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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
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A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border (John Moore/Getty Images) My latest bibliography is on “the ethics, law, and politics of immigration and refugees.” Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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In a volume edited by Wendell Wallach and Colin Allen, Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong (Oxford University Press, 2009), our editors open the Introduction with the breathless statement that scientists at the Affective Computing Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) “are designing computers that can read human emotions,” as if this is a foregone conclusion awaiting technical development or completion. Wallach and Allen, respectively a consultant and writer affiliated with Yale’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics and a Professor of History and Philosophy of Science and of Cognitive Science, also inform us that “today’s [computer] systems are approaching a level of complexity … that requires the systems to make moral decisions—to be programmed with ‘ethical subroutines’ to borrow a phrase from Star Trek” (the blurring of boundaries between contemporary science and science fiction, or the belief that much that was once science fiction on this score is... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
After Kant, because human animals alone have dignity they can make necessary and compelling or objective claims on each other (hence reciprocal notions of ‘obligation’ or ‘duty’ and ‘right’), and thus our actions are capable of embodying or expressing the “motive” proper to morality, one that also accounts for the (rational) recognition of the objective worth of others as “ends in themselves.” Dignity is an intrinsic value that signifies absolute worth, “a value that cannot be compared to, traded off against, or compensated for or replaced by any other value” (Allen Wood). Our dignity is owing to our rational normative agency (or ‘autonomy’), as we are beings that bring, so to speak, moral value or goodness into the world. Acting morally here means, in one sense, acting for the sake of humanity in one’s person, thereby respecting the objective worth of humanity as an end in itself and calling upon... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“ … Zionism was a settler colonial movement, similar to the movements of Europeans who had colonized the two Americas, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Settler colonialism differs from classical colonialism in three respects. The first is that settler colonies rely only initially and temporarily on the empire for their survival. In fact, in many cases, as in Palestine and South Africa, the settlers do not belong to the same nation as the imperial power that initially supports them. More often than not they ceded from the empire, redefining themselves as a new nation, sometimes through a liberation struggle against the very empire that supported them (as happened during the American Revolution for instance). The second difference is that settler colonialism is motivated by a desire to take over land in a foreign country, while classical colonialism covets the natural resources in its new geographical possessions. The third difference... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Our country’s penchant for self-righteous posturing, its overt “messianic and missionary,” “big stick and bombs” foreign policy, combined with its covert “secret” and not-so-secret wars (e.g., the large laundry list that makes for the CIA’s bag of ‘dirty tricks,’ from regime overthrow to ‘targeted killings’ and torture), have rendered the fine—albeit ambiguous—political art of diplomacy a mere dark shadow of its former self. All of this was embodied with bombast and bluster in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent speech at the aptly named Heritage Foundation that proclaimed in predictably pompous rhetoric a “new Iran strategy,” although in historical terms, there was precious little that was truly new, much like resurrected fashions that attract those devoid of historical knowledge and a dispositional and feckless taste for fads of any kind. For example, Pompeo announced, without a trace of irony or satire: “No more wealth creation for Iranian kleptocrats. No more... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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What makes a person seek analysis? I can’t recall a philosopher, as a member of that select group who’ve both sympathetically explored and critically examined Freudian psychoanalysis, treat this question in any more than a perfunctory manner. In Freud, Insight and Change (1988), Ilham Dilman now provides us with an exception to the rule. In the excerpt that follows below, Dilman “briefly review[s] the kinds of ostensible psychological problems for which people seek analytic psychotherapy.” At a future date I would like to discuss to what extent the “categories of problems” for which people seek psychoanalytic therapy amount to reasons that are the same as, different from, or overlap with, the reasons for which people may become intellectually and emotionally interested in, or spiritually and philosophically attracted, to Buddhism. Psychoanalysis is a therapy designed for certain forms of mental disturbance, disquiet or illness rooted in Western traditions of philosophy, psychology,... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“… [T]oward the end of his life [Malcolm X] argued that blacks should put aside religious and philosophical differences and recognize they had a common oppressor. Antiblack racism, he argued, negatively affects all blacks, regardless of faith or party affiliation, and thus blacks should unify to resist racial oppression on nonsectarian and non-ideological grounds. Although he continued to believe in the necessity of autonomous black institutions, he did come to relax his opposition to alliance with progressive whites. Malcolm X’s ideas of internal colonization, black communal self-determination, skepticism toward the black elite and the Democratic Party, and racially autonomous political organizations influenced a generation of black activists and have had a significant impact on the contemporary political culture of African Americans. As Manning Marable remarked, ‘Dead at the age of 39, Malcolm quickly became the fountainhead of the modern renaissance of black nationalism in the late 1960s.’ Indeed, shortly after... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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As my Verso Radical Diary reminds us, on May 18, 1980, “citizens of Kwangju, South Korea, seize control of their city, demanding democratization, an end to martial law, and an increase in the minimum wage.” “The Gwangju Uprising, alternatively called May 18 Democratic Uprising by UNESCO, and also known as May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement, was a popular uprising in the city of Gwangju, South Korea, from May 18 to 27, 1980. Estimates suggest up to 606 people may have died. During this period, Gwangju citizens took up arms (by robbing local armories and police stations) when local Chonnam University students – who were demonstrating against the Chun Doo-hwan government – were fired upon, killed, and beaten in an unprecedented attack by government troops. The uprising eventually ended in defeat on May 27, 1980. The event is sometimes called 5·18, in reference to the date the movement began. [….] During... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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What follows is the dialogue between Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, a surgeon, and Major Sidney Theodore Freedman, an Army psychiatrist, in a scene from one of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes (on the ‘pathology of normalcy’). Allan Arbus plays the part of Major Sidney Theodore Freedman, the Army psychiatrist who visited the 4077th many times. Alan Alda plays Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (the only character to appear in all 251 episodes). “Between long, intense sessions of treating critically wounded patients, he makes the best of his life in an isolated Army camp by making wisecracks, drinking heavily, carousing, womanizing, and pulling pranks on the people around him.” M*A*S*H Season 5, Episode 109: “Hawk’s Nightmare” … or psychoanalysis on the fly at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War, 1950-1953 (written by Burt Prelutsky; originally aired December 21, 1976): Sidney [hereafter S.] –... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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A recent post at The Faculty Lounge about citations in law review articles not being a “good proxy for article quality” (the conclusion being that the ‘only way to judge the quality of an article is to actually read it!’), together with the observation that President Trump’s speeches, insofar as they involve claims, arguments, or simply conclusions (with the premises assumed or implied) of one kind or another, abundantly exemplify formal and informal fallacies in reasoning and thus amount to awful arguments,* prompted me—by way of free association—to think about works I often rely on to refresh my memory regarding the relevant methods and criteria one should keep in mind when assessing and judging the qualities or simply merits of an argument. In addition to knowing some basic rules of formal logic, the nature of practical reasoning, and being acquainted with the many informal fallacies (which are not, strictly speaking,... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Our first, second, and third posts in this series are, respectively, here, here, and here. “Agribusiness lab breeds its few poultry lineages at the level of grandparent stock before shipping out the product to clientele around the world. The practice in effect removes natural selection as a self-correcting (and free) ecological service. Any culling upon an outbreak or by farmers in reaction to an outbreak has no bearing on the development of immune resistance to the pathogens identified, as these birds, broilers and layers alike, are unable to evolve in response. In other words, the failure to accumulate natural resistance to circulating pathogens is built into the industrial model before a single outbreak occurs. There exists no room for real-time, ecologically responsive, and self-organized immune resistance. From a world away, human breeders and vaccines must somehow track microscopic molecular trajectories across dynamic mixes of myriad local pathogen variants, a Sisyphean... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Well-ordered science is an ideal. It may seem a utopian fancy, the sort of thing that may figure in philosophical discussions but that has little place in a realistic account of the sciences. There is an important distinction between specifying an ideal, something at which our practices should aim, and identifying procedures for attaining or approximating the ideal. To proceed to the latter task requires a large amount of empirical information, information no one yet has. Nonetheless, meaningful ideals are those for which we can envisage a path that might lead toward them, and a philosopher who proposes an ideal should be able to point to the initial steps we might take (as Dewey insisted, it is also important to appreciate that, as we move toward an ideal, our conception of it may be refined). — Philip Kitcher Apologia In constructing a list of this sort, the number of titles... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Karl Marx (5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) “was a German philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist.” My bibliography for Marxism is here. Please see Andrew Hartman’s piece for Jacobin, “Marx’s America.” See too Mary Gabriel’s “A letter to Karl Marx on his 200th birthday” in the Los Angeles Times. Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Today we celebrate the dignity, personhood (including personal agency), and capabilities (existing and potential) of working people everywhere; today we honor their struggles to be identified not just as people who labor, often under compulsion and thus in a manner of which they exercise little meaningful (i.e., democratic) and fulfilling self-control, but in recognition of their full humanity in its most elevated expressions and incarnations as partially captured in the history of arts and crafts; in the triune moto of the French Revolution: liberté, égalité, fraternité; and in the sundry values and virtues articulated and exemplified in religious and non-religious worldviews and philosophies in the history of mankind. One day, the opportunity for individual and collective or joint self-realization, for what Condorcet and Godwin understood as the never-ending quest for “perfectibility,” will be the prerogative of every human being. Here are some posts from the archives in honor of this... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
Over at Dorf on Law, Diane Klein clarifies, at least for me, the various facets of the attorney-client relationship. It seems the question of attorney-client privilege is not quite settled in the case of Hannity: [....] “...[T]he idea that establishing the relationship requires payment, and/or that in the absence of payment there is no attorney-client relationship, is one of the most tenacious errors in the layperson’s understanding of the legal profession (perpetrated by TV lawyers like Saul Goodman). It is not only that attorneys can do pro bono (unpaid charitable) legal work, although that is an obvious counterexample. The more fundamental point is that what triggers an attorney’s obligations of confidentiality (and renders certain communications privileged) has nothing to do with the exchange of money. Buying silence is what Cohen did for his clients: his own silence did not need to be purchased - so long as he was actually acting as an attorney. This is likely to become a crux of the matter. Not everything said to or by an attorney is covered by the attorney-client privilege. When a person who happens to be a lawyer gives business advice, for example, it is not protected. This situation - which Cornell Law Prof. W. Bradley Wendel calls ‘the two-hats problem’ - requires a determination of whether the client was consulting the lawyer as a lawyer (and not, for example, as a friend, business advisor, etc.) If, as the SDNY investigation of Cohen’s email accounts indicates, Cohen performed ‘little to no legal work’ at the relevant times, attorney-client privilege will not be available to protect what was said by or to him.” [....]
So what about Sean Hannity? He stated, “Let me set the record straight: Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter, I never retained his services....” He says he consulted him on real estate questions. There's not attorney-client privilege here because he never was a client of Cohen's (thus Cohen was never his attorney), right? Did not Cohen's attorneys claim in court that Hannity _was_ one of his clients?
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Occasionally one comes across a philosopher who, one believes quite strongly, was unduly neglected when alive, and thus virtually forgotten or ignored after his or her death. Ilham Dilman (November 4, 1930 – January 17, 2003) perfectly illustrates such a case (or at least that’s how it appears from my vantage point). I was surprised to discover some years ago from my dear friend, Nandini Iyer, that Dilman, a philosopher par excellence, taught for a brief period at UC Santa Barbara (I doubt they made an offer to keep him, knowing the philosophical or ideological orientation of the department in those days, although I suspect, with very little evidence, that he got along well with Herbert Fingarette). (Incidentally, I was no less surprised to learn that Kristin Shrader-Frechette once taught in the department as well: for two years, in the Philosophy of Science and Environmental Studies). Among the titles by... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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[….] “Several lawmakers asserted Sunday that the president should have sought congressional approval for the missile strike, launched in response to reports of deadly poison gas strikes on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. Congress, however, repeatedly has ducked votes on Syria policy since the fighting began there in March 2011. But even some people who have expressed vehement public disagreement with Trump’s previous actions voiced support for the strike, which was carried out in coordination with Britain and France. Former CIA Director John Brennan was among those who praised the action as ‘proportional and necessary to send a signal.’ Speaking on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ Brennan, who is now an analyst for that network, said that ‘the administration's actions against Syria were appropriate — and I tend to be a critic of this administration.’” [….] [….] “At least 1,600 civilians were reported killed in weeks of punishing airstrikes before the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“In an extraordinary decision, the Library of Congress this week bowed to pressure from angry anti-Freudians and postponed for as long as a year a major exhibition called ‘Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture.’ According to a front-page story in The Washington Post, some library officials blamed the delay on budget problems; but others contended the real reason was heated criticism of a show that might take a neutral or even favorable view of the father of psychoanalysis. Some fifty psychologists and others, including Gloria Steinem and Oliver Sacks, signed a petition denouncing the proposed exhibit; as Steinem complained to the Post, it seemed to ‘have the attitude of “He was a genius, but…” instead of “He’s a very troubled man, and….”’ Though the library assured them that the exhibit ‘is not about whether Freudians or Freud critics, of whatever camp, are right or wrong,’ the critics refused an offer to... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Our first and second posts in this series are, respectively, here and here. “The logistics of a just, equitable, and healthy agricultural landscape here in the United States would remain a problem if Michael Pollan himself, Wendell Berry, or better yet Fred Magdoff were appointed Secretary of Agriculture. Decades-long efforts pealing back agribusiness both as paradigm and infrastructure, however successful, would require a parallel program. With what would we replace the present landscape? As a black hole about its horizon, a poverty in imagination orbits the question stateside. The vacuum is most recently felt in the developing animus between public health officials and artisan cheesemakers. What Europe has long streamlined into amicable regulation, the United States has lurched into clumsy opposition: cheese wheels are increasingly treated as suitcase bombs filled with Listeria. After [more than] sixty years of industrial production Americans have quite forgotten the logistics of real food. There... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Our first post, with an introduction to this series, is here. “Dumping grain on another country is a classic maneuver in economic warfare. When a country’s borders are opened by force or by choice, by structural adjustment or by neoliberal trade agreement, when tariffs and other forms of protectionism are finally scotched, heavily subsidized multinational agribusinesses can flood the new market with commodities at prices less than their production costs. That is, these companies are happy to sell their foodstuffs abroad at a loss. That doesn’t make sense, you say. Aren’t these guys in business for profit? They are indeed. The deficits are in actuality a cold-blooded calculation. The objective is to drive previously domestic sectors unable to compete with that kind of pricing, out of business. Once the mom-and-pop competition is rubbed out, Walmart-style, the multinationals, their competition cleared off the field, can impose what prices they please across... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Among other things, and cross-posted at the Agricultural Law blog, I’m going to occasionally post snippets from a handful of Rob Wallace’s rhetorically pungent, intellectually incisive, and politically powerful collection of essays in his book Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatchers on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science (Monthly Review Press, 2016). Early last year I posted notice of an article in New Left Review, 102 (Nov/Dec 2016): “Ebola’s Ecologies: Agro-Economics and Epidemiology in West Africa,” co-authored by Rob Wallace and Rodrick Wallace, appending a list of suggested reading that included Big Farms. I will post bits and pieces from the book sans the notes and with slight editing (e.g., in the interest of length, I’ve left out some of the many examples that illuminate the arguments), although I may provide some embedded links (some of which may be in the book’s notes). As this work—with notes—is well... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“Baseball has become countercultural in America. Its pacing defies our Twitter-addled era. The game denies instant gratification. Thousands of measurable events and matchups provide inarguable facts. The sport demands respect for history and context. Given the current political climate, the republic needs baseball more than ever. As the country has sped up, baseball has gotten slower. The average nine-inning game takes over three hours — 13% longer than in 2005. There is no ‘running the clock’ as there is in just about every other sport. Batters saunter to the plate and fiddle with batting gloves. Pitchers shake off signs, get set and then step off the mound. Major League Baseball hopes to quicken the pace by limiting the number of coaching visits to the mound and shortening breaks between innings. Players, bless them, have resisted a 20-second pitch clock. Baseball teaches delayed gratification. It lacks the constant movement of basketball... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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We know that the notion of an unconscious mind or mental states predates Freud, and in fact is found, more or less, in both Eastern and Western thought, even if there is little or no systematic reflection and examination of this idea in conceptual terms concerned at once with its philosophical and psychological facets and clarification. Thus, we typically don’t say Freud “discovered” the unconscious but when we think of the unconscious, Freud’s name leaps to mind, if not his provocative and groundbreaking thoughts on “the unconscious.” More often, it is said that Newton “discovered” gravity, but in one very important sense, he did no such thing, any more than Freud discovered the unconscious part of our minds. So, what was it that both Newton and Freud did in their respective fields of inquiry? “After all we didn’t need Newton to tell us that apples fall. The well-taught child replies... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Some readers—as viewers!—may be interested (assuming you’ve yet to see it) in the recent documentary on the remarkable and inspirational life of Dolores Huerta on PBS (Independent Lens): “Dolores.” And should you have missed its earlier posting, here is my bibliography for “César Chávez & the United Farm Workers … and the Struggle of Farm Workers in the U.S.” Image: “Yreina D. Cervántez’ 1989 mural La Ofrenda, painted under a bridge in downtown Los Angeles.... In it, Cervántez—an artist and Chicana activist—pays homage to Dolores Huerta, co-founder with César Chávez of the United Farm Workers of America.” Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com