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Patrick S. O'Donnell
Adjunct Instructor, Department of Philosophy, Santa Barbara City College
Interests: philosophy of law and legal theory, philosophy of mind, ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of science, religious worldviews, psychoanalysis, psychology
Recent Activity
Background Fact: The recent GOP tax bill “rammed through the Senate” in the middle of the night (technically, early morning) is “filled with perks for America’s wealthiest individuals and largest corporations, many of them paid for by closing loopholes that benefit middle-class people. By 2027, the top one-fifth of earners would receive 90 percent of the tax bill’s benefits, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.” Repeat a lie enough in public, and you (the liar) may come to believe it (whether recipient members of the public come to believe it as well may be an open question, but it appears that at least some of them do). This possibility has been discussed and explained by Jon Elster as exemplifying the wider psychological phenomenon of “deliberate misrepresentation and unconscious but motivated transmutation” and assumes that “people are capable of keeping their private beliefs and their publicly professed... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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It happened this way in Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and countless other sites of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and mass persecution. The pamphlets, megaphones, and radio broadcasts came before the pogroms, murders, and forced relocations. And today, we have even more effective ways to reach millions of people at a time, as the president’s more than 43 million followers on Twitter can attest; the established media only magnify his reach.—Daniel Altman* As Larry May explains in his book, Genocide: A Normative Account (Cambridge University Press, 2010), “[i]n international law, genocide has a specialized meaning that is not necessarily consonant with that of the public’s understanding of genocide, because it includes acts that do not involve mass killing.” To wit: Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a)... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
Assuming, as I think we should, that Trump egregiously displays all of the standard symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or, simply, pathological narcissism, we should begin to direct more attention, anger, disgust, impatience, and the available means of persuasion toward members of Congress who, by their silence and inaction (with very few exceptions to this generalization), are now absolutely complicit and thus individually and collectively responsible for his behavior in office, including the myriad harmful consequences that directly and indirectly follow therefrom. It is not likely that Trump will experience, without therapeutic intervention, spontaneous remission of his mental illness, which means he will continue to exhibit a conspicuous inability to distinguish facts and reality from wishful thinking and illusions (perhaps occasional delusions as well), which means he will continue to lack a disposition to truth, indeed, he will continue to shamelessly lie (and lack any sense of guilt for... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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In Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions (Cambridge University Press, 1999), Jon Elster notes two psychological assumptions we routinely hold: “that depressed people tend to believe that things are worse than they in fact are and that those in more exuberant moods tend to believe they are better.” Elster believes the second clause after the conjunction is valid, while the former clause “is probably wrong,” a conclusion based largely on “striking psychological findings over the past fifteen years:” “[T]he only persons who are capable of taking an unbiased view of the world are the depressed. They are ‘sadder but wiser,” a research finding we can classify as “depressive realism” theory. While Elster characterizes the aforementioned experimental findings as “far from final,” he understandably sees them as robust, according them presumptive truth. Elster highlights some typical findings within this theory: “In experiments designed to test subjects’ understanding of their... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Is there a difference between “jealousy” and “envy?” It seems we often use these terms interchangeably but some have thought or argued that they’re not quite the same. When we discussed the parable of the “prodigal son” in my class, I asked the students if the “older brother” was feeling jealousy or envy (or possibly both?!), or if the distinction was at all meaningful. Most students believed these terms were different words for the same emotion. I was inclined to argue otherwise. In any case, and apropos of the material I’m reading, consider La Rochefoucauld: “Jealousy is in some measure just and reasonable (raisonnable), since it merely aims at keeping something that belongs to us or we think belongs to us, whereas envy is a frenzy (fureur) that cannot bear anything that belongs to others.” Aaron Ben-Ze’ev says the meaning of these two terms overlap and that “some languages do... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I was quite moved upon reading the following passage yesterday from Vincent Geoghegan’s persuasive and profound book, Utopianism and Marxism (Methuen, 1987): “In moments of despair [Rosa] Luxemburg was driven to conceive of happiness in terms of a rejection of politics: ‘I cursed the damn “politics” that stopped me from answering father’s and mother’s letters for weeks on end. I never had time for them because of those world-shaking problems…. And my hate turned against you because you chained me to the accursed politics…. Yesterday I was almost ready to give up, once and for all, the goddamn politics (or rather the bloody parody of our ‘political’ life) and let the whole world go to hell. Politics is inane Baal worship, driving people—victims of their obsession, of mental rabies—to sacrifice their entire existence.’ Part of this is clearly the inevitable degree of hardship and sweat associated with any conceivable form... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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To date, and rather surprisingly given the violent (and non-violent) struggles of oppressed peoples around our planet in the twentieth century, those who specialize in normative political theory and the ethics of war (or just war theory) have had precious little to say, at least in any systematic or theoretical sense, about what constitutes a “legitimate, armed, non-terrorist resistance to oppression” (in particular, when such oppression takes the form of violence by the state), in other words, “what are the moral rules or constraints and parameters of justifiable armed resistance and revolution?” Christopher J. Finlay’s book, Terrorism and the Right to Resist: A Theory of Just Revolutionary War (Cambridge University Press, 2015), addresses these questions by providing us, in the words of one reviewer, with “a lucid, persuasive and comprehensive extension of revisionary just war theory to cases of resistant violence.” The morality of revolutionary war is given a fair... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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In the political domain … acts of knowing and persuading rested upon wise use of the Odes. … [I]n any social gathering, true virtuosi of the Odes, whether male or female, could safely express their innermost feelings without fear of offending others. (Early traditions attributed a number of odes to women.) [….] Regarded as the product of suitable emotions aroused in the singer, the odes served as a versatile rhetorical tool by which to arouse sympathetic emotions in audiences public or privileged, lettered or unlettered. Just as the odes taught that skillful and rewarding relations depend on a proper appreciation of the objects deserving admiration, so the deeper pleasures available to humans—self-knowledge, friendship, sexual pleasure, and connoisseurship—relied on an extraordinary capacity to cultivate in oneself and others the desire for more refined social interplay. In the end, the ethical followers of Confucius claimed this province of ordinary human interaction, with... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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All descriptive, explanatory, and normative language is, in one (I hope) nontrivial sense, “anthropocentric.” Indeed, language itself is anthropomorphic by definition, even if it need not be strongly anthropocentric (as in concepts of impartiality, objectivity and truth, for example, or in scientific endeavors to understand the natural world). Poets, philosophers and scientists, as well as the rest of us, depend on human language to communicate, and thus we are necessarily implicated in anthropomorphic and often anthropocentric expressions, conceptualizations, and characterizations or, at the very least, anthropomorphic presuppositions, assumptions and presumptions. Even the “deepest” ecologist and the most devoted Daoist cannot free themselves from, or avoid the constraints of, anthropomorphism. Consider, for instance, the latter: although the Daodejing of the Daoist—one of the most exquisitely profound expressions of classical Chinese philosophy—includes many (evocative) suggestions or “imperatives” to follow (literally and figuratively) the course or order of nature, it too is unavoidably... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I rarely read biographies (for several reasons not worthy of your time), but I’ve just begun Linda Hamalian’s A Life of Kenneth Rexroth (W.W. Norton & Co., 1991), largely favorable reviews of which I recall when it first appeared. Just a few pages in and so far, so good. It’s little gems like this which will hold my attention: “In their Bohemian moods, the Rexroths [Kenneth’s parents, Charles and Delia] entertained circus performers and burlesque artists, but with their family background of political activism, they also sought out the company of social reformers. By Rexroth’s account, Charles’s father [Kenneth’s grandfather], George, was a descendant from the Schwenkfeldians, the German Pietist sect that originated in the sixteenth century. George Rexroth, a plumber, voted the Socialist ticket and called himself an anarchist. He was apparently a friend of Eugene Debs, founder of the Social Democratic Party [only one of many notable accomplishments],... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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My latest bibliography is on Radical Catholicism (The Catholic Worker Movement, Liberation Theology...). It is available at either Academia.edu or ResearchGate. Here is the introduction: Some of these titles are outside Catholicism proper although the forms of Protestant Christianity they exemplify have much in common (as recognized by the respective members of the concerned parties) with Catholic radicalism. I included a few of these works if only to avoid the impression that Catholicism has a monopoly on this Christian mode of religious radicalism! Like most of my bibliographies, this one has two principal constraints: books, in English. And it is intended to be representative (thus not exhaustive) of the literature. [And no, I am not a sales representative for Orbis Books.] You should be able to access all of my bibliographies, listed below, at these two sites. Africana & African American Philosophy After Slavery & Reconstruction: The Black Struggle for... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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There are only two ways. The one currently pursued by the Israeli government, in all its agencies, is the path of violent, stubborn coercion. The extreme nationalists of the Israeli right have a vision that is easy enough to comprehend; it is embodied daily in a thousand acts and signs. They want to crush Palestinian nationalism as a historical force, and the Palestinian people as a collective; to hem the Palestinians within isolated enclaves and to cut off any hope of their sustaining a national existence with a basis on the ground; and, in the course of achieving this, to annex as much land (with as few living Palestinians attached to it) as possible. In short, this is an uncompromising vision of domination and control. The right, clinging to all the violent memories of the past, fears the Palestinians and inhabits a mental universe in which the only safe option... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The first draft of my latest—82nd—bibliography, “Anarchism: Philosophy & Praxis,” is now available. The ads can be avoided if you click on the download for the pdf version in the upper right hand corner of the page. I have also posted it at ResearchGate which, for now at least, is not plastered with advertising. Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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As I‘ve likely mentioned in this space before (when you reach my age, confidence in one’s memory is evanescent), in our class at city college on “comparative world religions” I suggested at the beginning of the term that my students look up images of the art in the religions we were studying as a secure port of entry into these worldviews because this art is relatively free of the sorts of things found in religious doctrines and history that rub (at least some) people the wrong way (their biases, prejudices, and conclusions in this regard may be owing to inadequate knowledge, mistaken beliefs, or simply closed-mindedness, but in the course of a semester it’s not likely such obstacles will be overcome). As our class was in the philosophy department, and we had so much material to cover (seven religious worldviews!), we did not have time to look, literally and figuratively,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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That not all Jews in Israel are Zionists may not be a startling or revelatory proposition, but after 50 years of Israeli Occupation of Palestinian lands, it is clear that the comparative power of non- and anti-Zionist (and post-Zionists for that matter) Jews in Israel is virtually negligible (that could, however, change), particularly if we are referring to their capacity or potential to alter the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or even have a significant impact on public opinion in this—after Maxime Rodinson and Baruch Kimmerling—colonial settler-state. In his book, The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge (Verso, 2014), Ilan Pappe provides us with essential documentation and historical narrative of the Jewish individuals, groups, and political parties in Israel that are non- and anti-Zionist. In several significant respects, these individuals, groups, and parties are heirs to the political worldview of the “General Jewish Labour Bund in Lithuania,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Here’s a Nobel Peace Prize we can all live with: (Reuters) – “The Norwegian Nobel Committee, warning of a rising risk of nuclear war, awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to a little-known [well, that depends upon the circles in which one circulates] international campaign group advocating for a ban on nuclear weapons. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) describes itself as a coalition of grassroots non-government groups in more than 100 nations. It began in Australia and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007.” ICAN’s website is here (and be sure to ‘like’ their FB page). For readers who may not know of this, my bibliography for nuclear weapons is here. The important Arms Control Law blog is here. And Atomic Reporters is an independent, non-profit, incorporated in Canada at the end of 2012, operating as an officially recognised international NGO from Austria, providing substantive... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
New article of interest: Mathilde Cohen, “Animal Colonialism: The Case of Milk,” American Journal of International Law Unbound (September 2017) Volume 111: 267-271. [Being a vegan, and with a significant portion of my worldview best described as Marxist, I’m predisposed to find the argument in this very short article congenial. No doubt others will view it differently.] The first two paragraphs: “Greta Gaard writes that ‘[t]he pervasive availability of cows’ milk today—from grocery stores to gas stations—is a historically unprecedented product of industrialization, urbanization, culture, and economics.’ To these factors, I would add colonialism and international law; the latter understood broadly to include the rules considered binding between states and nations, transnational law, legal transplants, international food aid, and international trade law. Until the end of the Nineteenth Century, the majority of the world population neither raised animals for their milk nor consumed animal milk. Humans are unique in the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The section that immediately follows is excerpted from Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso [Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso] born Lhamo Thond “What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics. [….] I am confident that it is both possible and worthwhile to attempt a new secular approach to universal ethics. My confidence comes from my conviction that all of us, all human beings, are basically inclined or disposed toward what we perceive to be good. Whatever we do, we do because we think it will be of some benefit. At the same time, we all appreciate the kindness of others. We are all, by nature, oriented toward the basic human values of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Trump’s predictably haughty reference to Puerto Rico’s (pre-Hurricane Maria) “broken infrastructure” and “massive debt [‘billions of dollars’]” owed to “Wall Street and the banks which … must be dealt with,” should be viewed in the grim light of the country’s colonial and post-imperialist experience. A nice introduction to the relevance of this historical narrative and its lingering deleterious effects is found in this piece by Linda Backiel from the Monthly Review a couple of years ago: “Puerto Rico: The Crisis Is About Colonialism, Not Debt.” And here is a comparatively short list of relevant literature: Carr, Raymond. Puerto Rico: A Colonial Experiment. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. Corretjer, Juan Antonio. Albizu Campos and the Ponce Massacre. New York: World View Publishers, 1965. Denis, Nelson A. War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony. New York: Nation Books, 2015. Enck-Wanzer, Darrel, ed. The Young Lords: A Reader. New... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Toward placing the “Colin Kaepernick story” in historical, sociological, and political context: a short reading list Bass, Amy. Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. Carlos, John (with David Zirin). The John Carlos Story. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2013 (2011). Carter, Rubin “Hurricane” (with Ken Klosky) Eye of the Hurricane: My Path from Darkness to Freedom. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 2011. Dorinson, Joseph and Joram Warmund. Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream. New York: Routledge, 2015 (M.E. Sharpe, 1998). Early, Gerald L. A Level Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. Edwards, Harry. The Revolt of the Black Athlete. New York: Free Press, 1969. Goodman, Jordan. Paul Robeson: A Watched Man. London: Verso, 2013. Hawkins, Billy. The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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George Padmore, né Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse (28 June 1903 – 23 September 1959) was a Trinidadian-born author, journalist, Left organizer and activist, one-time Communist Party member, socialist, and Pan-Africanist. Books by George Padmore Padmore, George. The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers. London: Red International of Labour Unions Magazine for the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers, 1931. Padmore, George. How Britain Rules Africa. London: Wishart Books, 1936. Padmore, George. African and World Peace. London: Secker and Warburg, 1937. Padmore, George, with Nancy Cunard. White Man's Duty. London: W. H. Allen, 1942. Padmore, George (in collaboration with Dorothy Pizer). How Russia Transformed Her Colonial Empire: A Challenge to the Imperialist Powers. London: Dennis Dobson, 1946. Padmore, George. Africa: Britain's Third Empire. London: Dennis Dobson, 1949. Padmore, George. The Gold Coast Revolution: The Struggle of an African People from Slavery to Freedom. London: Dennis Dobson, 1953. Padmore, George. Pan-Africanism... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I was delighted to learn that George Padmore (né Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse) interviewed Ho Chi Minh (Nguyễn Sinh Cung, also known as Nguyen Tat Thanh and Nguyen Ai Quoc) while both were in Paris: Ho was there for the Paris Peace Conference (29 July to 15 October 1946), engaged in “confidential negotiations,” and Padmore was covering the conference for the Free India Press. According to James Hooker, one of the articles Padmore wrote “remains a good introduction to Vietnamese affairs,” the piece having been published by the Defender (28 September 1946, with an autographed photo of Ho!). In Black Revolutionary: George Padmore’s Path from Communism to Pan-Africanism (Praeger, 1967), Hooker further describes Padmore’s article as “a concise introduction to the Vietnam tangle, one which holds up surprisingly well after nearly two decades of persistent journalistic rediscovery of the situation in South East Asia” (in this instance, Indochina). We further... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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What kind of person, holding the office of President of a country that possesses the most powerful military capacity in the world (‘the US spends more money — $601 billion — on defense than the next nine countries on Credit Suisse’s index combined’), publicly threatens to annihilate a county with more than 25,000,000 million human beings? During the same speech, Trump’s characterization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran deal or Iran nuclear deal, as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” reveals the darkest depths of his ignorance, stupidity, and arrogance. And it was of a piece with the Manichean madness splattered in spittle and blood all over his inaugural UN speech (Are the conventions of diplomatic discourse irrelevant, devoid of any normative value?). In the words of Jack Goldsmith from his recent piece in... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Linguistics, insofar as it is (or aspires to be) a science, touches (directly, or indirectly by way of presuppositions, assumptions, and presumptions) on more than a few questions that fall within province of the philosophy of language (the ‘philosophy of linguistics’ is germane as well, being the ‘philosophy of science as applied to linguistics’). And the Indic tradition is a rich repository of sophisticated reflections on grammar, linguistics, and philosophy of language proper, particularly (and thus not exclusively) the “Grammarians” and the Mīmāṃsā darśana. Hence the reason for bringing this article in Aeon by Gaston Dorren to your attention: “Talking Gibberish.” Its shortcomings provide yet another piece of evidence for the imperative value of comparative philosophy. I thought this article in Aeon by Gaston Dorren overwrought, and in some respects awful, as when it refers to the “pre-scientific era” as having “produced a lot of codswallop and hogwash,” while neglecting... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Historically, philosophy has been articulated in an astonishingly wide —at least from today’s vantage point—array of literary forms and genres, although I’m not aware of any systematic comparative work on this score (there is a nice entry in the SEP by Eileen Sweeney on the literary forms of ‘medieval philosophy’). For better or worse, and depending on who you ask, contemporary professional philosophy has severely narrowed the “acceptable” or normative models of philosophical expression, usually within the constraints of what is considered a proper “analytical” approach (as a generic method, Buddhists arguably excel in philosophical analysis; with the Sanskrit grammarians pioneers in this regard, blurring the lines between science and philosophy). However, sometimes philosophy is expressed obliquely, perhaps embedded in material that requires some sort of distillation or—to use a more mundane metaphor—digging, to reveal itself as “philosophy” of one kind or another: moral psychology, metaphysics, ontology, ethics, epistemology, what... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com