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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 draft of my bibliography for human rights is here. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at
The latest draft of my bibliography for democratic theory is here. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at
The latest draft of my bibliography on torture is available here. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at
The latest draft of my bibliography for punishment and prison is available here. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at
The latest draft of my bibliography for philosophy of law and legal theory is here. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at
Helen, Perhaps you’re aware of it, but I think some of Robert Goodin’s work on issues of “deliberative democracy” [e.g., Reflective Democracy (2003) and Innovating Democracy: Democratic Theory and Practice after the Deliberative Turn (2008)] addresses several topics raised here. He discusses, for instance, the role of cultural institutions and policies that expand our political imagination, thereby making individuals more susceptible to the “better argument,” i.e., liable to (rational) persuasion (social scientists of course refer to this as ‘transforming’ or ‘laundering’ preferences, being a mix of beliefs with passions, tastes, dispositions, etc.). For example, and historically speaking, “Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin famously helped people imagine what it might be like to be a slave, thus fuelling the Abolitionist movement, and E.M. Forster’s Passage to India likewise helped Britons imagine what it might be like to be a colonial subject, encouraging sympathy with demands for decolonization.” Traditional literary forms may of course in some measure be supplanted by modern media today, so we should therefore consider, say, the role of films to tell the kinds of stories that embed the more pressing “debates” and issues of our day and age (which accords artists the sorts of epistemic, moral, and social responsibility they often shirk or disavow, but such responsibility need not entail agitprop or simple minded moralizing or undue constraints on artistic creativity). This allows people to “get out of their comfort zone,” to consider points of view that they’re not otherwise privy to, inclined to consider, and so forth without at the same time “losing face” (being humiliated) or too intimately apprised of their own ignorance or debilitating biases that may occur in interpersonal settings of one kind or another. As Colin McGinn has noted, “a tremendous amount of moral thinking and feeling is done when reading novels (or watching plays and films, or reading poetry and short stories). In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that for most people this is the primary way in which they acquire ethical attitudes, especially in contemporary culture.” Reasoners are first and foremost, persons, flesh-and-blood beings with hearts, minds, and bodies, and thus the right kind of stories (or, if you prefer, narratives) can serve as a compelling form for “making arguments” and changing people’s minds within in the social fora and intimate settings they commonly circulate and live their lives. We need to think beyond mass-media staged and moderated debates and its corresponding means of framing arguments (e.g., there are simply ‘two sides’ to every issue, both sides having roughly ‘good’ arguments, etc.) on urgent topics dear to us. For more at what I’m trying to convey here, please see Jerome Bruner’s little book, Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life (2002). On the corresponding role for art more generally, see Berys Gaut’s Art, Emotion and Ethics (2007). Goodin again: “Policies and institutions that facilitate social mixing [Hélène Landemore’s book, Democratic Reason: Politics, Collective Intelligence, and the Rule of the Many (2013) is here relevant]—having people whose social circumstances are radically unlike your own living nearby, going to school with you or your children, riding public transportation alongside you—can again serve as an aid to the political imaginary.” Expanding the “political imagery” is important not only for the aforementioned and well-worn polarized debates, but giving due hearing to what Goodin terms “mute interests” (both human and non-human), be it those of “a homeless person or a Kurdish peasant,” a dolphin, whale, or orangutan, of future generations. Attention needs also to be drawn to various communities Goodin identifies that situate and socialize would-be rational agents or individual reasoners not captured by the Enlightenment’s legacy of communities of “interest:” communities of “generation” (e.g., the context of childhood socialization), …of “meaning” (e.g., language, worldviews), …of experience, …of regard (e.g., ‘reference groups’), and, more troubling and dangerous, communities of “subsumption,” those sorts of groups in which we “lose ourselves,” merge our identities with the collective or crowd or cult, or “total institutions.”
erratum (oops): "in which we arrive at the same conclusion"
Samir, Re: The world he 'sees' has the shapes and forms that it does because they are the ones he has imposed on it. I've had numerous dinner-time conversations with my dear wife over many years in which we come arrive at the same conclusion: that co-workers, colleagues, neighbors, friends, or family members are "seeing only what they want to see" (a term of art between us, not meant to be taken too literally: for example, as if one is simply imposing one's will on the world, although it often involves that too). No doubt the same might be said of both of us on occasion! Indeed, I think this is more or less true for all of us, with Lawrence and Scorsese illuminating the phenomenon with extreme cases. While some may need psychological therapy of one kind or another to break these lens, Buddhists would "argue" that, assuming we are otherwise psychologically stable (have some basic ego identity), we can only overcome such subjectively imposed and unduly constrained "seeing" (i.e., that common yet disturbing sort of 'subjectivity' that is conspicuous by its remoteness from moral and psychological individuation...) through mind training or meditation practices (in conjunction with intellectual virtues and a proper ethical grounding, the other two dimensions of the Eightfold Path). I don't think Buddhists necessarily have a monopoly on prescriptions for what ails us in this regard, but it's no less suggestive a remedy for what appears, to this reader at least, to be a ubiquitous form of self-imposed "suffering."
The "law professor" blog post I referred to is by David Orentlicher at the Health Law Prof Blog (and cross-posted at the more widely read Prawfsblawg):
Regarding independent oversight on GMOs I was reminded of this article from Scientific American in 2009 (so I'm not sure if anything has changed since then): Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers. To purchase genetically modified seeds, a customer must sign an agreement that limits what can be done with them. (If you have installed software recently, you will recognize the concept of the end-user agreement.) Agreements are considered necessary to protect a company’s intellectual property, and they justifiably preclude the replication of the genetic enhancements that make the seeds unique. But agritech companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta go further. For a decade their user agreements have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research. Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects. Research on genetically modified seeds is still published, of course. But only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal. In a number of cases, experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering. “It is important to understand that it is not always simply a matter of blanket denial of all research requests, which is bad enough,” wrote Elson J. Shields, an entomologist at Cornell University, in a letter to an official at the Environmental Protection Agency (the body tasked with regulating the environmental consequences of genetically modified crops), “but selective denials and permissions based on industry perceptions of how ‘friendly’ or ‘hostile’ a particular scientist may be toward [seed-enhancement] technology.” Shields is the spokesperson for a group of 24 corn insect scientists that opposes these practices. Because the scientists rely on the cooperation of the companies for their research—they must, after all, gain access to the seeds for studies—most have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. The group has submitted a statement to the EPA protesting that “as a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology.” It would be chilling enough if any other type of company were able to prevent independent researchers from testing its wares and reporting what they find—imagine car companies trying to quash head-to-head model comparisons done by Consumer Reports, for example. But when scientists are prevented from examining the raw ingredients in our nation’s food supply or from testing the plant material that covers a large portion of the country’s agricultural land, the restrictions on free inquiry become dangerous.” *** In a recent blog post, a law professor cites with approval the AAAS statement on behalf of an argument that “GM labeling likely will mislead more than inform. Many people harbor concerns about genetic modification that are not justified by reality.” [In any case, let's assume for the sake of argument that individual consumption of GMOs as such poses no significant health risks, this still leaves us with questions about ecologically sustainable agricultural practices (which may have considerable and thus unacceptable indirect health risks) and the political economy associated with GMOs (as in the article above) that are not being sufficiently addressed in the public realm, questions broached by such individuals as Richard Lewontin, the late Keith Aoki, Cori Hayden, Jack R. Kloppenburg, Ikechi Mgbeoji, Vandana Shiva, Philip Mirowski, Raj Patel, Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, Juliana Santilli, and Karl S. Zimmer (not a complete list).]
In his book, Science-Mart: Privatizing American Science (Harvard University Press, 2011), Philip Mirowski suggests that the AAAS, along with the National Academies of Science (NAS), should no longer be viewed (to the extent they were in the past) as "guard dogs of the integrity of the scientific process in the United States and defensive bloodhounds rooting out scientific corruption." In short, the AAAS and the NAS are perhaps better understood as "lapdogs" of the globalized Neoliberal commercial regime (a model of same being the subject of the book), the effects of which are often neither benign nor beneficial to either the theory or praxis of science.
What follows is a selection from La Rochefoucauld (Tr. Leonard Tancock). Maxims. London: Penguin Books, 1959 (1678): “One of the reasons why so few people are to be found who seem sensible and pleasant in conversation is that almost everybody is thinking about what he wants to say himself rather than about answering clearly what is being said to him. The more clever and polite think it enough simply to put on an attentive expression, while all the time you can see in their eyes and train of thought that they are far removed from what you are saying and anxious to get back to what they want to say. They ought, on the contrary, to reflect that such keenness to please oneself is a bad way of pleasing and persuading others, and that to listen well and answer to the point is one of the most perfect qualities one... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2014 at
Perhaps this post of mine from several years ago is apropos:
While it is introductory in nature and not a work, strictly speaking, of analytical philosophy, but more or less intended for "students" (used in the broadest sense), a book by my late teacher and friend, Ninian Smart, World Philosophies, Oliver Leaman, ed. (Routledge, 2nd ed., 2008; 1st ed., 1999), gives due if not ample recognition to the philosophical dimension of worldviews around the globe. Among the chapters: South Asian philosophies, Chinese philosophies, Korean philosophies, Japanese philosophies, philosophies of Greece, Rome, and the Near East, Islamic philosophies, Jewish philosophies, African philosophies.... As Ninian states in the first edition, "I wrote this work so that general readers could have a clear guide to the philosophies of the world." He further notes his use of "philosophies" in the plural because a number of Western philosophers use the singular only to refer to a particular kind of Western philosophy." Oliver Leaman's* introduction to the second edition reminds us that when it was first published, the book was "variously described as 'a masterpiece of lucid description, analysis, and interpretation,' and 'an encyclopedia of wonders, a treasure store complete with accounts of philosophy and religion from around the world.' Leaman, not given to hyperbole, concludes that "It is all of these things and more." I think this would make a fine title for any undergraduate survey, introductory, or historical course on "Philosophy(ies)." * For those of you who may not know, Leaman is one of our foremost scholars of Islamic philosophy, among other accolades.
For those curious about the relevant literature (in this case, books only, in English) on Indic philosophy, I have a basic bibliography here: In the future I hope to categorize it by "schools" (at least where that's possible), but it may still prove useful until such time. As the list is not exhaustive, I apologize to any authors inexplicably excluded (send me a note to rectify). On my page I also have a compilation for classical Chinese worldviews chock full of titles for Chinese philosophy although the list includes works outside philosophy proper as well. In my compilation for Islamic Studies, I have works for Islamic philosophy. These two bibliographies have not been recently updated but I should be getting around to that anon.
Wonderful story Stephen, thank you. Those new to this time and place might also enjoy Robert Cohen and Reginald E. Zelnik's The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s (University of California Press, 2002). It also contains exquisite photographs!
Toggle Commented Sep 15, 2014 on Free speech at Berkeley? at Legal Ethics Forum
September 11, 2014 Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor University of California – Berkeley Dear Chancellor Dirks, California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* a group of 150 academics committed to academic freedom on university campuses, writes in response to your public message to the UC Berkeley community, titled “Civility and Free Speech” and distributed electronically on September 5. The text is rife with errors, which, coming from a university chancellor, raise serious concerns and prompt this response. [....] See this link for the response:
Toggle Commented Sep 14, 2014 on Free speech at Berkeley? at Legal Ethics Forum
Samir, I don't teach a class where this would be possible, but in our course on "world religions" we do discuss the possible reasons one reads and learns from fiction by way of getting students to appreciate why and how religious texts in the form of myths, legends, parables, what have you, in other words, those clearly or not likely "true" (on the order, say, of a descriptive, historical, or scientific 'fact'), can nevertheless speak to us, be meaningful, teach us something about the human condition, etc. This is especially important for more than a few students disposed to dismiss all this "religious stuff" as childish or irrational nonsense (it's possible that some if it might be just that, but I try to get them to see that that's not necessarily the case, to be presumptively open to the possibility that these texts have something of interest if not valuable to say), or for those with fidelity or commitment to a particular religious worldview inclined to view that worldview as possessing a monopoly on the (or absolute) truth.
On the Facebook page for the group, Union for Radical Political Economics, which I recently joined, I read a wonderful 1930 essay from Keynes: “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” (I’m not sure if this title is from Keynes himself). Keynes asks an uncommon question for members of his profession: “What can we reasonably expect the level of our economic life to be a hundred years hence?” I found his reflections on this question (in part II) pleasantly surprising and it prompted me to entertain the possibility that his membership in the Bloomsbury Group speaks in part to why he summoned the intellectual courage to indulge in such speculation, particularly insofar as it takes us beyond (capitalist) economics. It took some daring if only because, in his words, “… [T]here is no country and no people, I think, who can look forward to the age of leisure and of abundance without... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2014 at
This does not address the larger point of your post but I had to mention how gratifying it is to see mention of the Intifadas in this context among the Palestinians in both the Occupied Territories and inside Israel (in the latter case, especially in the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada). Sometimes forgotten or not sufficiently appreciated in speaking of the use of a wide array of nonviolent methods (I think Gene Sharp’s catalog of ‘three main types’ well captures the number and scope of these) used by Palestinians is the fact that even before the 1936–39 Arab revolt there was roughly a decade of nonviolent protests against British support for establishing a Jewish national home in Palestine (to be sure, these did not always reflect broad-based mass participation but we can cite the general strike in 1925 in protest of Lord Balfour’s trip to the Holy Land in April 1925 and the March of Arab Women protesting General Allenby’s visit to Jerusalem in April of 1933 as notable examples) before the nonviolent protests (popular demonstrations, boycotts, general strike) that initiated the “Great Revolt” (which eventually turned in the main violent). Of course the rhetoric and praxis of violence (as armed resistance and revolutionary liberation) was central to Fatah and the PLO for much of its history as has the resort to violence among Hamas and other Islamist political factions. Yet Fatah’s Sixth General Conference in 2009, while citing retention of its internationally recognized legal right of armed resistance to occupation, forswears acts of terrorist violence and gives unprecedented recognition to the significance of non-violent resistance in the form of mass mobilization or popular struggle, boycotts, and civil disobedience (in conjunction with ‘state-building,’ negotiations/bargaining, ‘legalism,’ international activism…). And Hamas, in addition to its “everyday nonviolent” social welfare and political activities (e.g., electoral participation and governance), has participated in and endorsed nonviolent actions against land confiscations and the Separation Barrier. Unfortunately, the IDF and Israeli police and security forces routinely respond in a brutally repressive and violent fashion to these nonviolent actions, invariably characterized as threats to “security” and as incitements to violence if not tantamount to same (this is part of the Israeli State’s systematic prevention of the emergence of truly democratic and civil public and political space in the Occupied Territories); as Arielle Azoulay and Adi Ophir remind us, Israel has even used “nonviolent funerals and memorial occasions as a pretext for arrests and interrogations ever since the outset of the Occupation.” Perhaps predictably, nonviolent forms of protest and resistance have not garnered anything close to the mass media attention devoted to acts of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (although in the last decade or so there has been a notable increase in the academic study of nonviolence here and in the Middle East generally*), especially when these are committed by those struggling against repression and for collective self-determination. * Some of these works are found in my bibliography for “conflict resolution and nonviolence” here:
Thank you Jon. I hope to update the list before the end of the year (after I finish updating the Islamic Studies compilation).
Perhaps an auspicious day to download this compilation for future reference (reading and research): [The avatar is Bhimrao Ramji (B.R.) Ambedkar.]
One of our foremost scholars of Indic philosophies, Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, has an important guest-post at the Indian Philosophy blog: “On the possibility and nature of neurophilosophical study of Indic traditions.” I happen to be in full agreement on the following proposition: “I am not particularly confident that neuroscience in its current paradigm and practice settles anything about the nature and content of the discourse of these [i.e., Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist] contemplative practices.” Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2014 at
Daniel Solove has been teaching this course for some time now as well and has a nice syllabus, bibliography, and other materials available here:
Toggle Commented Jul 26, 2014 on Law and Literature at Legal Ethics Forum