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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
The latest issue of the “independent socialist” periodical, Monthly Review, has two articles that might interest this blog’s readers: Fred Magdoff’s, “A Rational Agriculture Is Incompatible with Capitalism,” and Michael Friedman’s “GMOs: Capitalism’s Distortion of Biological Processes.” With the “print” icon one can access PDF versions of either article. Fred Magdoff “is professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont and a long-time commentator on political-economic topics. He is co-author, with John Bellamy Foster, of The Great Financial Crisis (2009) and What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (2011),” as well as co-editor, with Brian Tokar, of Agriculture and Food in Crisis (2010), all three volumes published by Monthly Review Press. Michael Friedman “earned his PhD in biology at the Genomics Laboratory at the American Museum of Natural History and currently works as an adjunct at City University of New York (CUNY).” On the nature... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at
Nice article on the subject:
Robert C. Hockett and Saule T. Omarova have posted a draft of their important—hence highly recommended—new article, “Public Actors in Private Markets: Toward a Developmental Finance State,” at SSRN, available here. The abstract: The recent financial crisis brought into sharp relief fundamental questions about the social function and purpose of the financial system, including its relation to the “real” economy. This Article argues that, to answer these questions, we must recapture a distinctively American view of the proper relations among state, financial market, and development. This programmatic vision – captured in what we call a “developmental finance state” – is based on three key propositions: (1) that economic and social development is not an “end-state” but a continuing national policy priority; (2) that the modalities of finance are the most potent means of fueling development; and (3) that the state, as the most potent financial actor, both must and often... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2015 at
[Edited] “A descendant of the wife of Hong Yen Chang was researching a book about an ancestor when she learned that her great-grand-uncle Chang had received a law degree but never practiced in California. She contacted another relative, who spoke to a historian at the State Bar of California. The California Supreme Court had denied Chang a law license because he was Chinese. ‘The family was troubled that it happened, but we didn't ever imagine there was anything we could do about it,’ said Rachelle Chong, a prominent lawyer and Chang’s great-grand-niece. Twenty five years later, she received a note from a UC Davis law professor. His students were going to try to overturn the decision that denied Chang admission to the California bar. That reversal finally came Monday, when the California Supreme Court closed a chapter in the state’s history of anti-Chinese laws and decided unanimously to give Chang... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2015 at
“The state, largely in the form of the federal government, has had an important background role in providing the environment in which the biotechnology industry could be created. Numerous state interventions made the formation of the biotechnology industry possible. Federal government funding of NIH [National Institutes of Health] and NSF [National Science Foundation] research built the basic scientific knowledge from which commercial biotechnology developed. The entire history of molecular biology is that of federal funding of ‘basic’ research that was meant to create the technical base necessary to understand and cure diseases.” Martin Kenney, Bio-technology: The University-Industrial Complex (Yale University Press, 1986): 241. “It’s no surprise that Apple’s tremendously successful line of products—iPads, iPhones, and iPods—incorporate twelve key innovations. All twelve (central processing units, dynamic random-access memory, hard-drive disks, liquid-crystal displays, batteries, digital single processing, the Internet, the HTTP and HTML languages, cellular networks, GPS system, and voice-user AI programs)... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2015 at
“Two facts are clear: (1) There is nothing in [seventeenth-century English philosopher John] Locke’s theory that lends an iota of legitimacy to the contemporary institution of slavery in the Americas; and (2) African slavery in the Americas was a reality and Locke himself was implicated with it… [i.e., he ‘invested money personally both in plantation enterprises and in an enterprise (the Royal African Company) that had a monopoly in the slave trade’].”—Waldron, Jeremy. God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations of Locke’s Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2002): 206. My bibliography on slavery is here. Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2015 at
[ A "decent" show? I think it is (was!) one of the best offerings on television. I'm not alone: ]
Glades Correctional Institution inmates reading in the prison library - Belle Glade, Florida (1975) “Some of the greatest works of literature and social commentary—everything from Don Quixote, to O. Henry’s stories, to Martin Luther King Jr’s, Letter from a Birmingham Jail—were written in whole or in part while their authors were incarcerated. In many prisons and jails today, however, speech is burdened by regulations that make little sense. Examples include the following: A federal prison employee prevented a prisoner in Colorado from receiving books by President Obama, citing national security concerns. A Wisconsin prison banned all materials related to the fantasy role play game Dungeons & Dragons, concerned that the game would promote gang activity. A jail in South Carolina prohibited all publications with staples on the ground that staples could be used in makeshift tattoo guns. At the same time, the jail allowed prisoners to purchase legal pads that... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2015 at
I almost missed this very moving tribute: perhaps it could be placed as a link to the "In Memoriam..." post at the top of the blog. Thanks.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2015 on Eulogy for Monroe at Legal Ethics Forum
An alleged CIA prison near Kabul, Afghanistan: Trevor Paglen via Wikimedia Commons. From David Cole at Just Security: “’New Torture Files’: Declassified Memos Detail Roles of Bush White House and DOJ Officials Who Conspired to Approve Torture” [….] The overall picture that the documents paint is not of a rogue agency, but of a rogue administration. Yes, the CIA affirmatively proposed to use patently illegal tactics — waterboarding, sleep deprivation, physical assault, and painful stress positions. But at every turn, senior officials and lawyers in the White House and the Department of Justice reassured the agency that it could — and should — go forward. The documents reveal an agency that is extremely sensitive to whether the program is legally authorized and approved by higher-ups — no doubt because it understood that what it was doing was at a minimum controversial, and very possibly illegal. The documents show that the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at
I’m saddened by the death of Monroe Freedman. “For 42 years as a professor and dean at Hofstra Law, Monroe instilled in thousands of students the responsibility of lawyers to zealously represent their clients and also to stand for social justice. Nationally he was known as the father of modern legal ethics for his successful effort to introduce the field into the mainstream of the legal academy. For this, he received the American Bar Association’s highest award for professionalism, in recognition of ‘a lifetime of original and influential scholarship in the field of lawyers’ ethics,’ and his peers have called him ‘the conscience of our profession.’” From today’s obituary notice in the The Washington Post: “Monroe H. Freedman, scholar of legal ethics and civil liberties, dies at 86” [….] Mr. Freedman became a nationally renowned expert on civil liberties while serving as a law professor at George Washington University from... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2015 at
Despite our spirited disagreements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I was very fond of Monroe, and admired his legal work both as a scholar and a practitioner. He kindly and thoughtfully sent me his articles by post and I deeply cherish the sweet note and signed copy of his latest co-edited volume of essays. Unfortunately, I only knew Monroe through his work and cyberspace communication (and the accolades from others), never having the opportunity to meet him in person. Even so, I'm certain that Richard has it right: "Unafraid, unrepentant, true to himself and his principles, thoughtful, literate, articulate, but never, ever acting from fear." He will be dearly missed.
Toggle Commented Feb 27, 2015 on In Memoriam: Monroe Freedman at Legal Ethics Forum
An interview with Paul Robeson on KPFA (thanks to Michael Duff for the link). Recommended Reading: Duberman, Martin Bauml. Paul Robeson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. Robeson, Paul. Here I Stand. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1988 (first edition, 1958). Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2015 at
In honor of Black History Month: “Faulkner and Desegregation” Partisan Review, Fall 1956 (Vol. 23, No. 4): 568-573 By James Baldwin Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or thought one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free—he has set himself free—for higher dreams, for greater privileges. All men have gone through this, go through it, each according to his degree, throughout their lives. It is one... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2015 at
The avowed humanist spirituality*—or beauty, goodness, and dignity—in the work of the Black artist, Charles Wilbert White (April 2, 1918 – October 3, 1979): “…The main point is that what really I’ve always tried to do, …which I think most artists have to do, is that I try to deal with truth as truth may be in my personal interpretation of truth and truth in a very spiritual sense—not ‘spiritual’ meaning religiously spiritual, but ‘spiritual’ in the sense of the inner-man, so to speak. I try to deal with beauty, and beauty again as I see it in my… interpretation of it, the beauty in man, the beauty in life, the beauty, the most precious possession that man has is life itself. And that essentially I feel that man is basically good. I have to start from this premise in all my work because I’m almost psychologically and emotionally incapable... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2015 at
As one might infer from several recent posts, I’ve been learning as much as I can of late about one of the best known (and rightly so) African-American painters, Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000). As it happens to be Sunday, I thought to share one of Lawrence’s later series of paintings (gouache on paper), Eight Studies for the Book of Genesis (1989) (below: ‘Genesis Creation Sermon’ series). In part, I’m also compensating for the fact that, teaching a course on “world religions” in a philosophy department, I have precious little opportunity to discuss (let alone show examples of) religious art (exceptions being a few words on Eastern Orthodox icons owing to the debate between iconodules and iconoclasts; Islamic calligraphy; and Buddhist stupas). The images here are courtesy of the “The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art” at The SCAD Museum of Art, associated with The Savannah College of Art and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2015 at
I’m reading Kimberley Brownlee’s Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience (Oxford University Press, 2012) by way of taking a brief break from Jonathan Israel (!) and so as to say some halfway intelligent or at least provocative things in a forthcoming blog post about civil disobedience. I think the book is quite good (‘thank God’ for ceteris paribus clauses and universal pro tanto moral judgments). Here’s a taste: In her analysis of “sincere moral conviction” by way of the “communicative principle of conscientiousness,” Brownlee claims four conditions for acceptance and proper appreciation of this principle, in short: consistency, universality, non-evasion, and dialogic. In a discussion of the “non-evasion” condition, she states that “It requires that we bear the risk of honouring our convictions, which means that we do not seek to evade the consequences and, in some cases, take positive action to support our convictions. It is through... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2015 at
In support of assumptions regarding the “alterability (and redeemability) of people” in her philosophically important book, Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience (2012), Kimberley Brownlee quotes a passage from Avishai Margalit (The Decent Society, 1996) in a footnote: ‘Even if there are noticeable differences among people to change, they are deserving of respect for the very possibility of changing. Even the worst criminals are worthy of basic human respect for the very possibility that they may radically evaluate their past lives and, if they are given the opportunity, may live the rest of their lives in a worthy manner….’ There is always a chance, writes Margalit , ‘no matter how small, that she will repent.’ I agree with Margalit—and Brownlee—on this score, and further believe that this possibility is an assumption or presupposition (perhaps ‘buried’ in the form of an unrecognized or under-appreciated premise) of some human rights... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2015 at
Harriet and the Promised Land, No. 10 (1967) I like to think I’ve expanded my interest to include not just the Negro theme but man generally and maybe if this speaks through the Negro I think this is valid also…. I would like to think of it as dealing with all people, the struggle of man to always better his condition and to move forward…. I think all people aspire, all people strive towards a better human condition, a better mental condition generally.—Jacob Lawrence Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) (1966) In perhaps a non-standard way of honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’m posting some (images of) art works by one of my favorite artists, Jacob Lawrence (September 7, 1917 – June 9, 2000): “Lawrence is one of the first American artists trained in and by the black community in Harlem, and it is from the people of Harlem that he... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2015 at
Secularism was central to the American Enlightenment as well, hence the institutional separation of church and state as found in the Establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. The Free Exercise Clause is arguably also part of that secularism (more in theory than in praxis). Secularism in most senses need not mean or imply "non-religious" (e.g., see Jose Casanova's Public Religions in the Modern World. University of Chicago Press, 1994)
I thought it should go without saying, but the attempt at explanation of why someone behaves a certain way (at the individual level, what motivates action) is not equivalent in any way to a defense of the proposed reasons that motivate an actor and that are part of said explanation, nor does it amount to any sort of apology (or ‘excuse’) for the behavior under examination. Rather, it helps those on the outside looking in, as it were, to make sense—insofar as we can make sense—of such behavior (along the lines of ‘nothing human is foreign to me’). So, for example, when a FB friend linked to a speech by Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi calling for a “revolution” within Islam, I wrote the following: He’s a tyrant, in large measure responsible for crushing the Revolution (such as it was) in Egypt, evidencing no respect for legal due procedure or basic... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2015 at
Here is a comparatively short compilation (hence ‘essential reading’) on “Social Security and the Welfare State.” Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2015 at
It seems we need an intervention from outside the mathematical community, perhaps a janitor at MIT, like Will Hunting.
“In a world which recognized the phenomenological truth of the body, the existential truth of freedom, the Marxist truth of exploitation, and the human truth of the bond, the derogatory category of the Other would be eradicated. Neither the aged nor women, nor anyone by virtue of their race, class, ethnicity or religion would find themselves rendered inessential. Beauvoir knows that it is too much to hope for such a world. She understands the lures of domination and violence. Throughout her career, however, she used philosophical and literary tools to reveal the possibilities of such a world and appealed to us to work for it.”—Debra Bergoffen, at the conclusion of her entry on Beauvoir in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Today is the birthday of Simone de Beauvoir (9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986), so I wanted to share something from the archives of Ratio Juris I posted several... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2015 at
For what it's worth, I second the two comments above about the value of bringing "Bertrand Russell's the big screen," especially in light of his family life, "social vision," and political activism (although one hopes Ray Monk would not be the primary source for material!).