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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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James Millward’s article, “‘Reeducating’ Xinjiang’s Muslims” in the New York Review of Books (February 7, 2019) is essential, indeed urgent reading. It is bone-chilling ... and a reminder why international criminal law needs to outlaw cultural genocide. See, for example, Lawrence Davidson, Cultural Genocide (Rutgers University Press, 2012), and the brief but compelling argument by Larry May that “acts of cultural genocide should be included as punishable acts in international law” in his invaluable study, Genocide: A Normative Account (Cambridge University Press, 2010). Here is the opening paragraph of the piece: “In a courtroom in Zharkent, Kazakhstan, in July 2018, a former kindergarten principal named Sayragul Sauytbay calmly described what Chinese officials continue to deny: a vast new gulag of ‘de-extremification training centers’ has been created for Turkic Muslim inhabitants of Xinjiang, the Alaska-sized region in western China. Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh, had fled Xinjiang and was seeking asylum in... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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(While the snippet from the article below is about acts of violence against Muslims, Dalits in India have also been routinely targeted by these Hindu nationalists.) “In India, killing cows and the consumption of beef is banned in most states. Since Modi and his party assumed power in 2014, this beef ban has been used by Hindu nationalists to justify their attacks on innocent Muslims in public. [….] [Prime Minister] Modi’s government … routinely disseminates fake news, targeting and demonising Indian Muslims.” The full article from The Guardian by Rana Ayyub is here. * * * “The Member States of the United Nations have acknowledged that they have the primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of these crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means, and is consistent with existing obligations under international human... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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First, please read this article, “The Philosopher Redefining Equality,” by Nathan Heller in The New Yorker, from which the following snippet is taken: “To be truly free, in Anderson’s assessment, members of a society had to be able to function as human beings (requiring food, shelter, medical care), to participate in production (education, fair-value pay, entrepreneurial opportunity), to execute their role as citizens (freedom to speak and to vote), and to move through civil society (parks, restaurants, workplaces, markets, and all the rest). Egalitarians should focus policy attention on areas where that order had broken down. Being homeless was an unfree condition by all counts; thus, it was incumbent on a free society to remedy that problem. A quadriplegic adult was blocked from civil society if buildings weren’t required to have ramps. Anderson’s democratic model shifted the remit of egalitarianism from the idea of equalizing wealth to the idea that... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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While still working for the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt, Germany, Erich Fromm penned two articles on the criminal justice system, “The State as Educator” (1930) and “On the Psychology of the Criminal” (see the volume edited by Kevin Anderson and Richard Quinney, Erich Fromm and Critical Criminology: Beyond the Punitive Society, 2000). In The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet (2013), Lawrence J. Freidman summarizes several of the principal arguments: “On a … basic and psychological level … the state was referring to crime and deterrence in order to present itself on a subconscious level as a father image. The child knew that he was defenseless against the power of the father, particularly the capacity of the father to castrate the child. By drawing upon unconscious fear of paternal punishment, Fromm noted, the state sought to promote obedience to its dictates. The state also used the criminal justice... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2019 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is profoundly unsettling to many on the Right (and perhaps some Democrats as well). Today’s column by Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times is symptomatic of the Right’s fear and loathing of her democratic politics and political policy views in particular: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked the political establishment by defeating a machine politician in a New York Democratic primary for Congress last June. Ever since then, Republicans and conservatives have been trying to smear her as a know-nothing socialist ditz unfit to sit in the House chamber with all those gray-bearded sages who have made the House such a model of reasoned and informed debate. The latest such campaign erupted this weekend. I’m not talking about the unearthing of a dance video from her college years, which backfired spectacularly by making Ocasio-Cortez seem youthful and joyous, but an interview with the newly minted member of Congress broadcast Sunday... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2019 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“In Marx’s analysis, the growing destruction of nature under capitalism is not simply a function of nature having become an object for humanity; rather, it is primarily a result of the sort of object that nature has become. Raw materials and products, according to Marx, are bearers of value in capitalism, in addition to being constituent elements of material wealth. Capital produces material wealth as a means of creating value. Hence, it consumes material wealth not only as the stuff of material wealth but also as a means of fueling its own self-expansion—that is, as a means of effecting the extraction and absorption of as much surplus labor time from the working population as possible. Ever increasing amounts of raw materials must be consumed even though the result is not a corresponding increase in the social form of surplus wealth (surplus value). The relation of humans and nature mediated by... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2019 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Today is the birthday of C.L.R. James (4 January 1901 – 19 May 1989), the remarkable Marxist humanist and Afro-Trinidadian socialist, historian, journalist, and essayist. Here are two of my posts from the archives on James: From “Cricketing in Compton” to the “Cricketing Marxist,” and The Marxist Spirituality of C.L.R. James. The following works help illuminate the life and writings of C.L.R. James, the “cricketing Marxist” and “urbane revolutionary:” Buhle, Paul. C.L.R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary. London: Verso, 1988. Buhle, Paul, ed. C.L.R. James: His Life and Work. London: Allison & Busby, 1986. Høgsbjerg, Christian and Charles Forsdick, eds. The Black Jacobins Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. Renton, Dave. C.L.R. James: Cricket’s Philosopher King. London: Haus, 2007. Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. London: Zed Books, 1983. Rosengarten, Frank. Urbane Revolutionary: C.L.R. James and the Struggle for a New Society. Jackson,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2019 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Some years ago, after one of the many and more horrific mass shootings in the U.S., a reader responded to a Crooked Timber blogger’s argument about the possible and probable underlying socio-cultural (and I would add ‘psychological’ and spiritual) conditions that appear to be responsible for making such shootings all too commonplace in this country (and, in this respect, atypical of similar affluent welfare state capitalist democracies): “…I am always a bit suspicious of claims that the modern world or modern America is unusually prone to psychosis, or is somehow generally schizotypal in ways that other places and times are not. It’s entirely possible, but how would one even begin to measure that, with changes in diagnostic criteria and changes in the way people deal with mental illness?” Herewith my reply to the original post and subsequent response to the reader above, more or less, as it is now edited... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2019 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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On this date in 1971, Daniel Ellsberg and his colleague, Anthony J. ‘Tony’ Russo Jr., were indicted by a federal grand jury for releasing the “Pentagon Papers” to the news media. The papers were part of a 7,000-page, top secret history of the U.S. political and military involvement in the Vietnam War from 1945-71. [The Pentagon Papers] energized the press and endowed it with a new confidence and sense of legitimacy, given its clear triumph over governmental secrecy. Claiming almost a co-equal status with governmental institutions, the media managed to identify themselves collectively as the people’s paladin against the impersonal, devious forces of government. [….] Thus, the Pentagon Papers incident intensified the adversarial relationship between the Administration and the media, a relationship that was to deteriorate still more sharply. These developments, together with a failure of the courts to provide the desired protection and relief demanded by the Administration, led... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I recently revised a piece on public health law that I wrote over ten years ago and am hoping to receive some critiques and comments from those interested in the topic. You can send them to me by way of e-mail (one address for which is on my Academia page) or leave them at this blog. Here is the paper with its latest title: Toward a Philosophically Sensitive Definition of Public Health Law. Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“We cannot go beyond it [i.e. Marxism] because we have not gone beyond the circumstances which engendered it.” — Jean Paul Sartre I would argue that our time calls for a prominent role to be played by an existential, humanist, or spiritual Marxism (these can, but need not be, synonymous; at the very least, they have strong family resemblance to each other). In my own case, Marxist beliefs exist alongside (perhaps uneasily, sometimes in tension or even contradiction with) elements from other therapeutic worldviews and philosophies, including those of Buddhism and psychoanalytic psychology, as well as one political philosophy: Liberalism!* Because of my perhaps peculiar or at least uncommon metaphysical or ontological beliefs about the nature of truth, which are genetically inspired by several Jain doctrines (anekāntavāda, nayavāda, and syādvāda), I’m inclined to believe most systematic or coherent philosophies and worldviews enable us to perceive truths of one kind or... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The year that marks the 50th anniversary of the political upheavals around the globe in 1968 is quickly coming to a close, so I want to share something from the Verso Radical Diary on that year, as well as my bibliography on the Left in the 1960s: “1968 was a year of global revolt. Vietnamese communist began with their infamous Tet Offensive against US troops, which ended with guerillas hoisting their Vietcong flag on the roof of the US embassy in Saigon [today: Ho Chi Minh City]. [….] In France, student strikes and occupations broke out in May, quickly ballooning to become the largest general strike to have ever halted the economy of an industrialized country—10 million workers occupied factories for weeks—and prompting President Charles de Gaulle to flee the country. The revolutionary spirit spread. Popular rebellions broke out against military dictatorships in Brazil, Spain, Argentina and Pakistan, and against... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Jacob Lawrence, Struggle 1 (1965) brush and ink, and gouache on paper “The news media report events. It’s left to the artists to ascribe meaning.” By Mary Gabriel for the Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2018 [….] “How does one write, paint, compose or perform works that describe this age without being consumed by it, without producing mere propaganda? How does one convey the simultaneous confusion and conviction, the anger and concomitant longing for calm — in short, the irrationality — with any degree of certainty? And how does one project through art a better path when the route is constantly shifting? Faced with such a difficult task, many artists wonder if they are obliged to be chroniclers of their times. During periods of war, social strife, economic upheaval, massive industrial or technological change, is it the duty of the artist to record and reflect that chaos? Yes it is,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Whereas Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm locate human destructiveness either in an a priori death instinct or in necrophilic tendencies stemming from stunted development at the anal or oedipal stage, I believe I have found many indications that destructiveness and murderous behavior is rooted in the betrayal human beings commit against themselves in order to share in a hallucinated sense of power. Since there is no ‘higher fate’ involved here but rather individuals who have cooperated more or less consciously in their own submission, a lifelong self-hatred ensues. The sad result is that only destructiveness imparts the feeling of aliveness. — From the Preface to Arno Gruen’s The Insanity of Normality—Realism as Sickness: Toward Understanding Human Destructiveness (1992; first published in German, 1987) After the brief biography below, I have pasted a snippet from a brilliant and clearly composed talk by Arno Gruen (May 26, 1923 – October 20, 2015)... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I recently have come across several comments about Gandhi’s ideas, spirituality and politics in various fora that I find tendentious, distorted (e.g., a caricature), or simply wrong (alas, one finds Leftists often shamelessly indulging in ‘Gandhi-bashing,’ which of course is something quite different from intelligent and informed criticism). One characterization in particular was spectacularly off-target, so I’ll spend some time here addressing it: Gandhi is described, without qualification, as being among the class of “conservative Hindus.” Gandhi’s identification with Hinduism was in fact utterly idiosyncratic and defined by him in such universalist terms as to be almost unrecognizable as “Hinduism,” despite the plethora of ideas he adopted from the tradition, ideas invariably subject to his unique and well-considered interpretations (Gandhi’s allegorical reading—in toto—of the Gita is highly unusual and perhaps utterly unique, at least within Hinduism proper). Gandhi would not accept conventional or orthodox renderings of concepts from Hinduism if... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Half of India’s 1.3 billion live in conditions of deprivation. Government policy over the past three decades—inspired by the neoliberal policy state—has produced a hostile environment for survival. A quarter of a million farmers and peasants have committed suicide, a direct consequence of capitalist agriculture and an adverse global trade order. The current government of the Hindu Right is not only the complete inheritor of such harsh economic policies, but it has the added disadvantage of being culturally suffocating. Attacks on freedom of expression and speech as well as a spectrum of threats against cultural and religious difference have begun to mark the social landscape. [….] Slowly, surely, the politics of the Shiv Sena and the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party: both fueled by an Hindutva ideology which is, I think, along with a significant number of social scientists inside and outside India, fundamentally fascist], as well as its allied organizations... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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In sharing my transdisciplinary bibliography on “addiction” with a Facebook group devoted to psychoanalytic psychology, I wrote the following by way of “an introduction or perhaps provocation.” Immediately below, I repeat in the first paragraph material from the original introduction to the bibliography which, as you’ll see, was stated rather abstractly and summarily: More than a few titles are not about addiction qua addiction, but deal with subject matter pertaining to the psychological, ethical and cultural questions that surround addiction as self-destructive behavior in the context of variables, causes, and consequences that are, we might say, at once individual or intrapersonal and interpersonal (in an intimate sense) and social. Yet the distinctions serve a purpose, as they are essential in addressing the specific dynamics and dialectics of interaction between these two dimensions or poles so as to better understand the nature of addiction in the contemporary world. For what it’s... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
In reading this, keep in mind that Chris Hedges is speaking to (readers within) several classes and strata in affluent countries, but in particular the U.S. “We pay a variety of lifestyle advisers—[Neal] Gabler calls them ‘essentially drama coaches’—to help us look and feel like celebrities, to build around us the set for the movie [or ‘Reality’ TV series] of our own life. Martha Stewart built her financial empire, when she wasn’t insider trading, telling women how to create and decorate a set design for the perfect home. The realities within the home, the actual family relationships, are never addressed. Appearances make everything whole. Plastic surgeons, fitness gurus, diet doctors, therapists, life coaches, interior designers, and fashion consultants all, in essence, promise to make us happy, to make us celebrities [or like celebrities in the small worlds we inhabit on a daily basis]. And happiness comes, we are assured, with... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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The few passages shared below are from John Cottingham’s, Philosophy and the Good Life: Reasons and the Passions in Greek, Cartesian and Psychoanalytic Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 1998). I find the argument they adumbrate utterly persuasive and thus believe these propositions spell out at least one way we might interpret and take seriously the late-1960s slogan that “the personal is political.” As such, it should be axiomatic to any Left-inspired emancipatory strategy and project that traces its pedigree to the three principles enshrined in the tripartite motto that first appeared in the French Revolution: liberté, égalité, fraternité (the last can and should be interpreted in an anthropological sense sans a specific gender reference, although some have come to prefer the term ‘solidarity’ in its place, an unfortunate choice if only because it lacks the stronger connotations of community that resonate with the concept of ‘fraternity’) For example, one can think... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
Horrific crimes can be committed, and tolerated or ignored, be they municipal or international, or environmental, human rights can be dismissed as irrelevant, and ethical and social norms routinely and flagrantly violated, as long as it contributes to what Trump—a pathological narcissist and megalomaniacal menace in the highest office of the land—understands as putting “America First” or “Making America Great Again” (MAGA), both mind-numbing nationalist slogans understood in final reference to a bottom line defined in terms of money (obscene profits at one end, and conspicuous consumption at the other). The President is shamelessly fond of authoritarian rulers around the globe and despotism more generally. Democratic norms, values, and laws are not relevant to this crude and immoral economic calculus. The constitutional rule of law is viewed as an annoying obstacle to MAGA that will be removed once a sufficient number of compliant if not sycophantic federal judges and Supreme... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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I think it is true that Freudian interpretation depends generally on the everyday reason-explanation model—sometimes called ‘folk psychology’—which it then expands in various ways, and that precisely this is one of its strengths. — Marcia Cavell In brief, and thus minimally speaking, psychoanalytic theory provides us with a theory of irrationality (not identical to existing from other forms of irrationality, psychologically based or otherwise) that involves both propositional and non-propositional mental states or primary and secondary process thinking;1 a philosophically sophisticated psychology, a metapsychology, and a therapeutic model of psychology; a method of scientific investigation as a “science of subjectivity” (at once intra-clinical and extra-clinical, psychoanalysis being the ‘first great theory and practice of personal life’), psychoanalytic explanation involving both causal relations and relations of meaning, with the analysis of symbolism depending upon their mutual inextricability (we might plausibly imagine a ‘grammar, semantics, pragmatics’ of psychoanalysis); a dyadic model of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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It is philosophers who have the task of exploring what matters to us most—what is freedom? What is it genuinely for us to be happy? What is worth valuing and why?—but it is psychoanalysis that teaches us how we regularly get in the way of our own freedom, systematically make ourselves unhappy and use values for covert and malign purposes. Philosophy cannot live up to its task unless it takes these psychoanalytic challenges seriously. — Jonathan Lear “The parts of Freud’s writings that suggest some level of causal determination in fact coexist with his explicit view that one of the chief goals of psychoanalysis is to increase the patient’s ‘freedom’ (Freiheit), ‘autonomy’ (Selbstandigkeit), and ‘initiative’ (Initiative). Thus the aim of psychoanalysis is to ‘free’ (befrein) the patient from intrapsychic ‘chains’ (die Fesseln), which normally increases the patient’s ‘self-control’ (Selbstbeherrschung) and gives ‘the patient’s ego freedom to decide one way or... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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“Made homeless by flames, Camp fire evacuees face hardship, disease and desperation” By Nicole Santa Cruz , Maria L. La Ganga and Marisa Gerber, for the Los Angeles Times, Nov. 15, 2018 Don Hardin burrowed between blankets in his SUV, and switched on the heater whenever the shivers returned. Even during the day Thursday, the 81-year-old Camp fire evacuee, who has arthritis, struggled to stay warm. When temperatures dropped near freezing Wednesday night, Hardin popped a sleeping pill. Nearby, a woman bear-hugged her grandson for body heat and, inside a small green tent, a man had nightmares of his escape from flames — he flashed back to the car he watched drive into the fire, wondering if he could have saved the people inside. It had been one week since the Camp fire destroyed everything they owned and respite still seemed out of sight. In a region that was facing... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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Here is my latest bibliography (that should be it for a while): The Qur’ān (Translations, Commentaries, Studies). Related compilations (i.e., with family resemblance of some kind): The Arab World The Bedouin Modern Iran Islam, the Arts, and Aesthetic Experience Islam and Jurisprudence Islam and Muslims in the U.S. Islamic Studies The Prophet Muhammad Sufism Miscellany: Democracy and Islam Poetry & Islam essay Islam Study Guide Book Review: Oliver Leaman’s Islamic Aesthetics: An Introduction (2004) Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com
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My 100th bibliography (books, in English) is on The Prophet Muhammad. Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2018 at ReligiousLeftLaw.com