It's for that reason that Jack Weinstein has created a new institute on the UND
campus to not only serve the college core, but also to expand that message to
"My whole career and life has been focused on the expansion of thought and
allowing people to think and presenting ideas for everyone in everyday life."
On the airwaves
After garnering a five-year grant, the institute will offer a monthly call-in
radio program (the first on Feb. 8 and the second Sunday of every month after
that) that will be broadcast on Prairie Public Radio as well as several film
series, presentations and fellowships.
For Jack Weinstein, delivering the message that philosophy is a discipline that
can be approached by any human being is a key part of his vision for the
"I want to create a space where it's okay for people to explore and it's one of
my jobs as a professor to give people an avenue to explore and the permission to
do so. Everyone has something valuable to bring to the table regardless of what
Doing that in the intimate setting of a college classroom is one thing,
broadcasting to potentially millions of listeners over the airwaves and giving
them the opportunity to call in and offer their own insight is something
completely different. But Jack believes that people out there want to express
their ideas, they want to give their input; and the technology of radio and the
internet enables them to do just that.
"I am advertising this as the world's first call in philosophy show," he said.
"I think it's true. There is a renewed interest in philosophy, especially in
popular philosophy … the time is right to create this fairly unique approach to
bridging the gaps between philosophical research to its relevance and importance
to everyday life."
His first guests: famed radio personality and host of the Jefferson Hour, Clay
Jenkinson. Weinstein also hopes to have Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) as well as
Boston University scholar Charles Griswold.
With the plains states representing a more rural part of the country, many would
argue that free thought only seems to flow in places like New York and
California. But this eternal optimist sees it a bit differently.
The radio program, 'Why? Philosophical Discussions for Everyday Life' will
bridge that gap, he says.
"The radio and internet broadcasts puts North Dakota on the same playing field
with places like Boston or Los Angeles or New York or Texas," he said. "This
program isn't coming out of Harvard, it's coming from UND. And I want the world
to see that North Dakota is a rich and amazing place."
But Jack Weinstein isn't alone in his efforts. Partnering with the North Dakota
Humanities Council and Brenna Daugherty, its executive director, the group is
looking to "bring philosophy out of the realm of the university and into a
conversation about philosophy which is important to a strong democracy and
community," Daugherty said.
She added that the geographical remoteness of North Dakota brings another
element to the table that may be overlooked by other cities and states around
"Using this radio program, we are having an open forum for debate and
discussion. We are opening people up to different possibilities and ethical
issues-there are a lot of things that need to be talked about and this show will
enable people to do that, regardless of where they are. People want to
understand, they want to talk, and they want to have a dialogue. That's what we
So when Thoreau said that "thought is the sculptor who can create the person you
want to be," Jack Weinstein is offering the clay and the tools to make that
Walking through the halls
Since Jack began his pitch for the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life the
support has been "tremendous." In fact, with speakers such as Dorgan, Jenkinson
and others lined up for upcoming shows, Weinstein hopes that the show will be
broadcast beyond the airwaves of Prairie Public Radio's network.
Along with the radio show, the film festival will begin in the early spring and
will likely be held at the Firehall Theater in downtown Grand Forks. A library
of books will also be added to the Chester Fritz Library and discussions held
throughout the semester and upcoming years.
© Copyright 2009 Dakota Student