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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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The first draft of my latest—82nd—bibliography, “Anarchism: Philosophy & Praxis,” is now available. Continue reading
Posted 9 hours ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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As I‘ve likely mentioned in this space before (when you reach my age, confidence in one’s memory is evanescent), in our class at city college on “comparative world religions” I suggested at the beginning of the term that my students look up images of the art in the religions we were studying as a secure port of entry into these worldviews because this art is relatively free of the sorts of things found in religious doctrines and history that rub (at least some) people the wrong way (their biases, prejudices, and conclusions in this regard may be owing to inadequate knowledge, mistaken beliefs, or simply closed-mindedness, but in the course of a semester it’s not likely such obstacles will be overcome). As our class was in the philosophy department, and we had so much material to cover (seven religious worldviews!), we did not have time to look, literally and figuratively,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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That not all Jews in Israel are Zionists may not be a startling or revelatory proposition, but after 50 years of Israeli Occupation of Palestinian lands, it is clear that the comparative power of non- and anti-Zionist (and post-Zionists for that matter) Jews in Israel is virtually negligible (that could, however, change), particularly if we are referring to their capacity or potential to alter the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or even have a significant impact on public opinion in this—after Maxime Rodinson and Baruch Kimmerling—colonial settler-state. In his book, The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge (Verso, 2014), Ilan Pappe provides us with essential documentation and historical narrative of the Jewish individuals, groups, and political parties in Israel that are non- and anti-Zionist. In several significant respects, these individuals, groups, and parties are heirs to the political worldview of the “General Jewish Labour Bund in Lithuania,... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Here’s a Nobel Peace Prize we can all live with: (Reuters) – “The Norwegian Nobel Committee, warning of a rising risk of nuclear war, awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to a little-known [well, that depends upon the circles in which one circulates] international campaign group advocating for a ban on nuclear weapons. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) describes itself as a coalition of grassroots non-government groups in more than 100 nations. It began in Australia and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007.” ICAN’s website is here (and be sure to ‘like’ their FB page). For readers who may not know of this, my bibliography for nuclear weapons is here. The important Arms Control Law blog is here. And Atomic Reporters is an independent, non-profit, incorporated in Canada at the end of 2012, operating as an officially recognised international NGO from Austria, providing substantive... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
New article of interest: Mathilde Cohen, “Animal Colonialism: The Case of Milk,” American Journal of International Law Unbound (September 2017) Volume 111: 267-271. [Being a vegan, and with a significant portion of my worldview best described as Marxist, I’m predisposed to find the argument in this very short article congenial. No doubt others will view it differently.] The first two paragraphs: “Greta Gaard writes that ‘[t]he pervasive availability of cows’ milk today—from grocery stores to gas stations—is a historically unprecedented product of industrialization, urbanization, culture, and economics.’ To these factors, I would add colonialism and international law; the latter understood broadly to include the rules considered binding between states and nations, transnational law, legal transplants, international food aid, and international trade law. Until the end of the Nineteenth Century, the majority of the world population neither raised animals for their milk nor consumed animal milk. Humans are unique in the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The section that immediately follows is excerpted from Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso [Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso] born Lhamo Thond “What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics. [….] I am confident that it is both possible and worthwhile to attempt a new secular approach to universal ethics. My confidence comes from my conviction that all of us, all human beings, are basically inclined or disposed toward what we perceive to be good. Whatever we do, we do because we think it will be of some benefit. At the same time, we all appreciate the kindness of others. We are all, by nature, oriented toward the basic human values of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Trump’s predictably haughty reference to Puerto Rico’s (pre-Hurricane Maria) “broken infrastructure” and “massive debt [‘billions of dollars’]” owed to “Wall Street and the banks which … must be dealt with,” should be viewed in the grim light of the country’s colonial and post-imperialist experience. A nice introduction to the relevance of this historical narrative and its lingering deleterious effects is found in this piece by Linda Backiel from the Monthly Review a couple of years ago: “Puerto Rico: The Crisis Is About Colonialism, Not Debt.” And here is a comparatively short list of relevant literature: Carr, Raymond. Puerto Rico: A Colonial Experiment. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. Corretjer, Juan Antonio. Albizu Campos and the Ponce Massacre. New York: World View Publishers, 1965. Denis, Nelson A. War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony. New York: Nation Books, 2015. Enck-Wanzer, Darrel, ed. The Young Lords: A Reader. New... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Toward placing the “Colin Kaepernick story” in historical, sociological, and political context: a short reading list Bass, Amy. Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. Carlos, John (with David Zirin). The John Carlos Story. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2013 (2011). Carter, Rubin “Hurricane” (with Ken Klosky) Eye of the Hurricane: My Path from Darkness to Freedom. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 2011. Dorinson, Joseph and Joram Warmund. Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream. New York: Routledge, 2015 (M.E. Sharpe, 1998). Early, Gerald L. A Level Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. Edwards, Harry. The Revolt of the Black Athlete. New York: Free Press, 1969. Goodman, Jordan. Paul Robeson: A Watched Man. London: Verso, 2013. Hawkins, Billy. The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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George Padmore, né Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse (28 June 1903 – 23 September 1959) was a Trinidadian-born author, journalist, Left organizer and activist, one-time Communist Party member, socialist, and Pan-Africanist. Books by George Padmore Padmore, George. The Life and Struggles of Negro Toilers. London: Red International of Labour Unions Magazine for the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers, 1931. Padmore, George. How Britain Rules Africa. London: Wishart Books, 1936. Padmore, George. African and World Peace. London: Secker and Warburg, 1937. Padmore, George, with Nancy Cunard. White Man's Duty. London: W. H. Allen, 1942. Padmore, George (in collaboration with Dorothy Pizer). How Russia Transformed Her Colonial Empire: A Challenge to the Imperialist Powers. London: Dennis Dobson, 1946. Padmore, George. Africa: Britain's Third Empire. London: Dennis Dobson, 1949. Padmore, George. The Gold Coast Revolution: The Struggle of an African People from Slavery to Freedom. London: Dennis Dobson, 1953. Padmore, George. Pan-Africanism... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I was delighted to learn that George Padmore (né Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse) interviewed Ho Chi Minh (Nguyễn Sinh Cung, also known as Nguyen Tat Thanh and Nguyen Ai Quoc) while both were in Paris: Ho was there for the Paris Peace Conference (29 July to 15 October 1946), engaged in “confidential negotiations,” and Padmore was covering the conference for the Free India Press. According to James Hooker, one of the articles Padmore wrote “remains a good introduction to Vietnamese affairs,” the piece having been published by the Defender (28 September 1946, with an autographed photo of Ho!). In Black Revolutionary: George Padmore’s Path from Communism to Pan-Africanism (Praeger, 1967), Hooker further describes Padmore’s article as “a concise introduction to the Vietnam tangle, one which holds up surprisingly well after nearly two decades of persistent journalistic rediscovery of the situation in South East Asia” (in this instance, Indochina). We further... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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What kind of person, holding the office of President of a country that possesses the most powerful military capacity in the world (‘the US spends more money — $601 billion — on defense than the next nine countries on Credit Suisse’s index combined’), publicly threatens to annihilate a county with more than 25,000,000 million human beings? During the same speech, Trump’s characterization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran deal or Iran nuclear deal, as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” reveals the darkest depths of his ignorance, stupidity, and arrogance. And it was of a piece with the Manichean madness splattered in spittle and blood all over his inaugural UN speech (Are the conventions of diplomatic discourse irrelevant, devoid of any normative value?). In the words of Jack Goldsmith from his recent piece in... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Linguistics, insofar as it is (or aspires to be) a science, touches (directly, or indirectly by way of presuppositions, assumptions, and presumptions) on more than a few questions that fall within province of the philosophy of language (the ‘philosophy of linguistics’ is germane as well, being the ‘philosophy of science as applied to linguistics’). And the Indic tradition is a rich repository of sophisticated reflections on grammar, linguistics, and philosophy of language proper, particularly (and thus not exclusively) the “Grammarians” and the Mīmāṃsā darśana. Hence the reason for bringing this article in Aeon by Gaston Dorren to your attention: “Talking Gibberish.” Its shortcomings provide yet another piece of evidence for the imperative value of comparative philosophy. I thought this article in Aeon by Gaston Dorren overwrought, and in some respects awful, as when it refers to the “pre-scientific era” as having “produced a lot of codswallop and hogwash,” while neglecting... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Historically, philosophy has been articulated in an astonishingly wide —at least from today’s vantage point—array of literary forms and genres, although I’m not aware of any systematic comparative work on this score (there is a nice entry in the SEP by Eileen Sweeney on the literary forms of ‘medieval philosophy’). For better or worse, and depending on who you ask, contemporary professional philosophy has severely narrowed the “acceptable” or normative models of philosophical expression, usually within the constraints of what is considered a proper “analytical” approach (as a generic method, Buddhists arguably excel in philosophical analysis; with the Sanskrit grammarians pioneers in this regard, blurring the lines between science and philosophy). However, sometimes philosophy is expressed obliquely, perhaps embedded in material that requires some sort of distillation or—to use a more mundane metaphor—digging, to reveal itself as “philosophy” of one kind or another: moral psychology, metaphysics, ontology, ethics, epistemology, what... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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As I learned this morning from my Verso Radical Diary, The Manifesto of the 121 was signed on this date in 1960: “The Manifesto of the 121 (Full title: Déclaration sur le droit à l’insoumission dans la guerre d’Algérie or Declaration on the right of insubordination in the Algerian War) was an open letter signed by 121 intellectuals and published on 6 September 1960 in the magazine Vérité-Liberté [124 more intellectuals signed soon thereafter]. It called on the French government (then headed by the Gaullist Michel Debré) and public opinion to recognise the Algerian War as a legitimate struggle for independence, denouncing the use of torture by the French army, and calling for French conscientious objectors to the conflict to be respected by the authorities. The Declaration was drafted by Dionys Mascolo, Maurice Blanchot and Jean Schuster. It stated that the cause of the Algerians was the cause of all... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The following is from an online petition being circulated by Avaaz.org: “Aung San Suu Kyi is an apologist for genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass rape. For the past year, Aung San Suu Kyi has been State Counselor, or de facto head of government, in Myanmar, where members of the Rohingya Muslim minority in the northern Rakhine state have been shot, stabbed, starved, robbed, raped and driven from their homes in the hundreds of thousands. In December, while the world focused on the fall of Aleppo, more than a dozen Nobel Laureates published an open letter warning of a tragedy in Rakhine ‘amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.’ In February, a report by the United Nations documented how the Burmese army’s attacks on the Rohingya were ‘widespread as well as systematic’ thus ‘indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.’ More than half of the 101 Rohingya women... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The bibliography for the Jain tradition is now available at my Academia page. Here is the introduction to this compilation: As with most of my bibliographies, this list has two constraints: books only, in English (please note: missing subscript and supra-script diacritic dots). Readers may be interested in several companion compilations: on Hinduism, on Indian (or Indic) Philosophy, and on Buddhism. I would like to dedicate this bibliography* to Padmanabh S. Jaini, Professor emeritus of Buddhist Studies. I first read his book, The Jaina Path of Purification (University of California Press, 1979) in the early 1980s while a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My intermittent but no less abiding interest in the Jain worldview had been awakened upon learning of the profound influence of Jain philosophical doctrines (e.g., anekāntavāda), spiritual exercises and ethics (e.g., vows and fasts) on Mahatma Gandhi. Indeed, as Margaret Chatterjee notes, “Raicandbhāī [Mahetā],... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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One of my current projects entails composing a bibliography for Jainism, so I thought to provide a very rudimentary introduction to this religious and philosophical tradition within the context of Indian (or Indic) worldviews. Jainism and Buddhism are similar in many respects, although the Jain community is comparatively small, estimated to have roughly a bit more than 4 million adherents in the world today, ranking it behind the Baha’i Faith (around 7 million), but slightly more than Shinto, while Buddhism may have around 500 million adherents. As Padmanabh S. Jain explains, “Even though the size of the Jaina community never compared at any time in history with that of its religious rivals, it remained a largely urban population because of the heavy concentration of its adherents in commerce and industry; thus the Jains were able to wield influence over the ruling powers—whether Indian, Mughal or British—out of all proportion to... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is a petulant, narcissistic megalomaniac dispositionally prone to delusional beliefs, as well as magical and wishful thinking (in a manner, alas, that accords renewed significance to ‘reality testing’), while subscribing to a mishmash of reactionary political beliefs with strong ideological roots in the Republican Party, the crasser forms of populism, and racism (based on white supremacy). How might we characterize those elites who enable and support Trump, in other words, particularly those in his administration and the Republican politicians who have not publicly disavowed him (there are other powerful individuals and financial and corporate entities that support him, but we’ll leave those aside for the time being)? Here’s a first attempt: “ideologically-motivated sycophantic plutocrats with a dispositional aversion to truth (in this case, ‘like attracts like’ is the appropriate proverb, while in accounting for his populist appeal, it seems ‘opposites attract’),... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
Some disturbing numbers, and an even more troubling conclusion, are found in the editorial piece below. I want to use this occasion to propose that we abandon the somewhat anodyne (at least among those who don’t know better) and decidedly euphemistic term “alt-right” and replace it with “racist right” (to wit, and minimally speaking, ‘they all believe in some form of race-based political [and legal] inegalitarianism;’ conversely, they are committed to ‘white supremacy’). Please use the latter phrase—and encourage others to do so as well—as it is descriptively precise with regard to the illiberal and anti-democratic politics and aims of this movement. Indeed, make a pledge to forswear its use. A recent piece in the Los Angeles Times quotes Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University noting that the term “alt-right” “is … meant to provide a fresh label that would sound more attractive than ‘Nazi,’ ‘neo-Nazi,’ ‘white... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“The moral issues posed by revolutions are both practically important and theoretically complex. There are also interesting conceptual questions as to how to distinguish revolution from resistance, rebellion, and secession, all of which also involve opposition to existing political authority. Unfortunately, the recent renaissance in just war theorizing focuses implicitly on interstate wars and thus has largely ignored the morality of revolution, at least as a topic worthy of systematic theorizing in its own right. Recent work on the morality of asymmetrical warfare, on terrorism, and on humanitarian military intervention provides valuable resources for constructing a theory of the morality of revolution, but until the appearance of Christopher Finlay’s book, Terrorism and the Right to Resist: A Theory of Just Revolutionary War (2015), nothing approaching a systematic account of the morality of revolution has been available. In other words, moral theorizing relevant to revolution has been rather fragmentary and adventitious,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“The Haitian Revolution was a successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection by self-liberat[ing] slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue, now the sovereign nation of Haiti. It began in 1791 and ended in 1804 [21 August 1791 – 1 January 1804] with the former colony’s independence. It was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state, which was both free from slavery, and ruled by non-whites and former captives. With the recent increase in Haitian Revolutionary Studies, it is now widely seen as a defining moment in the history of racism in the Atlantic World.” “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). Recommended Reading: Blackburn, Robin. The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848. New York: Verso, 1998. Brown,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“The 1953 Iranian coup d'état, known in Iran as the 28 Mordad [the fifth month of the Iranian calendar] coup, involved the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on 19 August 1953. [It was] orchestrated [and first proposed] by the United Kingdom (under the name ‘Operation Boot’) and the United States (as the TPAJAX Project or ‘Operation Ajax’).” * * * The following, from Hugh Wilford’s book, America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2013), provides a basic political backdrop to the coup: “The Cold War skirmishes of 1946 and 1947 … —the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the suppression of separatist movements in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan—had apparently left Iran firmly tethered with the Western camp. A major source of instability remained, however. Despite the example set by... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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In October 1963, “the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided in Baden Baden, Germany, that South Africa would have to eliminate racial discrimination in sports before 31 December 1963, or the country would not be permitted to send a team to the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo [‘the Games of the XVIII Olympiad’]. [The IOC announced its decision on August 18, 1964 to bar South Africa from the 18th Olympic games after it failed to meet an ultimatum to comply with its demands by the 16th of August.] Although the deadline had been extended by eight months, the government failed to permit multiracial sports. As a result the IOC did not invite South Africa to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. This was a heavy blow for South African sporting circles and its supporters. Following Prime Minister J. B. Vorster’s relaxed sports policy, a committee of the IOC visited South Africa in... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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László Moholy-Nagy, “AL 3,” 1926 (oil, industrial paints, and pencil on aluminum) One of my favorite public intellectuals (writer, lecturer …) on the Left, whose worldview I would characterize, broadly, as exemplifying “spiritual humanism,” recently wrote in response to a comment at his blog, that “there are major problems with the notion of group rights, the belief in which is probably stronger now than it was 30 years ago.” I’m not sure if he believes that these problems are fatal, in other words, that the notion of “group rights” is somehow morally or legally incoherent or normatively indefensible. He may think there can be a philosophical or moral and legal case for group rights but has yet to learn of a plausible version of same. Be that as it may, I want to offer an all-too-brief case on behalf of the normative necessity for a moral and legal concept (and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Mexican artist Saner painted this at Beebe’s 2 Supermercado at 1421 Springwells St., Detroit (Photograph by Southwest Detroit resident and community leader Erik Howard) My latest bibliography, “Detroit: Labor & Industrialization, Race & Politics, Rebellion & Resurgence,” is comparatively short, although as you see, the title is a mouthful. I hope you enjoy the murals, all of them from Detroit (click on the photos for a larger picture). Mexican artist Jesús Benitez painted this diptych at Garage Cultural at 3439 Livernois, Detroit (Photography by Erik Howard) By Eugene Carland Kobie Solomon’s Chimara mural By Nicole MacDonald By Beau Stanton By Jesse Kassel By Ouizi Mano de Obra Campesina (‘hand of peasant labor’) - 6022 West Vernor Highway: this large mural decorates the west wall of Hacienda Mexican Foods. By Chilean artist Dasic Hernandez (2010) Dalek and Taylor White for Murals In The Market 2016 (photo © Jaime Rojo) Continue reading
Posted Jul 24, 2017 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com