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Monday, June 19, 2006


I'm pleased to report that my essay "Rooted Cosmopolitans" appears in the current issue of POLICY REVIEW.  I posted my early thinking about this subject here at Prawfs; readers were helpful, as always. 

Posted by Ethan Leib on June 19, 2006 at 11:58 PM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


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That seems like a pretty big oversight on my part! I think the standard argument is a Kantian/Rawlsian one, one probably too involved for a blog comment. You are right that a religious argument could also do the trick -- but only a very particular valence of 'agape' works; as I'm sure you realize many religions reinforce all kinds of particularism that do not mesh well with cosmopolitanism's rigid psychological requirements.

Thank you for your comments.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Jun 20, 2006 12:28:45 PM

I enjoyed reading your piece. I am not a political theorist but I wonder if you would indulge what is probably an inexpert question about cosmopolitanism.

You explain very well that the 'old-school' cosmopolitanism is making very demanding claims about what we owe others, as fellow human beings, notwithstanding our inclination to concentrate on only those people to whom we have close attachments. Appiah offers a watered-down version of the same sort of claim, which you describe and critique effectively.

On what is the claim that we should care about other human beings with whom we have little or no connection based? As you point out, it has been attacked from the moral psychology standpoint. I can think of only one baseline (or perhaps two) that conceivably could provide an adequate foundation for the belief, e.g., that we should care about our fellow human beings because we are all essentially equal, or that all human beings are entitled to basic human dignity. That baseline is religious. Another baseline might be Kantian. I'm not saying by any means that being religious is any guarantee that one will take these commitments to heart (that's certainly not true). But there are very developed arguments (as well as powerful moral psychological forces) that religions bring to bear on the obligations we owe to our fellows that are difficult to replicate from a purely secular perspective (witness, e.g., Dworkin's spectacularly unconvincing argument that each human being is a perfect "masterpiece" unto itself and therefore fundamentally equal to all others).

I'm curious about the underlying basis for cosmopolitanism's demanding claims about what we owe others. Can you explain?

Posted by: md | Jun 20, 2006 8:35:08 AM

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