The tenth Anniversary of Why?

Noah Sell, Arts & Community Writer

Popular Prairie Public philosophy podcast Why? Philosophical Discussions About Everyday Life celebrated its tenth anniversary last Tuesday with a free live show at the Empire Arts Center.


The creator and host of the show, Jack Russell Weinstein, a Chester Fritz distinguished Professor of Philosophy at UND and the Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Life, was accompanied by his father Mark, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and mathematical logic, to discuss jazz music in a way that many people have possibly never thought to.


The live show ran for just over an hour and concluded with live music from the Balkansi Klezmer Band, featuring Mark Weinstein on the flute. Following the concert, Jack Weinstein held a casual question and answer session with the audience.


With a new episode airing each month, the show tackles a wide variety of topics in an effort to engage listeners and break down the stereotypes surrounding philosophy.


“I wanted something both adventurous and something that would connect me to the larger philosophical community, North Dakota’s a little far away.” Jack Weinstein said, “So, the radio show was a way of both bringing something to the community, but also having a conversation with people that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to have,”


“But I’m also really committed to the idea that the general public likes to do philosophy, and so the radio show was a test to see if that’s true, and ten years later it turns out that it is.”


Jack Weinstein has gained many skills that come with hosting a show for ten years, such as becoming a better interviewer, growing to be more comfortable and learning how to have more fun on the show.


“I’ve become more spontaneous, I prepare many fewer questions. In fact, quite often, I will come in knowing one question for the entire show. I’ll ask that first and then it’s off to the races.” Jack Weinstein said.


“If you knew how to do this, I wouldn’t have a job. You’re supposed to learn how to do something in class.” Jack Weinstein says to his students who express nervousness.


“It’s the same thing with the radio show. I knew how to do some things, but I had to figure it out, and that’s what makes it exciting.” Jack Weinstein said, If I knew how to do it well the very first day, there wouldn’t be any growth for me either. And the audience grows as I grow, and the experience becomes better, more fun and more sophisticated.”


When Jack Weinstein was asked for advice that he had for students who may be interested in starting something new the way he did, he offered is advice to all students no matter their situation or what they might be working toward.


“Be fearless,” Jack Weinstein said. “Be willing to make mistakes. I make mistakes on the air a lot, but that’s okay because my audience likes it because when you’re talking about difficult topics… So, just take a shot and if you make a few mistakes, there’s nothing wrong with that.”


Jack Weinstein sees the culture of UND as one where people don’t want to be looked at, they don’t want to be judged.


“Students don’t want to look like a fool in front of other students, but everybody’s just figuring it out and you’re never going to get to do the things if it has to be perfect the first time around.” Jack Weinstein said.


Jack Weinstein commented again on the fact that it’s the same as with his show: they made changes along the way, they got advice from consultants and learned mostly from trial and error.

The entire archive of Why? Philosophical Discussions About Everyday Life is available for free, and can be found most easily by going to If you feel like you could still use more philosophy in your life, Weinstein holds a “senior citizen” group philosophy discussion–with the term “senior citizen” used loosely as it often attracts college students as well–at the East Grand Forks Public Library on the second Monday of each month from 5-7 p.m.