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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
“Giving Thanks,” Horace Pippin (1942) “Enough is as good as a feast.”—Sir Thomas Malory (d.1471) “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”—John Heywood (c.1497-1580) “Since we cannot get what we like, let us like what we can get.”—of Spanish provenance “When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”—of Vietnamese provenance “ ‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.”—Alice Walker “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”—William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”—William Arthur Ward “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”—Marcel Proust “Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words.... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at
In the words of Gilbert Achcar (see below), “Maxime Rodinson (1915-2004) was the last survivor of an exceptional group of French Orientalists—in the pre-Saidian non-pejorative meaning of this term, i.e. scholars of Islam and the Arab world—who lived through most of the twentieth century and rose to fame in the 1960s, a decade that saw the emergence of an impressive contingent of French thinkers whose names loom large in the social sciences of our time. The group of brilliant Orientalists to which Rodinson belonged, and which included other luminaries such as Jacque Berque and Claude Cahen, reclaimed the field of Arab and Islamic studies with impeccable erudition, scientific rigour, and a critical solidarity with the peoples they studies that made their writings largely free from the deficiencies of the colonial ‘Orientalism’ of yesteryear and their own time.” I happen to be reading Maxime Rodinson’s work afresh after many years, having... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2015 at
Here too, as I've been having other problems and thought this was related to those...! Glad to see things back on track.
Wassily Kandinsky, Yellow-Red-Blue (1925) By way of distinguishing brains from minds (including the unique and irreducible properties of consciousness), AI (artificial intelligence) from human intelligence,* and human (animal) nature from animal nature simpliciter, I proffer the following titles: • Bennett, M.R. and P.M.S. Hacker. Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003. • Bennett, Maxwell, Daniel Dennett, Peter Hacker, John Searle, and Daniel Robinson. Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind and Language. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. (I prefer the arguments of Bennett, Hacker, and Robinson over Dennett and Searle.) • Descombes, Vincent (Stephen Adam Schwartz, tr.). The Mind’s Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. • Finkelstein, David H. Expression and the Inner. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. • Gillett, Grant. Subjectivity and Being Somebody: Human Identity and Neuroethics. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2008. • Gillett, Grant. The Mind and Its Discontents. New York:... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2015 at
The following is a draft of a revised entry on “Democracy” for a new edition of an encyclopedia on Islam (it is the only one of my entries I’m revising). The format is slightly different than the actual submission but the content is identical: “Democracy & Islam.” Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2015 at
An indispensable work on both (a few of) the causes and (some of) the effects of the political and cultural orientation of the “paperback generation” [i.e., ‘baby boomers’] is Loren Glass’s Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde (Stanford University Press, 2013). First, the Wikipedia introduction to Grove Press: “Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1951. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, and Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. He partnered with Richard Seaver to bring French literature to the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its publisher, Morgan Entrekin, merged with Grove Press in 1991. Grove is now an imprint of the publisher Grove/Atlantic, Inc.” And now a provocative snippet from Glass’s Counterculture Colophon: “On the one hand, individual... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2015 at
“The philosophical convergence between both embattled /materialist and detached idealist philosophers is captured in a short poem by René Char (14 June 1907 – 19 February 1988): ‘Towards your frontier, you humiliated, I walk at last with confidence, warned that truth does not necessarily precede action.’ This poetical aphorism opens two windows on the eternal dialectics between truth and action, theory and practice, philosophy and politics, as I see them unfolding in the Middle East convulsions of the early twenty-first century. Let me paraphrase the great French poet. The first part says: ‘Toward the frontier of humiliated life, in the long night of the modern Middle East age of ruthless dictators, the men and women of the revolution walk with the certainty of truth.’ In this first window into the Middle East revolution, marching is physical action, and the marching operates with confidence and inevitability in its self-consciousness. The nexus... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2015 at
My bibliography on “The Great Depression and The New Deal” is available here. Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2015 at
“Juan Felipe Herrera’s Global Voice and Vision” Los Angeles Review of Books, September 23, 2015 By Rigoberto González “When the Library of Congress made the official announcement on June 10 that Juan Felipe Herrera had been selected the next Poet Laureate of the United States, the first Latino to hold the honorary post of ‘consultant in poetry’ since the first appointment in 1937, the news went viral on social media and was met with universal praise. Though the prolific and popular Herrera is by no means an obscure candidate — he is also currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and his new and selected volume Half of the World in Light received the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award — there was something unexpectedly refreshing about his selection. The next Poet Laureate of the United States comes from an ethnic community that’s quickly changing the demographic of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2015 at
Herbert Lee & Louis Allen “Herbert Lee was a 42 year old a dairy farmer and father of nine children in Amite County. He had been a member of the NAACP since the early 1950s. When SNCC voting rights activists started working in Amite and Pike counties in the fall of 1961, Lee, a close friend of the Amite County NAACP branch chairman E.W. Steptoe, became involved, helping to transport the workers and orient them to the locale. In mid-September, Assistant United States Attorney John Doar and others from the Justice Department interviewed several persons in Amite County about infringements of the voting laws. They learned that one E.H. Hurst, a member of the Mississippi state legislature, had been threatening to harm activists in Amite, including Herbert Lee. On the morning of September 25, E.H. Hurst ran into Herbert Lee at a cotton gin. Lee, who grew up with Hurst,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2015 at
Luis González’s Hasta La Victoria Siempre, c/s (1975) (click on image for larger view) “Humor and kinship among veterans led members of the Rebel Chicano Air Front to adopt the ironic name of the Royal Chicano Air Force after their acronym—RCAF—was misidentified with the Canadian military. Operating out of their Sacramento, California headquarters (the Centro de Artistas Chicanos), they organized community programs, designed murals, and printed posters in support of the United Farm Workers Union. This collaborative spirit shines in Hasta La Victoria Siempre, c/s, a print by Luis (or Louie ‘the Foot’ González), based on his brother Héctor’s photograph of a United Farm Workers pro-labor rally. Interested in concrete poetry, Luis González wove the typed words long live, strike, and tomorrow into a fluid pattern.” (My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers is here.) Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2015 at
Around the world, between a quarter and half a million children go blind each year as a result of a deficiency in vitamin A and within twelve months, half of them die. Golden Rice was created to tackle this problem, by genetically engineering Vitamin A into the rice grain. It is golden because its vitamin A comes from beta carotene, which also puts the orange in carrots. One of the areas of the world where Golden Rice is designed to be consumed is Asia, where a high proportion of calories are derived from rice consumption, and where vitamin A deficiency is endemic. [….] The technology presents itself as a feel-good solution for politicians who’d rather not face the more profound, persistent and difficult questions of politics and distribution. There’s more than enough vitamin A to go around. Half a carrot contains the recommended dose of vitamin A. The plain fact... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2015 at
Henrietta Shore, “Artichoke Pickers,” 1936, oil on masonite panel. Described as “one of the most beautiful of all WPA [Works Progress Administration, later renamed the Work Projects Administration] murals in California,” “[i]t depicts people working in a field near the Santa Cruz coastline, where the mural was installed.” My bibliography on César Chávez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) is here. Two related compilations: The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: ‘Toward Agroecology & Food Justice’): A Basic Bibliography, and Workers, the World of Work & Labor Law: A Basic Bibliography. Yolanda López, “Homenaje a Dolores Huerta,” from Women’s Work Is Never Done series, silkscreen, 1995. Here we find “juxtapose[d] an image of Dolores Huerta as an activist in 1965 with an image take from the 1995 broccoli harvest. To protect their lungs from dust and pesticides, the women in this print wear bandanas, which actually provide... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2015 at
“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 Aug 25, 2015 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