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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
Update: Should any of our readers be interested, I am now blogging at Patrick’s Musings & Miscellany. I am through blogging. I appreciate our regular and intermittent readers over the years. The problems with the blog are ongoing and suggest to me it is time to quit. Keep up the good fight. Best wishes, Patrick Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2022 at
I apologize for the disappearing images and photos in some posts, including the last two. I have written to Typepad about this so hopefully it will be corrected soon. Thanks for your patience. Patrick Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2022 at
I have arrived at the point where I can wholeheartedly (thus unreservedly) agree with prolific and brilliant philosopher Larry May’s statement that Thomas Hobbes is “arguably the greatest systematic philosopher to have written in the English language.” If that be too extravagant for you (e.g., those of you enamored with Hume), consider that Hobbes was “the first great philosopher to write in English.” May himself, by my lights, is our foremost philosopher of international criminal law and justice (he writes in other areas as well, as his works on shared intentionality, collective responsibility, and the morality of groups generally, attests). More than a few respectable and well-known philosophers have made surprising mistakes and misleading if not simply incorrect interpretations of Hobbes’s ideas, however perhaps plausible and imaginative in construction. The views of these philosophers “ruled the roost” for the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond. Their portrait of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2022 at
When Republicans run for public office, at whatever level of government, one simple analytical or interpretive method to employ with regard to their campaign ads and public rhetoric in whatever fora (e.g., in person or in social and mass media) is to compare what they say to what they do not say. This will allow you to see clearly that the GOP has become a regressive Manichaean political party of inchoate grievance, resentment, fear, anger, racism and rage. They are unable to proffer a coherent and thus plausible let alone positive political platform of public policies that address the sundry problems of our time and place: from climate change to gun violence, from a crumbling infrastructure to environmental degradation, from a deformed and neglected system of public education to racial segregation, from an indefensible military budget to an inexcusably inadequate public health system, and so forth and so on. The... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2022 at
Prelude While Romanticism as a social and cultural movement is sometimes (or often?) viewed historically as a non-rational or irrational or even supra-rational reaction to ideas about reason and science prominent in the European Enlightenment, looking back it seems, to me at least, to be in some respects in keeping with the Enlightenment insofar as it often complements various facets of same or fills out those forms of sense and sensibility that did not, at the time and for some time thereafter, receive their due attention and consideration (to cite but one example: sundry types of sociability, such as salons and reading societies). I thus prefer to view Romanticism as simply softening the harder or cruder edges of European rationalism (in the end, more continuity than difference, the latter being a necessary yet not sufficient condition of the former). That said, I agree with Raghavan Iyer that the “Romantics sought... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2022 at
“Young adults in California experience alarming rates of anxiety and depression, poll finds” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 30, 2022 By Paloma Esquivel “Young adults in California experience mental health challenges at alarming rates, with more than three-quarters reporting anxiety in the last year, more than half reporting depression, 31% experiencing suicidal thinking and 16% self-harm, according to the results of a survey commissioned by the California Endowment. The numbers reflect a years-long trend of worsening mental health among young people that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say. The poll of nearly 800 Californians ages 18 to 24 also found young people facing significant barriers to getting help — with nearly half of those who wanted to speak to a mental health professional saying they had been unable to do so, and many saying cost or lack of access had stopped them. [….] The poll reveals a generation under... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2022 at
The Greek notion of eudaimonia, which is a richer and I think less ambiguous concept than our typical conceptions of happiness, is nevertheless sometimes translated as “happiness,” which is understandable to the extent happiness has been formulated by some philosophers in terms welfare and well-being. But as Martha Nussbaum writes in a note on the Greek word in The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and ethics in Greek tragedy and philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1986): “Especially given our Kantian and Utilitarian heritage in moral philosophy, in both parts of which ‘happiness’ is taken to be the name of a feeling of contentment or pleasure, and a view that makes happiness the supreme good is assumed to be, by definition, a view that gives supreme value to psychological states rather than to activities, this translation is badly misleading. To the Greeks, eudaimonia means something like ‘living a good life for a human... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2022 at
If someone greets me with a nice smile, and expresses a genuinely friendly attitude, I appreciate it very much. Though I might not know that person, or even understand their language, my heart is instantly gladdened. On the other hand, if kindness is lacking, even in someone from my own culture whom I have known for many years, I feel it. Kindness and love, a real sense of sisterhood and brotherhood, these are very precious. They make community possible, and therefore are an essential part of any society. — His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso It would be tedious and perhaps depressing to narrate the myriad instances of rudeness, inconsiderateness, and generally ill-mannered behavior that one comes across in daily life, at least in this country, and at least where we live. Of course, when people observe basic social norms, including norms of politeness and consideration, such behavior... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2022 at
Jacob Lawrence, The Library (1978) Prelude Literacy in the U.S. Nationwide, on average, 79% of U.S. adults are literate in 2022. 21% of adults in the US are illiterate in 2022. 54% of adults have a literacy below 6th grade level. * * * “In 1789 and for long afterward, in France and elsewhere, a single word often sufficed to explain the origins of the French Revolution: books. Just days after the fall of the Bastille, the radical journalist and politician Bertrand Barère wrote, ‘Books did it all. Books created opinion, books brought enlightenment down into all classes of society, books destroyed fanaticism and overthrew the prejudices that had subjugated us.’ Even counterrevolutionaries who saw the Revolution as a catastrophe agreed with Barère as to its cause: it was books or, sometimes, ‘philosophy’—by which they meant the great movement of ideas we now call the Enlightenment. No serious historian today... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2022 at
I routinely check out the blog posts at Dorf on Law, and this morning I came across something completely unexpected (although her illness was known to others) and heartbreaking news: Professor Dorf’s “co-blogger, co-author, colleague, best friend, and wife for over 31 years—died this morning.” Here is the notice at Cornell Law School where Sherry F. Colb was the C.S. Wong Professor of Law. In the words of Bridget Crawford at The Faculty Lounge, “Professor Colb will be missed by so many. May her memory be a blessing.” Speaking for myself and on behalf of my co-bloggers, we offer our deep condolences to Michael C. Dorf and his family. Update: For links to one of Professor Colb’s books as well as her work available online, please see here and here at Larry Solum’s Legal Theory blog. Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2022 at
Arguments are effective as weapons only if they are logically cogent, and if they are so they reveal connexions, the disclosure of which is not the less necessary to the discovery of truth for being also handy in the discomfiture of opponent. — Gilbert Ryle (qtd. in Garver below) The title of my latest bibliography is (yes, it’s a mouthful) “Toward Assessing the Apparent Imperatives and Possible Constraints of Digital Media and Artificial Intelligence (AI): communication, speech, and rhetoric in a fragile technocratic capitalist and constitutional democracy.” Whenever I compose these lists, I try to read a substantial amount of what appears by my lights to be the crème-de-la-crème of the literature in English. Hence this quote from Eugene Garver’s indispensable work, Aristotle’s Rhetoric: An Art of Character (University of Chicago Press, 1994): “Reasoning does not automatically persuade, yet, if artful rhetoric [which speaks to or implies character] is argumentative,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2022 at
I’ve put together a short reading list that speaks to questions that arise from “democracy and digital technology” (democracy in theory and practice, and in participatory, deliberative, and representative modes, all of which are essential to ‘open democracy’ in Landemore’s sense). It is intended to be part of a forthcoming larger list that will include material on “artificial intelligence” (AI) while widening the scope to address issues that arise within a democratic society that in significant and often insidious ways is malformed by capitalist political economy (as evidenced in our earlier post on Zephyr Teachout’s NYRB article). It will also contain works more philosophically and ethically oriented (reflecting my critique—some of which is here—of the many extravagant claims often made on behalf of AI): Aaker, Jennifer and Andy Smith (with Carlye Adler) The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change (Jossey-Bass, 2010).... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2022 at
The following is from selected parts of Zephyr Teachout’s “The Boss Will See You Now” (New York Review of Books, Aug. 18, 2022), a review essay of four recent titles about digital surveillance, tracking, and performance monitoring of millions of workers in an affluent capitalist and deeply inegalitarian society (conditions that amount to what Elizabeth Anderson terms ‘private government’). With wholly atomized workers, discouraged from connecting with one another but forced to offer a full, private portrait of themselves to their bosses, I cannot imagine a democracy. * * * [….] “As it happened, the 1980s and 1990s were a major turning point in surveillance, the period when companies went on their first buying sprees for electronic performance-monitoring. In 1987 approximately six million workers were watched in some kind of mediated way, generally a video camera or audio recorder; by 1994, roughly one in seven American workers, about 20 million,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2022 at
Reflections on the attempted murder of Salman Rushdie as it relates to widespread perceptions and characterizations of, and generalizations about, “Islam.” See too this statement from Suzanne Nossel of PEN America. Update: Nossel’s opinion piece for The Guardian. Perhaps not surprisingly, more than a few folks on the internet are using the occasion of the assault/attempted murder on Salman Rushdie in New York to spread or reinforce rash or hasty generalizations (and the informal fallacy of ‘converse accident’) that serve to confirm their ignorance of Islamic traditions and embolden their biases and prejudices about “Islam” while also indulging in a kind of virtue signaling that brings virtual applause in its wake. These generalizations concern “Islam” as a religious worldview and philosophy as well as those who are self-described or identified as Muslims. There is nothing peculiar about Islam vis-à-vis other religious worldviews and ideologies or other secular worldviews and ideologies... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2022 at
We should not indulge in denial, nor deceive ourselves, in other words, we should not look away (i.e. deliberately ignore) from what is before our eyes and ears: the fascism of the cult of Trump is not going away anytime soon; a conclusion that is neither alarmist nor simply reflective of partisan hyperbole. If you believe otherwise, you are not paying sufficient attention. I am—or will be—quite happy to be proven wrong and welcome reasonable arguments that attempt to persuade me that I am indeed mistaken. In early spring of last year I stated that the so-called Grand Old Party has morphed into a political 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 (actual and aspirational) fascism, of obscene wealth and amoral power, of sycophants and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2022 at
“There are two main questions we can ask ourselves with respect to the use of lotteries. First, under which conditions would they seem to be normatively allowed or prescribed, on grounds of individual rationality or social justice? Second, in which cases are lotteries actually used to make decisions and allocate tasks, resources and burdens? There is no reason, of course, to expect the answers to these questions to coincide. Hence we can generate two further questions. What explains the adoption of lotteries when normative arguments seem to point against them? What explains the non-adoption of lotteries in situations where they would seem to be normatively compelling? The last question is perhaps the most intriguing and instructive one. I shall argue that we have a strong reluctance to admit uncertainty and indeterminacy in human affairs. Rather than accept the limits of reason, we prefer the rituals of reason.” — Jon Elster,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 24, 2022 at
This is one of the syllabi I’ve composed for myself this summer that touches on several areas of my research (e.g., democracy, law, moral psychology, virtues and vices, emotions, philosophy of mind and mental conflict ….). I’ve read some of these books in whole or part and am reading them again. I limited myself to 25 titles. I thought perhaps a few readers might be interested in this list. One subject that has perked my interest of late is rhetoric, especially in an Aristotelian sense, both as it bears on democratic communication and discourse and insofar as it remains tethered to ethical or moral, logical and rational norms (hence when its function and appeal is not primarily emotional and when its arguments can be simultaneously sound and persuasive). Democratic rhetoric must be sensitive to the values, principles, and practices of democracy such that it should not be construed solely in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2022 at
Below one will find the “Epilogue” I recently appended to my latest iteration of the bibliography on Comparative Philosophy. “A comparative philosophy that is worthy of both its constitutive terms cannot be simply about comparison. Simply comparing philosophies but not comparing them philosophically will not do. This is why fusion philosophy decidedly demands of the comparative philosopher not to be satisfied with the role of the comparatist. The comparative philosopher should aim beyond comparison at a philosophical argument (strictly or loosely understood) that can stand on its own, that is, it does not rely on the distinctness of the comparanda. The borders that any comparison necessarily erects should not be left intact as if untouched. Fusion means that borders that separate are at least de-emphasized, perhaps even torn into tatters, but in any case transcended.” — From the “Afterword/Afterwards” by Arindam Chakrabarti and Ralph Weber, co-editors of the volume Comparative... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2022 at
My latest compilation is on Buddhist Philosophy. What follows is the introduction to the bibliography. This list covers philosophically oriented Buddhist titles from within Buddhism, as well as works by those who bring modern philosophical arguments and methods of analysis (and phenomenology, hermeneutics, etc.) to their examination of Buddhist philosophy, occasionally comparing it to other philosophical worldviews (hence those writing first and foremost as Buddhists on the one hand, and those identifying as professional philosophers or using contemporary philosophy to study Buddhist philosophy, on the other; there is occasionally overlap between the two approaches). It also has titles that examine Buddhist psychology and several works on topics in Buddhist aesthetics and philosophy of art. I have a separate bibliography on Buddhist art as well. Like most of my bibliographies, there are two constraints: books, in English (a few exceptions owing to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entries [SEP]). While this... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2022 at
This post was prompted by a news item from the Los Angeles Times: “46 people believed to be migrants found dead in Texas tractor-trailer.” Be it by land or water (the number of the latter being far more numerous than the former), these deaths are not accidents, unavoidable, or some senseless misfortune (leaving aside forced migration during war for now, which is a special case). They are a predictable result of inhumane, cruel, and unnecessary immigration policies. With the ecological and economic havoc caused by global warming, the migratory results of which we are already witnessing, matters will only worsen. We should not turn a blind eye, put our heads in the sand, or indulge in deliberate denial, however tempting during such troubled times as ours, when the scale and scope of our environmental, political, and economic problems can feel daunting if not overwhelming. These are our fellow human beings... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2022 at
The right-wing judicial ideologues on the Supreme Court have only a tenuous grip on conservatism. Their recent rulings exemplify what they used to decry as “judicial activism,” rendering them inconsistent and hypocritical. Moreover, they’ve revealed an equally inconsistent if not incoherent, cynical, and manipulative legal interpretation of the doctrine of stare decisis. Their understanding of rights is illiberal given its ad hoc and regressive disposition. Finally, they’ve demonstrated the irrationality, vacuity and anti-democratic nature that shadows the “Originalist” doctrine of constitutional interpretation. Thus not surprisingly, their rulings warm the perfervid hearts and stir the addled minds of Christian nationalists and anti-democratic militants in this country, including first and foremost, the fascist members of the cult of Trump. I stop here lest my anger get the better of me. See: “The Week from Hell,” by Eric Segall at Dorf on Law. Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2022 at
Hilary Putnam’s “scientific realism” (there are several conceptions of this realism) entailed, among other things and for example, “the affirmation of the theoretical or ‘unobservable’ entities of our successful sciences, especially physics, e.g. the reality of electrons.” I would argue, as have others in philosophy and psychoanalysis, that psychoanalysis as a science1 likewise affirms the existence of theoretical or unobservable entities (that make for the ‘reality’ of unconscious and ‘primary process’ mentation which is ‘a-rational and associatively-based,’ this unconscious reality can be both ‘dynamic’ and cognitive or ‘adaptive’) with epistemic and explanatory effects or consequences, for instance, the corresponding mental states are causes of desires, beliefs, and behavior … and psychic disorders of various kinds (contrast ‘secondary process mentation,’ which involves awareness, is largely rational, rule-following, and ‘logical’ in the manner of common sense, allowing us to see psychological events as continuous or determinist, causal, rational, and explainable). This notion... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2022 at
Propaedeutic “Science is under attack. People are losing confidence in its powers. Pseudo-scientific beliefs thrive. Anti-science speakers win public debates. Industrial firms misuse technology. Legislators curb experiments. Governments slash research funding. Even fellow scholars are becoming sceptical of its claims. And yet, opinion surveys regularly report large majorities in its favour. Science education expands at all levels. Writers and broadcasters enrich public understanding. Exciting discoveries and useful inventions flow out of research laboratories. Vast research instruments are built at public expense. Science has never been so popular or influential. This is not a contradiction. Science has always been under attack. It is still a newcomer to large areas of our culture. As it extends and become more deeply embedded, it touches upon issues where its competence is more doubtful, and opens itself to well-based criticism. The claims of science are often highly questionable. Strenuous debate on particular points is not... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2022 at
None of what follows this introduction is written by yours truly, still, I thought it might be of interest to some of our readers. It concerns subject matter I hope to address now and again over the summer. Long-time readers of this blog will be aware of my abiding interest in the values and purposes of psychoanalytic theory and therapy, especially in the wake of Adolf Grünbaum’s critique of psychoanalysis,1 as it provoked vigorous philosophical arguments and debates both about the scientific standing of psychoanalysis in general as well as specific beliefs, hypotheses, and theories within psychoanalysis in particular, some of which do not depend upon or pivot around the science question, and which I happen to believe has been resolved in favor of Freud and psychoanalytic psychology (be it Freudian, Kleinian, etc.). Psychoanalysis can thus in part be characterized as a novel science of human subjectivity (the other principal... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2022 at
Some of what follows is from something I first posted in 2008 at Daniel Goldberg’s Medical Humanities Blog (and cross-posted at Ratio Juris). I have only slightly revised it. The remainder of the material having to do with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is new. The title of this post refers to two books: Theodore Dalrymple’s Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and The Addiction Bureaucracy (Encounter Books, 2006) and the late Herbert Fingarette’s Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (University of California Press, 1988). The second half of the post addresses some features of AA, although, as you will see, Fingarette’s book is germane to both parts. The Wikipedia entry on Dalrymple introduces our author: “Anthony (A.M.) Daniels (born 1949) is a British writer and retired physician (prison doctor and psychiatrist), who generally uses the pen name Theodore Dalrymple. He has written extensively on culture, art, politics, education and medicine,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2022 at