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Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time) Paperback – February 17, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The author of this enthralling book - Kwame Anthony Appiah - challenges this kind of separative thinking by resurrecting the ancient philosophy of "cosmopolitanism." This school of thought that dates back almost 2500 years to the Cynics of Ancient Greece. They first articulated the cosmopolitan ideal that all human beings were citizens of the world. Later on, these ideas were elaborated by another group of philosophers: the Stoics.
According to Appiah, the influence of cosmopolitanism has stretched down the ages and through to the Enlightenment. He takes Immanuel Kant's notion of a League of Nations and the Declaration of the Rights of Man to be two manifestations of this ancient idea.
Appiah sees cosmopolitanism as a dynamic concept based on two fundamental ideas. First is the idea that we have responsibilities to others that are beyond those based on kinship or citizenship. Second is something often forgotten: just because other people have different customs and beliefs from ours, they will likely still have meaning and value. We may not agree with someone else, but mutual understanding should be a first goal.
The book is full of personal experiences. I doubt that anyone else could have written it: His mother was an English author and daughter of the statesman Sir Stafford Cripps, and his father a Ghanaian barrister and politician, who reminded his children to remember that they were "citizens of the world.Read more ›
Appiah, here as elsewhere (The Ethics of Identity), marvels that so many intellectuals have distorted the truth about the key insights of cosmopolitans, and he takes them to task. These have argued that cosmopolitanism contains an incredible and/or dangerous set of normative proposals and disregards the "facts" of human nature (that we are an insular species, with a territoriality that is red in tooth and claw). Appiah deftly replies that it is the cultural conservative, the jejune jingoist or nationalist, the duped hyper-contextualist, whose view of the world and of human nature is distorted, for the history of human social, cultural and even sexual intercourse is replete with cross-pollinations of language, religion, art, dress, rites, metaphysical outlooks, and progeny, all bespeaking an enormous aptitude for cooperation, bonding and friendship.Read more ›
This book tackles some of the ethical issues involved as the global perspective is taking shape. Most of his prescriptions are pragmatic (Chap. 4: "Primacy of Practice"), rather than doctrinaire, evidenced most clearly in his chapter on pluralistic cultures and how best to "manage" their differences (Chap. 8: "Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?"). He clearly disdains the positivist approach ("Escape from Positivism"), yet in spite of this disdain, he keeps to the empirical side of most questions (Chap. 3: "Evidence on the Ground"). Aristotlean common-sense is offered where it's needed.
That we are all neighbors should by now be obvious (Chap. 5: "Imaginary Strangers" and passim), and while capitalism is accepted, not without its fetters. Islamic and Christian fundamentalism are reproved appropriately (Chap. 9: "The Counter-Cosmopolitans"), while the Anglican-type of latitudinarianism is espoused (without the religious particulars). "Pluralism" is our global credo, to which I heartily reply, "Amen." I often wish we recognized it as our national credo as well.
He forthrightly repudiates Singer's and Unger's utilitarian "moral calculi," and extols a person-centered ethic in their stead.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The title (to me at least) sounds like the book is a practical guide to cosmopolitanism. In a way it is, but through anecdotes of the author's personal family and life, and with... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
I got this book a while ago and still go back to reread the book. It's about cultures and its influences on a human nature. Read morePublished 2 months ago by RayStee
Interesting approach to getting along in our shrinking world. Well thought out and accessible.Published 3 months ago by G. H. Goodwin
It's a very good book but it was a little difficult to read at first. I had to reread it a couple of times to understand. Read morePublished 10 months ago by lucero
Appiah is one of those authors whose name kept getting mentioned in other books and I kept meaning to pick up something by him. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Adrienne