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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
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The epigraph is germane to our third maxim from La Rochefoucauld below. “The argument for the promising rule goes by appeal to the value that the practice of promising has for us as members of a society. The chief value of the practice of promising is social coordination and cooperation—promises (and cognate phenomena like contracts and agreements) allow people to trust one another, which in turn allows for all sorts of cooperative benefits, e.g., divisions of labor, solutions to coordination problems and collective action problems, exits from prisoners dilemmas, etc. The theory is first offered by Hobbes (Leviathan xiii–xv). Hobbes’ framework for assessing the rationality of moral rules assumes that the over-arching goal is to exit the state of nature into a civil society. In the Hobbesian state of nature, our expansive natural rights, our over-large appetites and our natural inclination to dominate result in constant, irresolvable conflict, what Hobbes... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Several years ago I occasionally posted on my Facebook page selections from La Rochefoucauld’s (Tr. Leondard Tancock) Maxims (Penguin Books, 1959, first published in 1665) and I thought perhaps RLL readers might enjoy them as well (apologies to those few who are found in both groups). It is one way for me to mark the start—and is in the spirit—of summer. Permit me to introduce the first group of these with some wise observations from Jon Elster: “Alone among the moralists, La Rochefoucauld offered something like a theory of human motivations. In fact, his views about unconscious motivation and unconscious cognition are probably more valuable than anything found in twentieth-century psychology. To some extent it is true, as Jean Lafond says, that ‘a certain verbal exuberance together with the exaggeration required for an original assertion turns the psychology into mythology.’ Yet…some systematic views can be extracted from what first appear... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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This bibliography is now available on my Academia page. What follows is the Epigraph and Apologia for this compilation. Epigraph “The wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world may be the poorest in what was supremely precious to the highest cultures of classical antiquity and the renaissance of world history—the availability of time for thought and contemplation, for relaxation and creative work, for conversation and study, for love and friendship, for the enjoyment of the arts and the beauties of nature, for solitude and communion, for doubts and dreams. There is little room or time for indolence and excellence, for salons and coffeehouses and the market-place, for laughter and tears, for poetry and philosophy, for song and dance and worship, for birds and beasts, for sleep and convalescence, for birth and death; time to live and enough time to dwell on eternity. Can the mere availability of more time... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Propositions pivotal to the “default liberal optimism about human welfare:” People tend to fare best when they possess, more or less, the greatest possible freedom to live as they wish. Exceptions will be marginal. Ideally, people will face circumstance of maximally unbounded and unburdened choice. More freedom in determining the character of one’s life is almost always better, in terms of average well-being, with exceptions representing a fringe of special cases. The benefits of option freedom are not marginal but major. A great increase in option freedom will typically yield large gains in well-being. Individuals are almost always better positioned to make choices concern their well-being than anyone else, aside from limited resources and matters of special expertise. People not only do best in conditions of unbounded choice; they tend to do pretty Option freedom benefits individuals primarily through the successful exercise of their own agency. This is because it... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Donald Trump’s economic plan (as inferred from his budget proposal) looks backward with overweening nostalgia, believing that “one of the greatest achievements in all of economic history,” namely, the “Great Leap Forward of the American level of labor productivity that occurred in the middle decades of the twentieth century,” can be attained once more, hence his singular and inordinate fondness for “industries that powered the American economy in the mid-20th century, particularly manufacturing, fossil fuel extraction, and construction.” His campaign slogan to “Make America Great Again” (which first appeared in Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign), makes literal or at least sub-conscious reference to this period of economic history, the budget plan enshrining both socio-economic nostalgia and messianic yearning. According to Robert J. Gordon, “… [T]he year 1970 marks a distinct break point between faster and slower growth.* The ten decades between 1870 and 1970 deserve their accolade … as the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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What follows—in the hope of whetting your appetite—is the tentative epigraph and apologia to my latest (comparatively short!) bibliography: Beyond Capitalist-Attenuated Time: Freedom, Leisure, and Self-Realization. “The wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world may be the poorest in what was supremely precious to the highest cultures of classical antiquity and the renaissance of world history—the availability of time for thought and contemplation, for relaxation and creative work, for conversation and study, for love and friendship, for the enjoyment of the arts and the beauties of nature, for solitude and communion, for doubts and dreams. There is little room or time for indolence and excellence, for salons and coffeehouses and the market-place, for laughter and tears, for poetry and philosophy, for song and dance and worship, for birds and beasts, for sleep and convalescence, for birth and death; time to live and enough time to dwell on eternity. Can... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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May 30th, 1902 is the date is used to mark the deaths of at least 15,000 Black Africans in concentration camps that housed approximately 115,000 of their number during the Second Anglo-Boer War (26,370 Boer women and children died in separate ‘concentration’ camps as well, and those camps included Black—‘Kaffir’—servants). The date is significant because it comes the day before the signing of the “peace” agreement, the Treaty of Vereeniging, at Melrose House in Pretoria on May 31st, 1902. Later estimates put the number at closer to 20,000 Black Africans, the majority of whom were children, the causes of death being primarily medical neglect, exposure, infectious diseases (e.g., measles, whooping cough, typhoid fever, diphtheria and dysentery) and malnutrition. The establishment of these camps was but one part of a “Scorched Earth Policy” adopted by British Commander Lord Kitchener during the South African War (‘once called the last gentleman’s war’) as... Continue reading
Posted May 30, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Elizabeth Catlett, “The Lesson,” ca. 1948 (crayon on paper) David Lazarus at the Los Angeles Times: “Die hard: Republican healthcare bill has no problem throwing you off a building” “What kind of politician would commit such a monstrous act? That’s easy, said Elizabeth G. Taylor, executive director of the National Health Law Program: Any politician more interested in cutting taxes for the rich than providing affordable healthcare for ordinary people. The bill ‘sacrifices the healthcare of millions of vulnerable people to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest in this country,’ she said.” * * * Harold Meyerson (executive editor at American Prospect) in the Los Angeles Times: “Why do billionaires care so much about charter schools?” “ … [W]e have to go back to the economic polarization of pre-New Deal America to find a time when the super-rich felt so compelled to better the lot of the poor, as... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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At Food Politics, Marion Nestle shares an interview with Tom Nassif, the CEO of the Western Growers. “Nassif represents this trade association for industrial agricultural producers in the West and Southwest. He discusses how immigration issues affect farm labor from the perspective of producers.” The entire interview is worth reading, but I want to highlight the following two “questions” and answers, commenting—by way of the work of Frank Bardacke—on the second one below: Some people say farmers just have to pay more for their labor. “Anyone who is an enlightened observer of immigration reform and agriculture knows that’s not true. Wages have continually gone up. And the supply of labor keeps diminishing. … It’s not the wages, it’s the work. This is a difficult job. This is seasonal. This is migratory. This is not full time. This requires people to be away from their families. So that’s not very attractive... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“By the end of the wars of 1947-49, an estimated 750,000 Palestinians had either fled Palestine or been expelled from their homes by the Haganah. Palestinians … call this seminal happening the Nakba, or the Great Catastrophe. [The events of this period are commemorated by Palestinians in both the Palestinian territories and elsewhere on May 15th, Nakba Day.] Over 90 percent of the Palestinian inhabitants of Haifa, Tiberias, Beit She’an, Jaffa, and Acre had vanished. Expulsions from towns and villages were common along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road in the eastern Galilee. Palestinians in Nazareth and the southern Galilee for the most part stayed, and today these areas form the core of the Palestinian Israeli population. Altogether, roughly 15 percent of Palestinians remained behind and became Israeli citizens, some staying where they lived, other moving to other parts of the country, all losing their property to expropriation. In the course of... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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From his Wikipedia entry (the embedded hyperlinks are from yours truly): “Walter Max Ulyate Sisulu … was a South African anti-apartheid activist and a member of the African National Congress (ANC), serving at times as Secretary-General and Deputy President of the organization. He was jailed at Robben Island, where he served more than 25 years’ imprisonment. [In 1943, a couple of years after becoming a member of the ANC, Sisulu], together with Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, joined the ANC Youth League, founded by Anton Lembede, of which he was initially the treasurer. [….] Sisulu was a political networker and had a prominent planning role in the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (‘Spear of the Nation’). He was made secretary general of the ANC in 1949, displacing the more passive older leadership, and held that post until 1954. He also joined the South African Communist Party. As a planner of the... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Kent State University photo “Ohio” Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, We’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, Four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it Soldiers are cutting us down Should have been done long ago. What if you knew her And found her dead on the ground How can you run when you know? Gotta get down to it Soldiers are cutting us down Should have been done long ago. What if you knew her And found her dead on the ground How can you run when you know? Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, We’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, Four dead in Ohio.—Neil Young From the Wikipedia entry on the “Cambodian Campaign”: “At 21:00 on 30 April [1970] …. President Nixon appeared on all three U.S. television networks to announce that ‘It is not our power but our... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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May 3, 1968: “Be realistic, demand the impossible.” As the Verso Radical Diary reminds us, on this date French students protest[ed] the closure of the Sorbonne, setting off the May ‘68 wave of strikes by millions of students and workers.” See, for example, the late Daniel Singer’s book, Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968 (Haymarket Books, 2013/first published by Hill & Wang in 1970). “In May 1968 ... when a student revolt led to a general strike of nearly ten million workers in France, there were significant demonstrations of solidarity in Mexico City, Berlin, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Berkeley, and Belgrade, and students and workers in both Spain and Uruguay attempted general strikes of their own. Massive student strikes in Italy forced Prime Minister Aldo Moro and his cabinet to resign; Germany experienced its worst political crisis since World War II, and a student strike at the University of Dakar,... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I want to draw your attention to some books that fall, loosely (e.g., perhaps they’re indirectly relevant to…), under the heading, “resistance and revolutionary aspirations in the Middle East.” The list is confined to books I’ve read or am currently reading, with the exception of Blumenthal’s title on the last war in Gaza, which I hope to read anon. I had planned on confining the list to ten works, all less than ten years old, but I’ve ended up exceeding the first constraint by two titles. Given the arbitrary nature of the constraints and the fact that I’ve not been able (of late) to keep up on the number of books that might meet our criteria for inclusion, there invariably are titles worthy of mention missing from this list. But at least it’s a start, especially for those for whom this is not an area of expertise or one of... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The following, albeit lightly edited, is from the Bread and Roses Centennial Committee’s (1912-2012) Facebook post yesterday accounting for the distinction between May Day and Labor Day in this country: “Ever wonder why the U.S. celebrates Labor Day, the first Monday in Sept, while May 1 is a day recognized around the world as a workers’ holiday, a day of solidarity between workers of all nationalities? It was bound up with the struggle for the shorter workday – a demand of major political significance for the working class. ‘Eight hours for work —eight for rest—and eight for what we will.’ Already at the opening of the 19th century workers in the United States made known their grievances against working from ‘sunrise to sunset,’ the then prevailing workday. Fourteen, sixteen and even eighteen hours a day were not uncommon. The 1820s and 1830s are full of strikes for reduction of hours... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Gök Jami mosque of Yerevan, Armenia John Esposito on “Islam and Religious Pluralism”—This is an excellent introductory lecture (click on the title for the video) by one of this country’s foremost scholars on Islam that was filmed for UCTV at the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life at UC Santa Barbara. Additional Resources (from yours truly): Study Guide for Islam Islamic Studies bibliography Islam & Muslims in the United States: a select bibliography Islam & Democracy (an encyclopedia entry) Poetry & Islam (a published introductory essay) Book Review: Oliver Leaman’s Islamic Aesthetics: An Introduction (2004) (published in Philosophy East and West) I also have several bibliographies that overlap a bit with some of the above material: The Modern and Post-Modern Arab World The Bedouin Modern Iran Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The power of states to intervene in the operations of contemporary globalized capitalism is severely constrained in a world of deregulated capital markets: states no longer have the same degree of power they once held in the period of “national capitalism” (a term that reminds us of the diminished power of Keynesian-inspired states to robustly ‘steer’ the economy, as well as the prescient arguments made by Claus Offe in Contradictions of the Welfare State and Disorganized Capitalism). The current round of globalization is a conspicuous “combination of deregulated capital movements, advances in information/communication/transport technologies, and a shift in ideology away from social democracy [as well as the ‘Liberal’ capitalist ideologies that buttress liberal or corporatist welfare policies] and statism towards neoliberalism and libertarianism.” “One consequence of this new phase,” writes Meghnad Desai, “is that the state no longer controls the economy, but is one player (a major one of course)... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Books, and especially very good books, deserve as much publicity as they can garner in our world, so … Zed Books (London) has a series of publications under the rubric, “African Arguments,” that I enthusiastically recommend to those with even the slightest interest in what has (recently) happened, is happening, and might happen on the African continent. I have several books in the series and plan on getting more (provided my dear wife will indulge me!). They are published in conjunction with the International African Institute, the Royal African Society, and the World Peace Foundation. There is a diverse and stellar group of editors. The webpage for books published to date is here. What follows below is a taste of the argument from one of the books pictured above. “The overarching question in the economic growth literature has been about why Africa has grown relatively slowly. This question has overshadowed... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Drying cocoa beans in rural Ghana (Photo: Elke de Buh) “Before you eat that chocolate Easter egg, think about the people who produced it” By Simran Sethi for the Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2017 Just after Valentine’s Day, prices for cocoa plummeted. Days later, media outlets erupted in a collective hurrah. ‘Your chocolate is getting cheaper,’ headlines proclaimed. ‘Easter will be sweet.’ What wasn’t factored into the celebration is the deep suffering of the subsistence farmers who grow cacao, the seeds of a pod-shaped fruit that, once harvested, become the cocoa traded on the commodities market and destined for the chocolate eggs and bunnies that fill most Easter baskets. Cacao’s origins trace to the rainforests of the upper Amazon, and the seeds are believed to have been transformed into a drink in Mesoamerica at least as early as 400 BC. Once used as medicine, currency and a stand-in for... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I do not think the following is generally true: “Economists who follow Karl Marx in adopting a labor theory of value or in other ways but do not share the political ideology of communism typically call themselves ‘Marxians’ to distinguish their views from the views of political ‘Marxists.’” This remark was but a small if not incidental part of a larger blog post by Michael Dorf (‘Advice to Conscientious Originalists: Rebrand’) and is probably not crucial to its main argument. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to respond both to this and a few related comments by Professor Dorf. The Marxist economists I am familiar with, by and large, are at the same time “political Marxists” (and there are economists who are not afraid to learn and cite from Marx who are not avowedly ‘Marxist’ or ‘Marxian,’ like Amartya Sen), and those same (at once economic and political) Marxists do not believe... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“In his famous treatise on politics, diplomacy, and political economy called Arthaśāstra (roughly translated as ‘instructions on material prosperity,’ in contemporary terms, perhaps best translated as ‘political economy’), Kautilya, the ancient Indian political theorist and economist … included among his famine relief policies the possibility of raiding the provisions of the rich. In fact, he wrote with some eloquence on ‘the policy of thinning the rich by exacting excess revenue [karśanam], or causing them to vomit their accumulated wealth [vamanam].’”—Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford University Press, 1989): 4. The Moral & Political Economy of Poverty, Hunger, and Famine: Suggested Reading Anrée, Peter, et al. Globalization and Food Sovereignty: Global and Local Change in the New Politics of Food. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014. Aoki, Keith. Seed Wars: Controversies and Cases on Plant Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2008. Bardhan,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Shepard Fairey painting Workers’ Rights/Cesar Chavez Mural in San Francisco, California My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers … and the Struggle of Farm Workers in the U.S. is here. Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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From The Guardian yesterday: The South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, one of Nelson Mandela’s closest colleagues in the struggle against white rule and a fellow Robben Island prisoner, has died aged 87. Kathrada, who was affectionately known by his nickname ‘Kathy,’ was among those jailed alongside Mandela after the Rivonia trial in 1964. The case drew worldwide attention and highlighted the brutal legal system under the apartheid regime. He died in hospital in Johannesburg following a short illness after brain surgery. Kathrada spent 26 years and three months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island. After the end of apartheid, he served from 1994-99 as parliamentary counsellor to President Mandela in the first African National Congress (ANC) government. In recent years he was highly critical of President Jacob Zuma and the ANC government. Nevertheless, the ANC said South Africa had ‘lost a titan.’ ‘His life is a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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On this date in 1969, the first national Chicano youth conference was held in Denver, Colorado by Crusade for Justice, the civil rights organization founded by former boxer Corky Gonzáles. “Rodolfo ’Corky’ Gonzáles (June 18, 1928 – April 12, 2005) was a Mexican American boxer, poet, and political activist. He convened the first-ever Chicano youth conference in March 1969, which was attended by many future Chicano activists and artists. The conference also promulgated the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, a manifesto demanding self-determination for Chicanos. As an early figure of the movement for the equal rights of Mexican Americans, he is often considered one of the founders of the Chicano Movement.” According to Carlos Muñoz, Jr., “[The conference] brought together for the first time activists from all over the country who were involved in both campus and community politics. The conference was also significant because it brought together young people of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Today is the 106th anniversary (March 25, 1911) of the fire at the Triangle Waist (often ‘Shirtwaist’) Company in New York City in which 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men – died. Most of these workers were young Jewish and Italian immigrant women. “Because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a then-common practice to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to [ostensibly] reduce theft – many of the workers who could not escape from the burning building simply jumped from the high windows.” The owners of the factory were prosecuted for the fire but won an acquittal, “thanks to the exceptionally effective representation of legendary attorney Max Steuer” (Steve Lubet). There is a wonderful website with primary and secondary sources and sundry helpful stuff about this industrial disaster at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Professor Marcia L.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com