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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A couple of times a year I post notice of the unannotated bibliographies available (along with other published and unpublished writings) at my Academia page. This is the latest list, which thus includes additions since the last posting. These lists vary widely in length. The two principle constraints are books, in English (although a few lists have articles as well). Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Addiction Africana & African American Philosophy After Slavery & Reconstruction: The Black Struggle for Civil Rights, Freedom, and Equality in the U.S. Salvador Allende and the Quest for Socialism B.R. Ambedkar American Indian Law (this list goes considerably beyond ‘law’) Samir Amin (3 September 1931 - 12 August 2018) Analogy & Metaphor Anarchism: Philosophy & Praxis Animal Ethics, Rights, and Law The Arab World: Modern & Post-Modern Attica Prison Uprising (September 9, 1971 – September 13, 1971): Notes, Timeline, and Essential Reading The Bedouin Beyond Capitalist Agribusiness:... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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In Western philosophy, there are lots of “cats on mats” (e.g., ‘The cat is on the mat’). It does have a nice ring to it, unlike, say, “The dog is on the couch” or “The hamster is in the cage” or “The rat is at my bare feet.” I thought it worth mentioning after seeing this well-worn declarative sentence yet again in a work by Nicholas Rescher in which he discusses the epistemic significance and warrant of the notion of presumption (about which I hope to post anon). One of my favorite passages invoking this stock philosophical locution comes from Hilary Putnam’s Reason, Truth, and History (Cambridge University Press, 1981): “[F]act, (or truth) and rationality are interdependent notions. A fact is something that it is rational to believe, or, more precisely, the notion of a fact (or a true statement) is an idealization of the notion of a statement that... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
(The remarks that follow assume one has read Neil H. Buchanan’s piece, ‘The Kavanaugh Travesty: A Roiling Brew of Alcohol and Entitled Self-Righteousness,’ that I linked to on Facebook yesterday.) I find it more than plausible that Kavanaugh fancies himself as deserving of the privileges and feelings of superiority that are often part and parcel of being a member of the entitled meritocracy in this country, although I suspect he subscribes to the principle of noblesse oblige by way of easing his conscience, hence the frequency of first-person references (as a possessive pronoun) to a “lifetime of public service,” the “coaching of young girls” and so forth. In addition, we might plausibly if not reasonably infer that he believes his feelings of contempt, anger (if not rage), and defiance (for example) are justified because the accusations of sexual assault and accounts of his drunken behavior have spilled over onto and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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At The Living New Deal, they’ve just added pages (and wonderful photos!) that introduce the programs intended to address the conspicuous and enduring problem of our nation’s historic “exclusion of neglected, oppressed and marginalized people in American life.” This principle of democratic inclusion was implemented in sundry programs designed to help “the elderly, women and people of color, as well as the disabled and refugees.” The rationale for adding this material to their site is well explained as follows: “The New Dealers were, in every case, faced with a daunting task of overcoming long-established patterns of discrimination and social hierarchy, and they could only do so much in reversing ingrained opinions, habits and power relations across this country. Nevertheless, there has not been enough appreciation of the way New Dealers tried to subvert the existing social order on a wide front. In fact, the accomplishments of the era’s progressive policies... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
Apologia: As part of my research on Lokāyata/Cārvāka philosophical views, for which there is a comparative paucity of textual evidence (several possible and plausible reasons have been proffered for this state of affairs), and thus the knowledge of which is often gleaned from the descriptions and arguments of other—and opposing—philosophical schools in India, I am reading Kisor Kumar Chakrabarti’s “erudite” (Jay Garfield) exploration of aspects of Nyāya logic and epistemology in his book, Classical Indian Philosophy of Induction: The Nyāya Viewpoint (Lexington Books, 2010). “While Aristotle, the Stoics and the Epicureans made great contributions to the study of induction, there is no firm evidence to show that in the Western tradition [of philosophy] the problem of induction was explicitly recognized and elaborately discussed as a serious problem before Hume. But clearly the Indian logicians have done that long before that time. Again, in the Western tradition (notwithstanding the good work... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
There’s a provocative yet plausible argument to be made, and Pradeep P. Gokhale has made it (in his 2015 book, Lokāyata/Cārvāka: A Philosophical Inquiry), that orthodox and heterodox Indic philosophical systems or schools* (save, perhaps, Mahāyāna Buddhism) can be aptly characterized in the main (thus in the form of a generalization) as minor variations on the ethical theme of “hedonistic egoism.” Of course I am not claiming that altruism or ethical views and practices beyond hedonistic egoism don’t exist in Indian philosophy (or here or there in canonical sacred texts). Rather, the philosophical systems, qua systems, can be ethically characterized this way insofar as the paramount value or emphasis is on mokṣa/mukti “liberation” (from pain, suffering) or, as in the case of Mīmāṃsā, heaven (and enjoyment of life therein) and the consequent mental and/or spiritual states such liberation is said to bring: (eternal) peace, pure happiness, the highest bliss, unadulterated... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Edward Said “was one of the leading literary critics of the last quarter of the 20th century. As professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, New York, he was widely regarded as the outstanding representative of the post-structuralist left in America. Above all, he was the most articulate and visible advocate of the Palestinian cause in the United States, where it earned him many enemies. The broadness of Said’s approach to literature and his other great love, classical music, eludes easy categorisation. His most influential book, Orientalism (1978), is credited with helping to change the direction of several disciplines by exposing an unholy alliance between the enlightenment and colonialism.” — Malise Ruthven * * * “Edward (Wadie) Said (1 November 1935 – 25 September 2003) was a professor of literature at Columbia University, a public intellectual, and a founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies. A Palestinian... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
At Dorf on Law this morning, Michael Dorf writes: “Last week, while in North Carolina surveying some of the damage caused by Florence, the president came across a property on which a yacht had washed ashore during the storm. According to the NY Times story: ‘Is this your boat?’ Mr. Trump asked the homeowner. When the man shook his head and said ‘No,’ the president turned with a grin and replied, ‘At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.’ Then, the real-estate-tycoon-turned-president added: ‘They don’t know whose boat that is. What’s the law? Maybe it becomes theirs.’” As part of his discussion, Professor Dorf rightly observes that “[T]his is further evidence that Trump’s moral development was arrested when Hence my comment: In the currency of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development (after Piaget), Trump’s moral (and psychological) development is thus arrested at the “pre-conventional” level of moral... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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This post is in memory and honor of the life and work of George Padmore. In an earlier post I attempted to characterize the “Marxist spirituality” of C.L.R. James (a good friend of Padmore’s going back to the days of their youth in Trinidad) and in this case I would like to invoke, in the broadest and deepest sense, the kindred “humanist spirituality” of Padmore, which is equally non-religious or secular, while firmly grounded in a communism (Padmore’s ‘communist’ and socialist beliefs and commitments appear to have more or less survived his former and formal identity as a Communist Party member) and Pan-Africanism that he viewed as integral to the ends of Black self-determination and emancipation. The following material, a kind of bricolage, is an attempt to give some sense of the remarkable qualities Padmore possessed as an “organic intellectual” and political organizer on the (Black) Left. [The Soviet Union]... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
… [L]iberalism, constitutionalism, and democracy do not per se make good societies, although they are arguably necessary part of the structure of a good society. But it is also true that merely having the psychology for or a commitment to a good society will make one. In particular, the makings of a civil society are not the makings of good government under a constitutional regime. What is generally required for a constitutional regime to work is that it serve the relative interests of major political groups in the society, that is, groups that are politically efficacious. — Russell Hardin Capitalist democracy encourages economic calculation through the generation of conditions of material uncertainty. But economic calculation leads rationally to a rejection of more radical long-term struggles against capitalism itself. Short-term material improvement is the preferred aim of materially based conflict within a capitalist democracy because of the different requirements and competing... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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On this date in 1791, Olympe de Gouges published the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, one of the first tracts to champion women’s rights: “Woman is born free and remains the equal of man in rights.” We would do well to remember, with Jonathan Israel in Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre (2014), that “‘[w]oman be a citoyenne!’ within the French Revolution … remained exclusively the call of la philosophie and republican philosophisme. It was not promoted by liberal monarchism, Marat’s populism, or any other revolutionary political, cultural, or social movement. Backed by Condorcet, Bonneville, Brissot, Villette, and the Revolution’s leading women—Gouges, Palm, and Sophie Condorcet—an argued, developed, politically organized feminism that conquered a narrow but real enclave in the public sphere was forged for the first time in human history.” * * * “Olympe... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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In [April 18–24] 1955, a conference was held in Bandung, Indonesia that was attended by representatives from twenty-nine nations.* “The leaders of Asian and African countries gathered in this historic meeting … included Premiers Chou En-Lai of China, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, U Nu of Burma, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt besides President Sukarno of Indonesia, and leaders from Liberia, Sudan, Gold Coast, Jordan, Iran, Ceylon, Nepal, Pakistan and Philippines. The meeting of these leaders was a key point in the history of developing countries that gave rise to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the concept of the Third World or the South. At the start of the Cold War between the West and the former Soviet Union, the leaders of the developing countries gathered in Bandung asked for an alternative way of just global governance and global justice, to achieve greater social and economic development for their people,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I should like to call your attention to an article by Sherry F. Colb today at Verdict: “Factory Farming:” An Evolving Phrase. While I recommend the entire piece, I’ve highlighted one passage below so as to make a brief comment. For (philosophical and ethical) reasons found within the Buddhist tradition,* I wholeheartedly agree with this, although of course one need not be a Buddhist to concur with the premises and conclusion: “First, if a sentient living being feels good and healthy and happy, I cannot justify depriving her of her life if I have other options. Factory farming originally woke me and others up to the fact that the animals whom we were using for food and clothing have feelings and suffer and want to live out their lives [while they likely lack a conception of what it means to ‘live out their lives,’ they clearly express a will or... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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By way of a small tribute to Steve Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977), here is a brief descriptive introduction to and characterization of Biko as a thoughtful and politically aware young medical student at Wentworth (the Natal University nonwhite medical school), where he was elected to the Students’ Representative Council and soon participated in NUSAS (the multiracial National Union of South African Students): “Undogmatic but highly disciplined in his thinking, possessed with a rare insight into human and political situations, Biko increasingly began to question the value of what he saw as the artificial integration of student politics. As in South African politics generally, Africans were hanging back, resentful but reticent, hiding behind white spokesmen who had shouldered the job of defining black grievances and goals. For liberal whites, verbal protest and symbolic racial mixing were seen as the outer limit of action. Apartheid was defined as... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Today, September 9, 2018, marks the end of the Nationwide Prison Strike which began on August 21, 2018. Both dates have deliberate, symbolic political significance, as September 9, 1971 marks the start of the revolt at Attica Prison, while the commencement of the strike on August 21, harkens back to the death of George (Lester) Jackson (b. September 23, 1941), who was killed on that date in 1971, thus several week before the Attica Prison uprising, ostensibly by prison guards,* outside the Adjustment Center (AC) in the prison yard at San Quentin Prison after being involved in a violent and deadly takeover of the AC: “Jackson moved guards Kenneth McCray, Paul Krasenes, and Frank DeLeon down to the tier to his cell … where he and a few other prisoners hogtied and beat the officers before slashing their throats with a makeshift knife. Krasenes died of that wound; Jackson shot... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“The Delano [Kern County] grape strike was a labor strike by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the United Farm Workers against grape growers in California. The strike began on September 8, 1965 [this is when Filipino pickers first walked out of the fields; Bardacke marks September 20th as the official beginning of the coordinated strike action], and lasted more than five years. Due largely to a consumer boycott of non-union grapes, the strike ended with a significant victory for the United Farm Workers as well as its first contract with the growers. The strike began when the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, mostly Filipino farm workers in Delano, California, led by Philip Vera Cruz, Larry Itliong, Benjamin Gines and Pete Velasco, walked off the farms of area table-grape growers, demanding wages equal to the federal minimum wage. One week after the strike began, the predominantly Mexican-American National Farmworkers Association, led... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Elizabeth Catlett, “Pensive” First, permit me to draw your attention to a new entry (as opposed to an updated entry) in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) on “Alienation.” The following comments do not presume you have read the entry and a few of the ideas merely introduced below are treated in more depth by the entry’s author, David Leopold. From what I take to be a basic Marxist vantage point, alienation is conversely, intimately, and normatively connected to the possibility of the transcendence of same, or what is sometimes termed human flourishing (eudaimonia in classical Greek philosophy), or simply the notion of human fulfillment, the triune nature of which entails, minimally and broadly speaking, freedom (as self-determination), human community, and self-realization. The concept of alienation or estrangement is found to play a prominent part in several religious and philosophical worldviews (in some of these, the philosophy and religion,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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[D]espite its longevity, caste, and caste oppression, is not a popular theme in India. In Telangana, which had its own feudal ruler, ‘every untouchable family in every village had to give up their first male child as soon as he learned to talk and walk. They would bring him to the dora [landlord] to work in his household as a slave until death.’ Other castes suffered too. This wasn’t, as Gidla writes, ‘a traditional system,’ but one instituted in the late 19th century to allow the large-scale cultivation of tobacco and cotton. The peasants, aided by the Communist Party, rose up and fought this servitude. By now the brahmins were in power in Delhi. No untouchable or low-caste Hindu harboured many illusions. Some even feared that after the British withdrawal things would get worse for them. They did. The Indian army invaded the city of Hyderabad in Telangana, deposing its... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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My latest (ninety-first) bibliography is on genocide (on my Academia page). Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Socialism in not a moral theory which offers a particular vision of the good life, instead it is a theory about how the good life is possible. It is, in short, a theory about the conditions necessary for creating a society in which our lives are shaped by moral values—we defer to the authority of the good—rather than a society in which our moral traditions have been erased by forces inimical to the moral life. And part of this theory about the conditions necessary for the good life proved the leading critical aspect of socialism. That part is the claim that it is capitalism which has been largely responsible for the destruction of the conditions necessary for the good life. — Michael Luntley There exists, within both what is commonly called the classical and later “reconstructed” Liberal tradition (which, as a political philosophy, is related to but not identical with... Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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We seek only to bring men to the liberty that God has given them, and that other men have taken from them only by transgressing His immutable will. — François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture (20 May 1743 – 7 April 1803) From [Frederick] Douglass’s time to ours, events in Haiti have continued to inspire African American responses in various genres, including journalism, oratory, music, and poetry. Far from fading, the Haitian Revolution has remained significant and has taken on new meanings during the twentieth century, as contemporary events unfolded. From the response of the NAACP to the American occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, through the poetry of Langston Hughes and the art of the painter Jacob Lawrence, to the personal connection felt with Touissant L’Ouverture by Ntozake Shange’s protagonist in the 1975 play For colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, many African Americans have been inspired by... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“Now that the hajj has commenced in Mecca, I thought it might be of some interest to share something I learned when writing biographies of Sufis from various orders (ṭarīqah[s]) for The Biographical Encyclopedia of Islamic Philosophy, Oliver Leaman, ed. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015; first published as two volumes by Thoemmes Continuum in 2006). I’ve taken the relevant paragraph from the full biography which follows below. It shows how one Sufi understood this particular Islamic obligation. I invite you to read the entire biography as Abu Sa`id is a rather colorful and eccentric Sufi mystic, at least as gleaned from the evidence we have of his life and spiritual practices. Oliver Leaman, our esteemed editor, explains the reasons for including Sufis in the introduction, which includes the fact that philosophy is translated as both falsafa (with Greek connotations, especially the Peripatetic tradition) and hikma or “wisdom” (there is also a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“‘Once we’ve broken the war in Vietnam,’ Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security adviser, told the President, ‘no one will give a damn about war crimes.’” Here is a little known—at least from my vantage point—but ugly fact: “In the ten months after [Robert S.] McNamara left the Pentagon, Clark Clifford under the president [Lyndon B. Johnson] dropped a greater tonnage of bombs on Indochina than had been expended in the previous three years: 1.7 million tons compared with 1.5.” – Daniel Ellsberg What follows is a summary of the bombing figures for Indochina* (technically, French Indochina: Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) during the U.S. war in Vietnam: “Throughout World War II, in all sectors, the United States dropped 2 million tons of bombs; for Indochina, the total figure is 8 million tons, with an explosive power equivalent to 640 Hiroshima-size bombs. Three million tons were dropped on Laos, exceeding the total... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Mike Dorf at his blog today: “Last week, Vice President Pence announced the creation of a ‘Space Command,’ a first step towards what President Trump hopes to obtain from Congress: a ‘Space Force’ as a full-fledged new branch of the military to take its place alongside the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Despite the appeal of a Space Force to pre-adolescent boys whose mommies and/or daddies tuck them into Star Wars-themed blankets (and to a president whose emotional age matches the youngest of these boys), a Space Force is a terrible idea.” I agree. Mike’s post, however, is not about international law and the weaponization of space (distinguishable to some extent from the ‘militarization’ of space, which has already taken place) but rather asks the question, “Would a Space Force be constitutional?” I’ll leave the possible answers to that question to Mike and his colleagues who are... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“President Trump appeared to acknowledge on Monday something his aides have declined to confirm for months: that his White House had aides sign nondisclosure agreements. The president made the statement in a post on Twitter about Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former contestant on ‘The Apprentice’ who became an assistant to the president, and whose new book makes unflattering claims about Mr. Trump and his family. ‘Wacky Omarosa already has a fully signed Non-Disclosure Agreement!’ Mr. Trump tweeted, using the type of moniker he often deploys against people who say disparaging things about him. For months, officials in the West Wing have refused to confirm reports by The New York Times and other news outlets that aides were ordered to sign nondisclosure agreements, which legal experts say are essentially unenforceable for government employees.” — Maggie Haberman in The New York Times, August 13, 2018 * * * “A non-disclosure agreement (NDA),... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com