BOOK NOTES PHOTO BY SHAWNA NOEL SCHILL
A PHILOSOPHIC BLAST FROM THE PAST In his new book, UND scholar Jack Russell Weinstein taps into the famed writings of Adam Smith to establish new theories on diversity and justice. By David Dodds and Alyssa Wentz University of North Dakota Philosophy and Religion Professor Jack Russell Weinstein leans on the great writings of a famous philosopher of the past to support revamped theories on diversity and justice in his new book published last year. Inspiration for Weinstein’s book, titled Adam Smith’s Pluralism: Rationality, Education, and the Moral Sentiments (Yale University Press), began with his discontent for the present definition of justice, he said. Weinstein argues that a different definition can be developed by building on the writings of Adam Smith (1723-1790), the Scottish moral philosopher and pioneer of modern economic theory who is often referred to as the father of modern capitalism. “The basic point of the book is that all of our theories of diversity, the multicul-
turalism and the sense that we can all live in a pluralistic society, were anticipated by Adam Smith,” said Weinstein, who also is director of the UND Institute for Philosophy in Public Life and host of the popular radio show Why? on North Dakota Public Radio. “Smith set the groundwork for our present theories of diversity. This book presents a theory of diversity that will then lead to the foundation of a theory of justice.” Weinstein’s interpretation modernizes Smith’s two major works, The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, showing that they are still relevant despite being more than 200 years old. He explains that there was a time when people lived divided by ethnicity and religion. And when they overlapped, one group had power over another. “Protestants exploited Catholics and vice versa, Christians exploited Mus-
lims and vice versa — Jews were always exploited — whites exploited blacks, men exploited women,” he said. “The standard solution was to carve out regions where people could live with their own kind, a segregated world. Today, however, we want a world where people can live together and where everyone has equal rights and equal freedom. “Justice, to us, means finding a perfect balance between this equality and freedom. But some people want the freedom to do things that other people object to, and others want to be left alone or segregated. A theory of justice outlines the rights and responsibilities of individuals, so that they can live together without oppressing, exploiting or injuring one another. The more diverse the population, the more complicated the theory of justice.” Weinstein’s book has been very well received, including this review by David J. Davis of The American Conservative: “Fascinating…an invigorating reorientation of liberal theory. Weinstein’s rescue… [of] Smith’s moral philosophy from its economically obsessed captors will prove an extraordinary blessing for conservative and liberal alike.” Weinstein plans to make this book the first of a three-volume series. He’ll write a draft for the second book’s manuscript while on sabbatical next year. “This first book is the interpretive book, modernizing Smith’s vocabulary and outlook so I can apply it to the contemporary world and its issues,” Weinstein said. “The second volume will describe the actual theory of justice and present an overall ‘philosophy of governance.’ The third volume will apply this theory to democratic participation — what it means to be a citizen, but also how justice informs our day-to-day lives and experiences. Hopefully, the three volumes will form one coherent theory that answers many of the major philosophical issues of the day.” The first book, which took about 10 years to complete, was officially released on Sept. 24, 2013. n
UND Discovery n Spring 2014 n 19
Published on May 1, 2014
In this issue of UND Discovery, we’re focused on all things value added. In other words, we’re highlighting ways UND’s researchers and other...