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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
“We are creatures of history, for every historical epoch has its roots in a preceding epoch. The black militants of today are standing upon the shoulders of the New Negro radicals of my day, the twenties, thirties, and forties. We stood upon the shoulders of the civil rights fighters of the Reconstruction era, and they stood upon the shoulders of the black abolitionists. These are the interconnections of history, and they play their role in the course of development.”—A. Philip Randolph On this day in August in 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) came into existence when 500 porters met in Harlem, renewing their union organizing efforts. “During this meeting, they secretly launched their campaign, choosing [A. Philip] Randolph, not employed by Pullman and thus beyond retaliation, to lead the effort. The union chose a motto to sum up their resentment over the working conditions: ‘Fight or Be... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at
Pablo Picasso, Trois femmes, 1908 “The real problem with ‘pink Viagra’” By Emily Nagoski, Los Angeles Times (August 23, 2015) “The drug has many names: flibanserin, Addyi, Ectris, Girosa or, colloquially, ‘pink Viagra.’ Whatever you want to call the long-in-the-making libido pill for women, it recently gained FDA approval despite ‘serious, serious safety concerns’ and benefits that are ‘modest, maybe less than modest.’ But as a science-driven sex educator, I am less troubled by the risk of low blood pressure and fainting than I am by the drug maker’s reinforcement of an outdated, scientifically invalid model of sexual desire. [….] The FDA’s analysis of the data showed that only about 10% of the research participants taking flibanserin experienced ‘at least minimal improvement,’ while the remaining 90% experienced nothing at all. This is a drug with such potentially serious side effects that the FDA is requiring special training and certification before... Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2015 at
“…[E]very human being experiences different types and durations of physical and mental impairments, or different periods of health and illness , and lives for varying lengths of time due to the combined interactions of her internal biological endowments and needs, behaviours, external physical environment and social conditions. [….] The centrality of human health and longevity to social justice is so patently obvious to some people that they simply take it as a starting point. This is particularly apparent in the remarkable history of physicians becoming social and political reformers, and even armed revolutionaries because of their understanding of manifest injustice in such aspects as the causes, consequences, persistence through generations, or distribution patterns of preventable ill-health and premature mortality in a population. But such an understanding is not limited only to physicians or those who work in the front lines of healthcare and public health. For example, Amartya Sen, the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2015 at
Richard, yes, I see he made them more accessible: thank you!
It does not open for me either: I get a list of a bunch of file folder names, etc.
Milan, Thanks for the clarification and elaboration. I'm not sure if I would characterize the torture practices as "done rather openly," a characterization that seems easier to make only after the fact: after exposure of "extraordinary renditions," the release of "classified" memos, etc., and journalistic investigations and exposure. Moreover, the use of euphemisms for torture (perhaps we could here include President Bush's attempt to persuade the public that 'This government does not torture people') suggests there was at least a concerted effort not to publicly avow what was in reality torture (hence we learn stories of torture and cruelty 'surface'). That it's harder to do such things under a cloak of secrecy in today's world does not alter the fact that there was clearly an attempt (however feeble or unsuccessful) to hide these practices. I think the following is of some interest: "For much of the twentieth century, it was not Muslim immigrants, but rather indigenous African American Muslims who were, from the point of view of federal authorities, the public and potentially dangerous face of American Islam. The parallels between earlier and later periods of state surveillance are striking. We seem to be living in a new age of consensus in which, like the late 1940s and 1950s, a vital center has identified Islamic radicalism, and by extension Muslim American dissent, as an existential problem, a dangerous expression of extremism." I would agree that many Americans believe there to be some sort of intrinsic relation between Islamic religious traditions and "fanaticism and barbarism," but I remain convinced that the history of torture in this country (e.g., U.S. complicity in torture in Central and South America in the 1970s and 1980s) made it far easier than it otherwise may have been to resort to same in the name of the "war on terror." And whatever the strength of the former variable, I'm leery of talk of an "American psyche" (or any ethnic or national 'psyche') when there remains a significant number of Americans (some of course who are Muslims and American citizens) who do not think this way (many of not most of my students, for example, which I take to be more or less representative of a younger generation of educated Americans). Quibbles perhaps, in light of the value of Luban's book you've helped us to appreciate.
Re: "I contend that the "coercive interrogation program" and other war on terror policies cannot be fully understood without considering anti-Muslim attitudes in the United States." Milan, I'm wondering if that is any different than prior cases of torture by Americans at home and abroad (going back, say, to the period of slavery), be it during World War II, the Vietnam War, or in domestic prisons and jails (e.g., in the South, New York, Chicago...). In other words, the attitudes in question involve "the other," a member of an "out-group," whether "the enemy" in a war or other violent conflict, a person of black or brown or "different" skin color, an "un-American" communist, anarchist or agitator, a criminal of some sort, and so forth. Of course these instances of torture were not always programmatic or systematic, but the use of both "clean" and "dirty" torture techniques typically involves some sort of de-humanization of the victim based on or related in some manner to this or that aspect of their individual and/group identity (it may involve one or more forms of such identity accorded to and/or chosen by an individual). "Anti- " attitudes of the persons involved in and responsible for torture are typically found in varying strengths distributed throughout our society, attitudes that no doubt are perceived as somehow supporting or legitimating the acts of torture. Racist beliefs and attitudes (e.g., about 'gooks'), or beliefs and attitudes suffused with xenophobia, the fear of nonconformity (and thus nonconformists), even Freud's "narcissism of small differences," can provide a socio-cultural background and ideological context that assure "the torturer" that he is not acting alone, that he has some measure of support and sanction for his illegal and immoral behavior. In that regard, at least, this latest case of torture in our nation's history is not unique.
“We have known for over 150 years than an individual’s chances of life and death are patterned according to social class: the more affluent and better educated people are, the longer and healthier their lives. These patterns persist even when there is universal access to health care—a finding quite surprising to those who think financial access to medical services is the primary determinant of health status. In fact, recent cross-national evidence suggests that the greater the degree of socio-economic inequality that exists within a society, the steeper the gradient of health inequality. As a result, middle-income groups in a more unequal society will have worse health than comparable or even poorer groups in a society with greater equality. Of course, we cannot infer causation from correlation, but there are plausible hypotheses about pathways which link social inequalities to health, and, even if more work remains to be done to clarify... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2015 at
“Because of diagnostic inflation, an excessive portion of people have come to rely on antidepressants, antipsychotics, antianxiety agents, sleeping pills, and pain meds. We are becoming a society of pill poppers. [….] Loose diagnosis is causing a national drug overdose of medication. Six percent of [us] are addicted to prescription drugs, and there are now more emergency room visits and deaths due to legal prescription drugs than to illegal street drugs. [….] Since 2005 there has been a remarkable eightfold increase in psychiatric prescriptions among our active duty troops. An incredible 110,000 soldiers are now taking at least one psychotropic drug, many are on more than one, and hundreds die every year from accidental overdoses. Psychiatric meds are now the star revenue producers for the drug companies—in 2011, over $18 billion for antipsychotics (an amazing 6 percent of all drug sales); $11 billion for ADHD drugs. Expenditure on antipsychotics has... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2015 at
Charles White, Trenton Six (1949) “Prosecutors also have tremendous control over witnesses: They can offer incentives—often highly compelling incentives—for suspects to testify. This includes providing sweetheart plea deals to alleged co-conspirators and engineering jail-house encounters between the defendant and known informants. Sometimes they feed snitches non-public information about the crime so that the statements they attribute to the defendant will sound authentic. And, of course, prosecutors can pile on charges so as to make it exceedingly risky for a defendant to go to trial. There are countless ways in which prosecutors can prejudice the fact-finding process and undermine a defendant’s right to a fair trial. [….] [T]here are disturbing indications that a non-trivial number of prosecutors—and sometimes entire prosecutorial offices—engage in misconduct that seriously undermines the fairness of criminal trials. The misconduct ranges from misleading the jury, to outright lying in court and tacitly acquiescing or actively participating in the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2015 at
My basic bibliography (books, in English) for international law is posted here. Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2015 at
Voter registration drive in Mississippi, 1964 Today is the 50th anniversary (August 6, 1965) of the Voting Rights Act. We’ll mark that anniversary first, by recommending a recent book on the topic, Gary May’s Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013). The book came out before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) (the paperback version published by Duke University Press in 2014 has a new preface by May that presumably addresses the case), a decision concerning “the constitutionality of two provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2015 at
It’s not providing a “justification” as such for any particular argument but rather, as you said. “fram[ing] the argument” in this manner, as a background state of affairs (‘backstory and context’) regarding the attempt to condition, as it were, Brady disclosures on a “due diligence” requirement on the defense. The justificatory argument concerns the fact there is no such due diligence exception to Brady. To characterize the proposal as one of “extra burdens” on the government by way of addressing the structural inequality of arms (so to speak) is tendentious and incorrect: is it not rather an attempt to ask why should we impose, in circumstances already characterized by an existing disparity of resources (‘structural asymmetry’) and other capabilities or powers in favor of the prosecution, an unnecessary (because ‘pointless and wasteful’) or further (‘extra’!) burden on the defense when, given existing and clear obligations under Brady, it costs the prosecution comparatively “nothing” to disclose in a timely fashion the information in question—and, in any case, Brady disclosures are not conditioned on “due diligence” by the defense. As for the “extensive history” of mental health and drug use issues, the defense should certainly have had the opportunity to raise these as pertinent to questions of credibility, competency, etc.
Oops: As a generalization, it strikes me as an....
Efficiency is not an ultimate or inherent value but an instrumental one: “it is good only insofar as we would be able to achieve more of the other goods that we are pursuing, if we pursued them efficiently rather than inefficiently.” In this case, a “a fair fight” can serve as the overall good we aim to pursue, what in international criminal law is better termed “equality of arms,” the meaning of which is not purely economic (and a principle we might adopt in adversarial criminal law). In short, “efficiency” concerns should be framed in terms of “normative constraints and conventions:” see, for example, Walter J. Schultz, The Moral Conditions of Economic Efficiency (Cambridge University Press, 2001), which concerns “market-based” conceptions of efficiency. For a critique of the uncritical employment of this concept, see this post from Neil Buchanan from several years ago: Re: “…the government is big and has lots of resources and many (most, perhaps) defendants are small and poor so the government gets extra burdens to make it play fair. Those arguments always have a bit of a non sequitur feel.” Why? As a generalization, is strikes me as an empirically true proposition (even if, as formulated here, a bit rhetorically awkward). It serves as a backdrop or assumption to the more case-specific argument (I’ll leave the assessment of the brief itself to others).
We begin with a small crop of propositions about truth from Michael P. Lynch directly and indirectly germane, in an abstract and philosophical sense, to both science and religion (we might think of these as basic presuppositions and assumptions). For what it’s worth, I believe, with Lynch, that it is important to acknowledge that truth is objective; that it is good to believe what is true; that truth is a goal worthy of human inquiry; and that truth is worth caring about for its own sake. That said, we might also concede the significance of the following and related propositions from Lynch’s analytically cogent philosophical examination of the nature of truth in several works on same (see ‘references and further reading’ below): ‘A theory of truth should make sense of the following metaphysical principle: Truth is One: There is a single property named by “truth” that all and only true... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2015 at
Here's a link to Monroe's paper (the abstract is really a snippet from the first part of the paper and not a true abstract), which you can read by clicking on "Download" in the upper right part of the page:
What the power of positive thinking may have begun to lose by the late 1990s in terms of political stridency, it gained in terms of biomedical responsibility. More than anything else, this respectability was gained through the increasingly firm identification of positive thinking with the placebo effect. Between 1997 and 2000, there appeared no fewer than five academic books on the placebo effect (one of which I edited)…. The main argument offered by the new literature was that the placebo effect was important above all for what it taught us about self-healing. It was not just a trick; it produced real (physiologically discernible) effects….—Anne Harrington The placebo effect depends on the art of deception (perhaps even ‘self-deception,’ as suggested in what follows). It’s certainly possible that psychotherapy, in part, relies on this, or at least an analogous process, as Jon Elster argues in Sour Grapes (1983): “How are we to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2015 at
AP photo from the Vietnam War Date of estimated return from overseas (DEROS) for my soul: At times when I am calm I remember that even if you waited for it nothing came as suddenly as gunfire and nothing (not even the Lieutenant) seemed as stupid as the silence which followed At such times I know also that each of us who fought in Vietnam was spiritually captured by it, and that each remains a prisoner of his own war- It is, therefore, not surprising that for some (like for me) the AfterNam emptiness published no D.e.r.o.s. for the soul.... Yet, in moments better known to me, when reason drifts and whole worlds are illuminated with Platonic images dancing images dancing against the cave-walls of my mind, lit by a single candle borrowed from a twilight wish, I take the stairs two-at-a-time and wait in the second floor window of... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2015 at
The following provocative policy proposals are found in Anthony B. Atkinson’s book, Inequality: what can be done? (Harvard University Press, 2015): 303-304. 1. The direction of technological change should be an explicit concern of policy-makers, encouraging innovation in a form that increases the employability of workers, emphasizing the human dimension of service provision. 2. Public policy should aim at a proper balance of power among stakeholders, and to this end should (a) introduce an explicitly distributional dimension into competition policy, (b) ensure a legal framework that allows trade unions to represent workers on level terms, and (c) establish, where it does not already exist, a Social and Economic Council involving the social partners and other nongovernmental bodies. 3. The government should adopt an explicit target for preventing and reducing unemployment and underpin this ambition by offering guaranteed public employment at the minimum wage to those who seek it. 4. There... Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2015 at
“…[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 his... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2015 at
I second the sentiment of the chorus above.
The title of this compilation is a mouthful, but its content can be chewed with leisure and is easily digestible. I hope it also proves both nutritious and a gustatory delight. The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Post-Industrial Agriculture (Or: ‘Toward Agroecology & Food Justice’) — A Basic Bibliography Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2015 at
“This is [an excerpt from the] transcript of a talk [Kenan Malik] gave at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels on 10 May 2015 on ‘The many roots of Christian Europe, the many sources of the Islamic world.’ It was part of a series of talks to accompany an exhibition of ‘The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art’ entitled ‘L’Empire du Sultan.’” [….] “The translation into Arabic of Aristotle, Plato and other Greek philosophers helped transform Islamic thinking. In particular, it helped create what is sometimes called the Rationalist tradition, a tradition that began with the Mu’tazilites in the eighth century and culminated with the two greatest of Muslim philosophers, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rush’d, some four hundred years later. The Rationalists saw learning as an ethical duty. They took from the Greeks not just their spirit of rational inquiry but also their faith in the almost boundless power of the... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2015 at
Joe speaks of "high-profile anti-GMO lobbyists," but whatever their apparent mass media profile, it is in no way commensurate with their political power, with few and fairly feeble exceptions (in this country at least), and is thus clearly far less than the corporate power and influence of high-profile scientists who lobby on behalf of GMOS, a finding not surprising given the power of money in contemporary politics. Moreover, one might have a look at the edited volume by Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber (philosophy and law backgrounds): The GMO Deception (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014). Most of the articles are by those with PhDs in science, genetics, genomics or a closely related field (and some have backgrounds in law or philosophy, or combinations thereof), and the book does not at all have an "anti-science" tone (many of the pieces first appeared in GeneWatch, the magazine of the Council for Responsible [i.e., not 'anti-'] Genetics). It certainly cannot be said of the contributors that they "say things that show that they are scientifically misinformed about the relevant science." I think it's a oft-repeated (and untrue) canard (thus anecdotal) that "a huge amount of" opposition to GMOs is anti-science.