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Cosmopolitan ethics: Theoretical and realistic approach to creating an optimal society

Cosmopolitanism is an ideology with ties to a number of significant and long-standing values, including the belief that all human beings are members of one family, the conviction that human rights and responsibilities are fundamental, and the expectation that there will be a mutual league of nations pursuing goals that favor humanity.


Cosmopolitan ethics: Theoretical and realistic approach to creating an optimal societyCosmopolitan identities have crucial functions in deciding and identifying the various manifestations of modern-day human life. It should be remembered that cosmopolitan consciousness is, naturally, a mindset and knowledge consisting of reflection. In post-globalized world, cosmopolitanism concept gets more focus and acceptance from the public. It is because it delineates extensive significances of diversity and variety, which in turn demolishes the linear definition of human existence. As globalisation was first introduced not only in the economic market.

Cosmopolitanism is an ideology with ties to a number of significant and long-standing values, including the belief that all human beings are members of one culture, the conviction that human rights and responsibilities are fundamental, and the expectation that there will be a mutual league of nations pursuing goals that are beneficial to mankind.

Universality and precision are two essential components which should be taken into account when considering cosmopolitan manifestations. The optimal balance between universality and specificity should be centered on a degree of neutrality which may be out of individual interpretation and conceives the sacrificial material. This paper aims to understand different ways of applying cosmopolitanism. This also confers on cosmopolitan culture the instigation of new discourses in present society.

Cosmopolitanism is the anglicised form of a concept first popularized by the Greek philosopher Sinope Diogenes (412/404 B.C.-323 B.C.). As a later philosopher stated, “when asked where he came from [Diogenes of Sinope], he answered, ‘I am a citizen of the world [kosmopolitês]’ (Diogenes Laertius VI 63)” (cited in Kleingeld& Brown, 2006). In ancient Athens, the most egalitarian city-state in ancient Greece, the concept of cosmopolitanism was in the air where Socrates and his friend Plato spoke of universal truths common to all mankind. The notion of a shared humanity was further popularized in the 3rd century B.C by the philosophical school known as Stoicism. (Berges, 55). Political activities have also conspired to spread the notion of cosmopolitanism:

Stoic cosmopolitanism was incredibly influential in the Greco-Roman world in its different ways. This popularity can be explained in part by remembering just how cosmopolitan the world was at the time. The conquests of Alexander the Great and the resulting division of his empire into successor territories sapped local cities from much of their traditional authority and facilitated expanded city-to-city interactions, and later the rise of the Roman Empire unified the entire Mediterranean under one political force (Kleingeld & Brown, 2006, par. 8).

Nevertheless, in the Greco-Roman era, the cosmopolitan concept was most often promoted by those who were not the power holders of society, but the outcasts and those of the lower classes, which helps to understand why cosmopolitanism has, to say the least, had a spotty success record. On those rare occasions when cosmopolitanism was introduced by the strong, such as Alexander, it was largely by force of arms, not through rational argument (Vertovec & Cohen, 2002, p. 139).Today there continues to be general consensus in the West, although perhaps no longer focused on theological assumptions, that some sort of cosmopolitanism, radically interpreted or not, is a cornerstone. Yes, cosmopolitanism in our time was most prominently underpinned by all the technological breakthroughs of the 20th and 21st centuries. For example, as recorded in the Human Genome Project findings, evolutionary biology has shown that all human beings (homo sapiens sapiens) share a common ancestor who lived in remote Africa between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago (cf. Oppenheimer, 2003; Mellars, 2006, p. 9381). As evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, “All your descendants are mine, wherever you are, and all mine belongs to you, not only technically, but literally” (Dawkins, 2004, p. 39). Although not metaphysically we are one genetically.

Naturally, theoretical commitment to our shared humanity isn’t the same as cosmopolitanism. While many, over the ages, have given lip service to the notion that what unites human beings as a group is much deeper than the superficial differences in skin colour, language or religion that separate us, humanity’s bloody past demonstrates that peaceful coexistence by mutual understanding has become more the dream than truth.

To action how does cosmopolitanism work? Pogge (2002) distinguishes critically between weak and solid cosmopolitanism. Poor cosmopolitanism, which is primarily passive, views all human beings as having equal worth. Big, more involved cosmopolitanism views all human beings as equally dignified. Pogge sees weak cosmopolitanism as a truism, while he claims that strong cosmopolitanism is clearly false. Yes, it seems entirely possible-and this is confirmed by many evolutionary psychologists-that we are usually more obligated or altruistic towards the genetic kin than total strangers (Wilson, 1975; Foster, Wenseleers&Ratnieks, 2006; cf. Wilson, 2005). When trying to direct a course between the two extremes, Pogge proposes a “intermediate cosmopolitanism” in which “all individuals have a negative obligation of very high stringency towards any human being not to participate in forcing upon him or her an unfair institutional order” (Pogge, 2002, p. 89). This is, human beings must not be active participants in constructing, promoting, or enforcing oppressive structures upon their fellow people.

Despite those clarifications, cosmopolitanism’s importance remains somewhat nebulous. For certain authors, cosmopolitanism must be contrasted with multiculturalism, although at times the two words are used almost interchangeably in the sense of education (cf. Nussbaum, 1994). Kwame Anthony Appiah (cited in Brookes, 2006 ) observed in a recent interview that, for some, the word still carries tremendous negative baggage:

This was struck both from the left and from the centre. It was used by the right as a metaphor for anti-Semitic violence and the point was that anyone who had a sense of duty to the jewish race as a whole would be bad racists, bad patriots. The other way to strike, from the left, was that cosmopolitanism was a rather elitist phenomenon. It came to mean the wealthy person’s kind of free-floating mentality who can afford to wander around the world to sample a little of this culture and that one and not be too responsible for all of it.

I don’t believe that cosmopolitanism needs to be either elitist or unpatriotic; I think it’s entirely possible to combine a sense of moral obligation for other people as human beings with a deeper sense of loyalty to a political group. To me, the main elements about cosmopolitanism are, first of all, the universal interest – the belief the we are all responsible to the human race, which is the fundamental concept of morality. That makes the cosmopolitan approach unique is that it comes with an understanding that experiences with others are not about making them like us. Cosmopolitans acknowledge, and even like, that people live differently; that free human beings choose to live differently and choose to express themselves differently. And that openness to variation, I think, comes from some form of acceptance combined with recognition of human fallibility. One of the reasons we’re grateful that there are people out there that aren’t like us is because we’re pretty sure there’s a lot of stuff we’re wrong about.

The question of whether the centrality of individual identity for social life is a recent development or a fundamental human being is not yet addressed in scholarly discourse, contributing to the increasingly interchangeable usage of words such as ‘identity,’ ‘personality,’ ‘subjectivity’ or ‘character’ and leading to a lack of clarification about the application of identity formation terminology. I take a constructivist approach towards identity, believing that while people differ in their sense of self and their connection to their social and natural environment, these differences are to some degree the consequence of a specific history and the discourses and practices surrounding them, which in turn are the result of a particular setting of control.

Nevertheless, I do not see identities as externally imposed, as people perceive their meaning differently and thus create individual conceptions of themselves and their surroundings. Such an identity view runs counter to essentialism, which holds that identity is based on an unchanging center of attributes that can help to delineate distinctly, e.g., racial or national identities. For my purposes, I define identity as a form of self-understanding and one’s social context, derived from but not placed on a specific historical background by the discourses and practices at hand. Such a view is also prevalent in much of poststructuralist philosophy, the interpretation of identity of which can be summarized as the argument that “in fact, socially and traditionally placed people build their subjectivity.” Across the Global South, cosmopolitan cultures appear to be studied mainly out of ethnographic interest and are viewed as contributions to the anthropology discipline. This trend can be seen as a perpetuation of some academic disciplines, such as anthropology, which produce knowledge about the exotic ‘other’ while others, such as anthropology, producing knowledge about the exotic ‘Other’, while others, such as political science or sociology, produce universally valid knowledge on topics of general concern.

Cosmopolitanism has two facets to it, and both are important. The first is Universalist: it says it belongs to everyone. But in their simplicity, they matter to who they are and not who you want them to be. The problem is that there are people around who want to reshape the environment, in their own picture, want to reshape everybody else. If you are going to have a fruitful cross-cultural discussion or a cross-identity discussion, you have to listen to what you are assessing and consider it. Two facets of cosmopolitanism that help to better define the term: “One is the idea that we have obligations to others, obligations that stretch beyond those to whom we are related by the ties of kith and kind, or even the more formal ties of a shared citizenship” (Appiah 2006, xv), and “the other is that we take seriously the value not just of human life but of particular human lives, which means taking an interest in the practices and beliefs that lend them significance” (Appiah 2006, xv). Here the idea of community and solidarity despite social, financial, but more so, cultural differences is reinforced. Each individual has a duty to one another but also that each individual has an obligation to themselves. Taking into account the second aspect, he urges respect for the importance of the cultures of the people. By doing so, greater respect and gratitude is given to all and the outcome predicted is harmony. He states that this is just one side of the coin and that there have been instances of tension over social, economic , and cultural differences; that although the cosmopolitan concept does “preach” tolerance of different cultures, it also provides the ability for groups to place their cultural values higher.


  • One might say that the cosmopolitan individual would be rootless, which is scarcely a pleasant way of living. Such individuals may profess impartiality or loyalty to “humanity” but they care very little about individuals and societies.
  • Another concern is that it may not be as straightforward as it seems. Values, it would seem, are relative to particular times and locations. No individuals or groups have a privileged right to absolute and factual reality, not even philosophers. Cosmopolitanism may, in reality, be a disguised cultural or national imperialism.
  • Cosmopolitanism is actually impractical, since there are too many gaps between human classes. In the twenty-first century a clash of civilizations has eclipsed cosmopolitan dreams, expressed especially in terrorism and a war against it. Yes, there’s talk of “globalization,” but that term is just about international economic competition, which can exacerbate disparities and inequalities, even as it homogenizes the world’s goods and prevailing communication and consumption habits. There’s talk of “multiculturalism,” but it’s not clear that its sometimes shallow acceptance of cultural and ethnic differences has brought about the respect for others needed to change the deeply ingrained social structures under which deprivation and inequality live.

This acknowledged the strength of these objections, but far from taking them as fatal;I think they may contribute to a reaffirmation of the value of cosmopolitanism. Rootlessness is no virtue, but the grim state does not mean the cosmopolitanism of Appiah. In the opposite, his ethics in a world of strangers shows that discrepancies between individuals and their particularities are vital to meaningful lives. It follows that life can not be lived well in circumstances that refuse to value differences and particularities. Cosmopolitanism asserts that respect for differences and particularities is essential. Nevertheless, the respect can not be exercised by one individual or community and ignored by others. Cosmopolitanism’s ethical philosophy maintains that integrity must be retained beyond the individual arena over personal viewpoints, but from that ethical perspectives.

The aim is to define and protect an ethical perspective that can function in what the subtitle of Cosmopolitanism calls “a world of strangers.” The world of the twenty-first century is both similar and different from the world of the fourth century BC. As ancient philosophers coined the word “cosmopolitan,” referring to a “citizen of the world, then and in contemporary life as well, one was typically a citizen of a specific location, region, state, or non-universe nation. Nevertheless, in the twenty-first century, the population of the planet is approaching nine billion. People live closer than ever in space and time but there have never been so many potentially hostile aliens.

Within the midst of these similarities and differences, though there have been tremendous changes in the world, and perhaps partly because of them, a long-standing tradition has developed over the centuries: a person could and should be a world citizen. Cosmopolitanism is an ideology with ties to a number of significant and long-standing values, including the belief that all human beings are members of one family, the conviction that human rights and responsibilities are fundamental, and the expectation that there will be a mutual league of nations pursuing goals that favor humanity. On a personal level, cosmopolitanism embodies much-needed virtues which include respect for people who are different from ourselves, resistance to discrimination and prejudice, and hospitality toward strangers other than ourselves. The ideal balance between universality and specificity should be focused on a degree of neutrality which may be out of individual experience and conceives the sacrificial material.

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