Professor edits volume about philosophy of the blues

Steinberg Jesse
Dr. Jesse Steinberg

A Pitt-Bradford philosophy professor is the co-editor of a new book that explores the philosophy of the blues.

            Blues – Philosophy for Everyone: Thinking Deep about Feeling Low” is the first book published by Dr. Jesse Steinberg, assistant professor of philosophy. It is part of Wiley-Blackwell’s “Philosophy for Everyone” series, which strives to involve non-philosophers in philosophy through another interest such as coffee, wine, gardening, fashion, yoga or the blues.

            Wiley-Blackwell also publishes the popular “Dummies” series.

            Steinberg said he was approached about editing the volume after meeting the series editor Fritz Allhof at a philosophy convention, where the two had talked about Steinberg’s love for the blues, especially Muddy Watters, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

            Allhof asked Steinberg if he would be willing to work with Abrol Fairweather (another blues lover), who happened to be a professor of Steinberg’s while he was an undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco.

            The pair put out a call for papers and was pleased to receive more than a hundred responses.

            Editing, he said, from choosing the selections to making sure they were simple enough for a general audience and deciding what order they should be in, “was a lot more work than I initially thought.”

            Steinberg said he enjoyed reading the essays. “They were all pretty unique,” he said, and contributed by blues-loving philosophers, psychologists, writers, musicologists, and musicians, with a foreword by Bruce Iglauer, founder and president of Alligator Records.

Steinberg’s own essay also appears in the collection. That essay, he said, is about “skepticism, lack of knowledge about the world and why that matters to us. Both philosophers and blues artists have had a lot to say about doubt and how it pervades important aspects of daily life.”

            Steinberg hopes that the contributors to the book will be able to gather at a future philosophy conference where they can present their thoughts about philosophy and the blues, then play a jam session together.

            “The Blues has a lot to do with the human condition,” he said. “It’s very philosophically rich. The book provided a great opportunity for the contributors to delve into how blues musicians have used the blues to artistically and aesthetically express, preserve, and ultimately transcend harsh experiences of loss and adversity.”

            Steinberg also collaborated with Dr. Michael Stuckart, associate professor of anthropology and a veteran sailor, for a chapter in Wiley’s upcoming “Sailing – Philosophy for Everyone: Catching the Drift of Why We Sail.”