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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
How might or should we characterize today’s Republican Party? In other words, what generalizations* properly describe its views, its policies, and its behavior as a national political party? The GOP is a party of imaginary and delusionary grievance, of crass and cartoonish schtick, of denial and desperation, of repugnance and regression, of illusion and irrationality, of empty gestures and vain cynicism, of authoritarianism and aspirational fascism, of obscene wealth and amoral power, of sycophants and cults, of self-deception and phantasy, of white supremacy and narcissistic privilege, of putatively Christian nationalism, a faux populism of bread and circuses that has failed to conceal, let alone contain, a degraded and debased political practice mired in a toxic dump of greed, corruption, and sleaze. However well-intended, that makes mincemeat of Democratic rhetoric and aims on behalf of bipartisanship. * As with all generalizations, there are exceptions of one kind and degree or another. Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at
“It is not that goodness or rightness are ‘miraculous’ properties, or supernaturally decreed supervenience relations. Rather … goodness is like health: the criteria or its attribution to objects and actions have to do entirely with the presence or absence of certain broadly natural features, such as the tendency to alleviate suffering, the promotion of fellow feeling, respectful treatment, and the like. But the normative status of the obligations connected with such types of behaviour is, as Kant famously pointed out, not simply instrumental or hypothetical: we ought to do these things not just because we have contingently evolved to have certain inclinations, not because our society happens contingently to put a premium on certain goals, but rather because such behaviour is categorically right.”—John Cottingham, from his chapter, “Religion and Value: the problem of heteronomy,” in his profound and invaluable work, The Spiritual Dimension: Religion, Philosophy and Human Value (Cambridge University... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at
I previously announced to anyone listening that I was no longer composing lengthy bibliographies, but I had to make an exception for this one: The European Enlightenment (which was at once colonialist, cosmopolitan, and emancipatory, as well as revolutionary, liberal, and democratic ). Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at
U.S. strike in Syria kills 1, wounds several, Iraqi militia official says (AP story in the LA Times) “A U.S. airstrike [euphemism for ‘aerial bombing’] in Syria targeted facilities belonging to a powerful Iranian-backed Iraqi armed group, killing one of their militiamen and wounding a number of others, an Iraqi militia official said Friday. The official told the Associated Press that the strikes against the Kataeb Hezbollah militia, or Hezbollah Brigades, hit an area along the border between the Syrian site of Boukamal facing Qaim on the Iraqi side. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak of the attack. The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. ‘I’m confident in the target that we went after, we know what we hit,’ Defense... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2021 at
I have a few outstanding promissory blogging notes and have not posted anything recently, so I thought I’d share the introduction to one of the things I’ve been working on and hope to soon complete: a bibliography on the European Enlightenment (roughly, from the middle of the seventeenth until the close of the eighteenth century, with the historical periods just prior and immediately following being of considerable importance as well). Incidentally, today is the birthday of Michael Harrington. Introduction As with most of my bibliographies, this one has two principal constraints: books, in English. I have not included the primary works of the leading scientists—including their precursors—(e.g., Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Joseph Black, Joseph Priestly, Antoine Lavoisier …), philosophes (e.g., Voltaire, D’Alembert, Diderot, Montesquieu) and philosophers (e.g., and in no particular order, Pierre Bayle, Marquis de Condorcet, René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Frances Hutcheson, Immanuel... Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2021 at
Several days ago I posted the following on my FB page: Social epistemology and the epistemology of groups have become respectable and growing sub-fields within the field of epistemology (it’s about time!). However, I find to date their arguments and insights rather sparse if not predictable largely because they often demonstrate complete ignorance of the literature on the psychoanalytic psychology of groups or group psychology. Of course one cause of this ignorance is the academic division of labor and a related distaste or distrust (willful ignorance?) of psychoanalytic psychology (it fails to meet their positivist or neo-positivist criteria for what counts as ‘scientific’) among the vast majority of philosophers (below are exceptions to the rule, namely, those philosophers who’ve sympathetically and critically examined psychoanalytic theories*), although they may evidence respect for the findings of “scientific” or “experimental” psychology, the findings of which are often unreliable and egregiously meager, especially when... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2021 at
First, I want to share a substantial part of a review essay from The Nation several years ago by way of introducing the work of Charles Mills, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at The Graduate Center, CUNY (City University of New York). Then we read a snippet from Mills’ recent interview in The Nation which further reveals his unflagging belief in the necessity and value of Liberalism as a political philosophy for democracy, despite its myriad and well-documented historical shortcomings, biases, prejudices and so on. As J.S. Mill, John Dewey, and most recently, the late John Rawls argued in their own distinctive ways, liberalism, democracy, and socialism are capable of complementing and reinforcing each other. In other words, and at the very least, there need be no inherent contradictions between these political, social and economic ideals and ideas. Finally, I leave you with a link to my updated bibliography for Liberalism... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2021 at
By way of background and context, I’d like to begin this post with a personal story. I bought several books from our town’s best used bookstore the other day and confess to being rather excited about one of the volumes because it is by my late teacher and friend, Ninian Smart, Buddhism and Christianity: Rivals and Allies (London: Macmillan Press, 1993). I learned beforehand (from its online description) that the book had a gift inscription by Ninian … and sure enough, I recognized his inimitable handwriting. It appears the book has never been read (or opened!). It was inscribed “For Bill, with best wishes from Ninian.” I suspect it was for Ninian’s colleague, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, William F. Powell, who specialized in Chinese Buddhism, but of course I can’t be certain. As a propaedeutic of sorts to what’s to come, I’d... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2021 at
More often than not, ad hominem arguments (be they ‘abusive’ or ‘circumstantial’) are presumptively fallacious (an ‘informal’ fallacy), but given the persistent influence of the pathological cult of Trump on Republican Party members of Congress, they are often presumptively valid, indeed, perfectly appropriate and thus legitimate! The most obvious case where such arguments are necessary involves the case of U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, but she represents but one end of a spectrum of such cases. The irony here is that she herself has a history of indulging in ad hominem arguments, but in this instance they are in fact abundantly fallacious! If you are not familiar with this informal fallacy (implying that, on occasion, it can be a perfectly valid, non-fallacious argument), I recommend the late Douglas N. Walton’s analysis in his chapter, “Personal attack in argumentation,” in his book, Informal Logic: A Handbook for Critical Argumentation (Cambridge University... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2021 at
In honor of this first day of Black History Month, here is a list of relevant bibliographies available on my Academia page (I have other compilations with less direct or obvious relevance, for example, the bibliography on ‘Psychoanalytic Psychology Beyond the Color Line’): Africana & African American Philosophy After Slavery & Reconstruction: The Black Struggle for Civil Rights, Freedom, and Equality in the U.S. The Black Athlete and Sports Blacks and Food Justice: A Guide to Resources Blacks on the Left The Black Panther Party Detroit: Labor & Industrialization, Race & Politics, Rebellion & Resurgence — A Select Bibliography Frantz Fanon—A Basic Reading Guide The Haitian Revolution C.L.R. James: Marxist Humanist & Afro-Trinidadian Socialist Malcolm X Pan-Africanism, Black Internationalism, & Black Cosmopolitanism Philosophy & Racism Slavery South African Liberation Struggles Images: Drawings by Charles White Recommended: Adler, Esther. Charles White: Black Pope. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2017. Barnwell,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2021 at
It is now painfully obvious that newly elected members of Congress from both houses should be required to take, and pass, the “naturalization”/civics test that immigrants seeking citizenship are required to pass before the former are sworn into high public office. It need not be identical to that test, indeed, perhaps it should be a bit more difficult. I am quite certain that more than a few Republican members of the House of Representatives could not pass the current test. click on image to enlarge Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2021 at
(The ‘call to arms’ is meant—as is often the case—in a metaphoric and nonviolent sense.) “Since there is no national organization around anymore that can set doctrinal boundaries for the left, there is today more room for expressing and acting upon the full range of issue and perspectives that actually constitute the radical, democratic, critical tradition. One can more easily be a Marxist in the morning, a pacifist in the afternoon, an environmentalist at dinner, and a feminist in the evening while going to church on Sunday [or the mosque on Friday, the synagogue on Saturday, the Humanist Society meeting on Monday…] and voting Democrat on election day.” — Richard Flacks, Making History: The Radical Tradition in American Life (Columbia University Press, 1988): 221-222. At bottom, in the end, or structurally speaking, “capitalist democracy” refers to the contradictions and distortions of the ideal, principles, and practices of democracy by capitalist... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2021 at
Mike Theiler/Reuters Here is the introduction to the term “theory” from Wikipedia. It is fine for our purposes save one error which I will explain below: “A theory is a contemplative and rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking often is associated with such processes like observational study, research. Theories may either be scientific or other than scientific (or scientific to less extent). Depending on the context, the results might, for example, include generalized explanations of how nature works. The word has its roots in ancient Greek, but in modern use it has taken on several related meanings. In modern science, the term ‘theory’ refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science. Such theories are... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2021 at
This is from an archived blog post (roughly three years goal) that I thought to post—lightly edited—afresh because I continue to find otherwise very bright people writing on psychoanalytic theory and therapy, from both philosophical and psychological vantage points, which appear not to have read Ilham Dilman, or at least his titles never appear in the citations and bibliographies. This is rather disconcerting, for his luminous works could save these selfsame individuals from claiming or repeating a lot of nonsense, or simply stuff that is neither well-reasoned nor true. Dilman wrote clearly and his material was well-argued, albeit in a modest if not deceptive way, thus it was nowhere near as pompous, assertive, or ostentatious as arguments among professional philosophers often are or can be (particularly when arguing with each other). * * * Occasionally one comes across a philosopher who, one believes quite strongly, was unduly neglected when alive,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2021 at
What follows is a vivid and compelling clinical vignette that, among other things, testifies to the manner in which psychoanalysis proffers us “hope for better coping with life’s challenges, traumas, fears, and such.” It does this primarily through making available to us “a different way of attending to one’s lived experience by offering a place of refuge in which to go deeper into [the likely causes of our] suffering” (Sara L. Weber). In this instance, we have a brief glimpse into one person’s unique and—at first—rather opaque “emotional constellation.” (The bracketed comments are by yours truly.) “The patient is a woman who hated her father. Apparently he accused her of things that she had not done, was rude and vulgar, and created scenes in the home. This ‘caused’ her to leave home as soon as she could, carve out a career for herself as a lawyer, putting no demands, financial... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2021 at
It appears the great English psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion (8 September 1897 – 8 November 1979) had Yogic- and Buddhist-like sensibilities with regard to mental states or, in the Buddhist case, states of consciousness, specifically the role of saṃskāras (which, among other causes, produces memory) and kāma,* or more broadly, at least in Buddhism, tṛṣṇā.** “Bion said that to be without memory or desire is the mental state which prepares the analyst best for the forthcoming clinical session.” “The state of relaxation or reverie, to use Bion’s word, or free floating attention [or ‘free association’], to use Freud’s term, is that which best disposes the mind to make the transition from the sensual to the mental. To be attached to the sensual prevents that transition from one to the other and therefore blocks understanding. Bion makes it clear that it is not the memory as such that blocks understanding but rather... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2021 at
This is the preface to what I hope to be an ongoing series of posts in which I (further) introduce the significance of psychoanalytic and social psychological perspectives on individual and group pathologies (especially in conjunction and interaction) that are either clearly corrosive of (over a period of time) or imminent threats to the values, principles, and practices intrinsic to a Liberal* democratic order. * This democratic order need not be welfare capitalist, as it is perfectly compatible with both social democracy as well as socialism, a point well-argued in the works of J.S. Mill, John Dewey and the later works of John Rawls, among others. In a letter to the New York Times in March, 2017, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton and Judith Herman warned readers of “Trump’s dangerous individual psychological patterns: his creation of his own reality and his inability to manage the inevitable crises that face an American... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2021 at
A Facebook friend understandably posted the following observation this morning: “Never in my life would I have guessed that I would have to compete against TWO impeachment trials of the President in the same year: but that is a consequence of electing a person who put his own interests ahead of the country, who refused to tell the truth about the election and caused chaos in our own house.” I’ve picked out the phrase, “a person who put his own interests ahead of the country,” to comment upon. Stephen Holmes* has helped us appreciate a notion of “self-interests” that had a rational and indispensable role to play in the history of Liberal democratic thought and politics. Today, as Holmes points out, the notion of self-interest has often been reduced by those hostile to Liberalism as a political philosophy of cool if not cruel calculation, “niggling selfishness, and indifference to spiritual... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2021 at
First, a bit of context and background from Jane Meyer: “Well, so, as we all know, there is a very broad pardon power in the Constitution that the president has. He can issue pardons almost without any kind of guidelines to whomever he wishes. And one of the questions that people, legal experts, have, and historians, watching all of this, this incredible spectacle, is whether Trump might try to pardon himself. It has not been done before in our history. An earlier corrupt president, Richard Nixon, thought about it and thought that he had the power to do it. The Justice Department at the time looked into it. And there’s just a sort of a relatively flimsy, quick opinion that suggests that the Justice Department found at that time that they didn’t think it could be done, because just it’s illogical, as the paper says. The opinion just says no... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2021 at
“Yesterday’s ‘sacrileges’ in our temple of democracy – oh, poor defiled city on the hill, etc. – constituted an ‘insurrection’ only in the sense of dark comedy [written on Jan. 7, 2021]. What was essentially a big biker gang dressed as circus performers and war-surplus barbarians – including the guy with a painted face posing as horned bison in a fur coat – stormed the ultimate country club, squatted on Pence’s throne, chased Senators into the sewers, casually picked their noses and rifled files and, above all, shot endless selfies to send to the dudes back home. Otherwise they didn’t have a clue. (The aesthetic was pure Buñuel and Dali: ‘Our only rule was very simple: no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.’).”— Mike Davis, in the first paragraph from his post for Sidecar, a blog of the New... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2021 at
“ … ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ …” “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” ‘I think this is the start of the second American revolution,’ said Terry McCord of Michigan, one of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2021 at
Sedition, treason, and attempted coup (including acts, attempted and successful, of domestic terrorism): all of which have been directly incited by the President (as well as people like Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump, Jr., and Republican members of Congress from both houses of Congress) of the U.S., who is not only a megalomaniacal narcissist prone to both psychopathy and sociopathy, but transparently evil (when not immoral) as well (the most glaring example of which is his deliberate mishandling of our country’s pandemic). He should be immediately removed from office per the 25th Amendment (or impeached forthwith, which seems unlikely) and incarcerated. Where was the National Guard?! Why did not responsible office holders and national security bureaucrats plan for this? Had this mob been anyone else, that is, not right-wing nut-jobs—proto-fascists and fascists—they would have been gassed, arrested, and shot with deadly force (as occurred during Black Lives Matter protests). All... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2021 at
I could not help myself, as I have put together a new bibliography in line with a group of law-related compilations on my Academia page. The latest list is on the law of torts, with titles ranging from the philosophical (as in the books pictured above) to the practical. Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2021 at
I am trying to decide if I should spend any more time blogging. I stopped blogging elsewhere when I became the sole blogger and began receiving little if any comments (at Ratio Juris and the Agricultural Law blogs, both part of Jim Chen’s former Jurisdynamics Network), and here at RLL this has happened once more. There are no comments to my posts and I have no idea whatsoever if anyone is reading them. I feel I am pissing into the wind, as they say, and am tired of getting wet. If there are any readers who think I should persevere, please let me know, as I sense this is coming to an end* and thus it will also help to know if others are not surprised. In any case, thanks for your attention to this point. Best wishes, Patrick * We might view this as an illustration of (or one... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2020 at
Human animals, as a rule or generalization, do not live (or behave as if living) in herds,* in short, they are not herd animals. That being true, the expression “herd immunity” in bio-statistical epidemiology and public health in general is misleading or simply a sloppy or awkward or (for me at least) grating expression that should be replaced (as occasionally it is in fact) by “population immunity” (the term ‘population’ has a specific meaning in public health law with regard to the state or government and its public health duties, including population-based scientific research which I briefly address in a piece on a philosophically sensitive definition of same**). However, at least metaphorically or on rare occasions, it could be the case that “some human groupings may behave more like herds.” * “A herd is a large group of animals. The term is used for mammals, particularly hoofed animals. Herding is... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2020 at