My Bio Page

 
This picture is of me moderating at "Debating the Debates," a town
hall meeting to discuss the 2004 presidential debates.
The picture first appeared in the Grand Forks Herald and was taken by one of their photographers.

 

I have no idea if students and visitors are the slightest bit interested in the details of my life -- I am not the towering figure that, say, Ashton Kutcher or Justin Timberlake, is.  But for those of you who want a little more information, I include this brief and very selective history of my life.

This page is published out of the University of North Dakota. I am a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, the Director of the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life, and the host of the public radio show Why? Philosophical discussions about everyday life. Most of the people who use this site are my students.

 

For the record, I was born on October 1, 1969 -- I'll turn 41 this semester! Legend has it that my father was reading David Hume's Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion while my mother was in (very quick) labor, and that my middle name came from the philosopher Bertrand Russell. My father denies that I was named after Russell, he says its "the stupidest [expletive deleted] thing he has ever heard," but I prefer that to being named after a terrier. Needless to say, becoming a philosopher might have been inevitable.

I grew up in New York City, in Manhattan, in an area called Washington Heights. If you are a fan of bad movies from the early nineties, you might recognize the neighborhood from New Jack City. The movie took place in an imaginary building two and a half blocks from my house. I also grew up a few blocks from where Malcolm X was shot. The neighborhood has gotten a lot better since I left, but not because I left. I swear.

I was a terrible high school student. I spent too much time being involved in the 1980's hardcore punk and ska scene. I had to go to summer school, and virtually no one thought I would graduate, but I did. I went to college at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh through a program called S.T.A.R., which I later found out stood for student at risk. But college life appealed to me more than high school, and I began to take a real interest in academic life once I realized that college had much to offer. I have always loved reading, writing, and learning, but high school just never seemed conducive to that. I had other concerns at the time, I guess, and I have never been good with authority (unless I am the one in authority, as my students can attest). The more academic freedom I had, I soon discovered, the more academic success I achieved.

I started out as an English major but quickly changed to philosophy; I minored in political science. I was very active in politics, and became a political organizer for student issues around New York state. I eventually became a D.J. for a Ska show on WPLT 93.9 FM, and worked on the student paper as editor in chief and a columnist. I went to grad school at Boston University, where I received my M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy. 

In 1994, I went to Vienna, Austria as a Junior Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (Insituut fuer die Wissenschaften vom Menschen/IWM). The fellowship lasted six months, but I stayed in Vienna and played guitar on the street for another six months then managed to get another fellowship at IWM after that. It was, by far, one of the best things I ever did. I learned so much about myself and the world from being outside of the country and by taking some time away from my academic trajectory to explore other interests.

Nevertheless, philosophy had its strangle hold on me, and I returned to the states to finish writing my dissertation and begin my meteoric rise in the professorate that led me here, to UND. I taught as an adjunct while I wrote, and then had had full-time positions at departments of philosophy and religion at Montclair State University, Berea College, California State University, Fresno, and now The University of North Dakota.

 

While in California, I had the good fortune to meet Kim Donehower, an English professor at Fresno State. We eventually decided that we were not "west coast people", gave up the wild Fresno lifestyle, and came to Grand Forks. (We soon discovered that we are not "upper midwest people either, but that's another story.") She became a professor in the English department and director of the local site of the National Writing Project. She is a better teacher than me and also much smarter. You should take her classes whenever possible. No one would blame you for dropping my class to do it.

We were married in January, 2003, in her home town of Asheville, North Carolina.

 


 

On October 18, 2005, Kim and I had a daughter, Adina Moore Weinstein. She changed everything, of course, including the time I devote at work. Being a father is a remarkable experience and I have learned so much since she was born. She highlights both our limitations and our potential, and she teaches me both patience and how to deal with the things I can't control. She also keeps getting bigger(!) which, of course, is a very good thing. I might bring her into class from time to time, so you will get to see how fabulous she is in person.

I've already tried to teach her some philosophy, but for some reason she refuses to write journals or take notes in her textbook. I can't figure out why. She does already out argue me, thought, and I will I remember her first two arguments forever. When she was about twenty months old, we were walking the dog in the early evening. Adina wanted to go to the playground but it was clearly going to rain, so her Mom explained that we couldn't go for that very reason. Adina's response: "umbrella," which she pointed to as we had brought one along. As Kim said, at the time, "it's a very convincing argument."

Her second argument was with her grandmother. Adina did not want to take her nap so her grandmother tried to persuade her by saying "You take your nap, and when you wake up, Grandma and Granddad will play with you." Adina's response: "Adina awake now!"

I'm clearly out of my league.

 

Our immediate family is rounded out by our dog Mingus who is named after Charles Mingus, perhaps the greatest jazz bass player of all time. I was never a dog person, but Mingus has converted me. He also insures that I never leave the house without at least some of his hair on my clothes. In class, some of you may have noticed that already.

We found Mingus on www.petfinder.com, a great site for those looking to adopt an animal (Kim and I call it "pet porn"). Don't buy dogs or cats from pet stores. It is unnecessarily expensive, and it contributes to the cruel and terrible ways in which pets are bred. Adopt a pet. They are cheap and forever grateful. And, you save their lives at the same time.

Mingus is a mutt; we do not believe in the notion of racial purity in our house (isn't it amazing the places where racism have has crept into our lives)! We suspect he is largely border collie with a strong dose of blue healer. Whatever else he is, we are certain he is part Muppet

My father, Mark Weinstein is a professional Jazz musician as well as a philosopher. He teaches in the Department of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University. You can hear an interview with him on NPR here. His latest albums are all available at cdbaby.com; a great independent online music store that specializes in lesser known artists without major label sponsorship or distribution. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase some of his music on Amazon.com. You can go to his music web page by clicking on his name, or by clicking right here. My mother is an artists and a retired high school art teacher. Her name is Joyce Ellen Weinstein, click on her name to see her website. My sister Rebecca is a non-practicing lawyer who was worked with disability issues in Maine. She's is now the president of a Identity Cops, a company that creates software to help prevent and respond to identity theft.

In 2008, I founded the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life, an organization dedicated to doing philosophy with the general public. Our most high-profile activity is a public radio show called Why?, perhaps the first live call-in philosophy radio show ever. All the episodes are archived and postcastable. Check it out.

So, that's about it for now. If you are interested in my research (for both scholars and dabblers alike), go on over to my research page. If I left something out, do let me know. And for all of you who grew up in the 80's and are excited about such things, here is a picture of Kim and me with fitness guru Richard Simmons. It was taken January 5, 2002, in the Detroit airport. It was his meddling that eventually led to my proposing to Kim.

 

Why include this picture on here? Because I can.

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