Cosmopolitan Ethics: pragmatic and theoretical approach for construction of an ideal society


Cosmopolitan identities have indispensible roles in determining and defining various appearances of human life in modern age. It is to be noted that cosmopolitan conscience is obviously a reflection inclusive mentality and awareness. In post globalised world, theme of cosmopolitanism receives more attention and public acceptance. This is because it delineates comprehensive meanings of diversity and variety that in turn demolishes rigid concept of human life. Not only in economic sector as globalisation was imported firstly.

Cosmopolitanism is an idea with links to a variety of significant and long-standing ideals, including the view that all human beings are members of one family, the conviction that there are universal human rights and obligations, and the hope that there can be a cooperating league of nations that advances goals that are beneficial for humankind.On a personal level, cosmopolitanism embodies much needed virtues that include respect for people who are different from ourselves, resistance against discrimination and prejudice, and hospitality toward strangers that of others.

Universality and specificity are two major components that should be taken to account while discussing about cosmopolitan manifestations. The ideal balance between the universality and specificity should be based upon a neutral level that might be out of individual perception and that conceives the content of sacrifice. This paper seeks to realize different applications of cosmopolitanism in different ways. And furthermore it confers that cosmopolitan identity instigates new discourses of present society.The Origin of the Cosmopolitan Idea

Cosmopolitanism is the anglicised version of a term first popularized by the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope (412/404 B.C. – 323 B.C.). As a later philosopher recorded, “when [Diogenes of Sinope] was asked where he came from, he replied, ‘I am a citizen of the world [kosmopolitês]’ (Diogenes Laertius VI 63).” (Cited in Kleingeld& Brown, 2006). The idea of cosmopolitanism was in the air in ancient Athens, the most liberal city-state in ancient Greece, where Socrates and his student Plato spoke of universal truths applicable to all humanity. The idea of a common humanity was further popularized by the philosophical school known as Stoicism in the 3rd century B.C. (Berges, 2005). Political events also conspired to foster the cosmopolitan idea:

Stoic cosmopolitanism in its various guises was enormously persuasive throughout the Greco-Roman world. In part, this success can be explained by noting how cosmopolitan the world at that time was. Alexander the Great’s conquests and the subsequent division of his empire into successor kingdoms sapped local cities of much of their traditional authority and fostered increased contacts between cities, and later, the rise of the Roman Empire united the whole of the Mediterranean under one political power (Kleingeld& Brown, 2006, par. 8).

Still, the cosmopolitan idea in the Greco-Roman world was most often advocated by those who were not the power brokers in society, but the outcasts and those of the lower classes, which helps to explain why cosmopolitanism has had, to say the least, a spotty record of progress. On those rare occasions when cosmopolitanism has been spread by the powerful, such as Alexander, it has been primarily through force of arms, not reasoned argument (Vertovec& Cohen, 2002, p. 139).Today there continues to be general agreement in the West, though perhaps not based any longer on religious presuppositions, that some form of cosmopolitanism, whether interpreted radically or not, is correct. Indeed, cosmopolitanism in our time has been buttressed most notably by all of the scientific breakthroughs in the 20th and 21st centuries. For example, evolutionary biology, as documented in the results of the Human Genome Project, has shown that all human beings (homo sapiens sapiens) share a common ancestor who lived in Africa in the remote past, between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago (cf. Oppenheimer, 2003; Mellars, 2006, p. 9381). As evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, “All your ancestors are mine, whoever you are, and all mine are yours. Not just approximately, but literally” (Dawkins, 2004, p. 39). We are one genetically, if not metaphysically.

Intellectual assent to our common humanity is not the same as cosmopolitanism, of course. While many, throughout centuries , have paid lip service to the idea that what united human beings as a species is far more profound than the superficial differences in skin colour, language or religion that divide us, the bloody history of humanity shows that peaceful coexistence through mutual understanding has been more the ideal than the reality.Cosmopolitanism in the Real World

How does cosmopolitanism work in practice? Pogge (2002) makes an important distinction between weak and strong cosmopolitanism. Weak cosmopolitanism, which is predominately passive, considers all humans as having equal worth. Strong cosmopolitanism, which is more active, treats all human beings as equally worthy. Pogge considers weak cosmopolitanism to be a truism, while he believes strong cosmopolitanism to be self-evidently false. Indeed, it seems perfectly true – and this is supported by many evolutionary psychologists – that we are, as a rule, more obliging or altruistic toward genetic kin than perfect strangers (Wilson, 1975; Foster, Wenseleers&Ratnieks, 2006; cf. Wilson, 2005). Seeking to steer a path between the two extremes, Pogge suggests an “intermediate cosmopolitanism” wherein “all persons have a negative duty of very high stringency toward every human being not to collaborate in imposing an unjust institutional order upon him or her” (Pogge, 2002, p. 89). That is, human beings must not be active participants in building, supporting or imposing institutions of oppression upon their fellows.

Despite these clarifications, the meaning of cosmopolitanism remains somewhat nebulous. For some scholars, cosmopolitanism must be contrasted with multiculturalism, while in the context of education the two terms are sometimes used almost interchangeably (cf. Nussbaum, 1994). In a recent interview, Kwame Anthony Appiah (cited in Brookes, 2006) noted that the term still carries considerable negative baggage for some:

It’s been attacked from both the left and the right. From the right, it was used as a term of anti-Semitic abuse, and their point was that people who had a sense of responsibility to the human community as a whole were going to be bad nationalists, bad patriots. The other direction of attack, from the left, was that cosmopolitanism was something very elitist. It came to mean a kind of free-floating attitude of the rich person who can afford to travel all over the world tasting a little bit of this culture and that one and not being very responsible about any of it.

I don’t think that cosmopolitanism has to be either elitist or unpatriotic; I think it’s perfectly possible to combine a sense of real responsibility for other human beings as human beings with a deeper sense of commitment to a political community. As far as I’m concerned, the key things in cosmopolitanism are, first, that global concern–the acceptance that we’re all responsible for the human community, which is the fundamental idea of morality. What’s distinctive about the cosmopolitan attitude is that it comes with a recognition that encounters with other people aren’t about making them like us. Cosmopolitans accept and indeed like the fact that people live in different ways; that free human beings will choose to live in different ways and will choose to express themselves in different ways. And that openness to difference comes, I think, from a kind of toleration combined with recognition of human fallibility. One of the reasons why we’re glad there are people out there who aren’t like us is that we’re pretty certain that there are a lot of things we’re wrong about.Universality and Specificity

The question whether the centrality of individual identity for social life is a modern invention or a human universal is still not resolved in academic debate, contributing to the largely interchangeable use of terms like ‘identity’, ‘personhood’, ‘subjectivity’, or ‘individual’ and leading to a lack of clarity regarding the application of the terminology of identity formation. I adopt a constructivist stance towards identity, assuming that while people vary in their sense of self and their relation to their social and natural environment, these differences will be to some extent the product of a particular history and the discourses and practices surrounding them, which in turn are the results of a particular power setting.

I see identities nevertheless not as externally imposed, as people interpret their context in different ways and thus produce individual notions of themselves and their environment. Such a view of identity runs contrary to essentialism, which holds that identity is based on an unchanging core of characteristics that can serve to clearly delineate e.g. ethnic or national identities. For my purposes, I define identity as a form of understanding oneself and one’s social world drawn from but not imposed by the discourses and practices at hand based on a particular historical background. Such a view is also prevalent in much of poststructuralist theory, whose understanding of identity can be summarized as the position that “socially and historically positioned persons construct their subjectivities in practice”. Cosmopolitan identities in the Global South seem to be analysed mainly out of ethnographic curiosity and are perceived as contributions to the discipline of anthropology. This tendency can be seen as a perpetuation of some academic disciplines, 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.

There are two strands to cosmopolitanism, and both are essential. The first is Universalist: it says everybody matters. But they matter in their specificity, as who they are, not who you want them to be. The problem is that there are people going around who want to reshape the world, want to reshape everybody else, in their own image. If you’re going to have a productive cross-cultural conversation or a cross-identity conversation, you’ve to listen and understand what you’re evaluating. Two aspects of cosmopolitanism that aid in better defining 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 the respect of the value of people’s cultures. By doing so, greater respect and appreciation is shown to all and the expect result is peace. He does note that this is just one side of the coin and that there have been cases where conflict has occurred over social, economic, and cultural differences; and while the cosmopolitan ideal does “preach” acceptance of different backgrounds, it also sets up the opportunity for groups to rank their cultural values over.


· The cosmopolitan person, it could be argued, will be rootless, which is scarcely a desirable way to live. Such people may profess impartiality or allegiance to “humanity” but care too little for individual persons and communities.

· Another problem is that cosmopolitanism may not be as universal as it sounds. Values, it seems, are relative to particular times and places. No individuals or groups, not even philosophers, have a privileged access to absolute and objective truth. In fact, cosmopolitanism may be cultural or national imperialism in disguise.

· Cosmopolitanism is simply unrealistic because differences between human groups are too strong. In the twenty-first century a clash of civilizations, reflected especially in terrorism and a war against it, has eclipsed cosmopolitan dreams. Yes, there is talk about “globalization,” but that concept is really about international economic competition that may be intensifying differences and inequalities even as it homogenizes the world’s products and dominant patterns of communication and consumption. There is talk about “multiculturalism,” but it is not clear that its often superficial acknowledgment of cultural and ethnic differences has produced the respect for others that is needed to reform the deeply entrenched social structures in which poverty and injustice dwell.

It recognized the force of these objections, but far from taking them to be fatal;I think that they can lead to a reaffirmation of cosmopolitanism’s importance. Rootlessness is no virtue, but that bleak condition is not what Appiah’s cosmopolitanism entails. To the contrary, his ethics in a world of strangers underscores that differences between people and particularities about them are crucial for meaningful lives. It follows that life cannot be lived well in conditions where differences and particularities are not respected. Cosmopolitanism affirms the importance of respect for differences and particularities. This respect, however, cannot be practiced by one person or group and ignored by others. The ethical logic of cosmopolitanism insists that the respect must be maintained at outside the individual platform over the personal perspectives but at common ethical perspectives.Conclusion

The project is to identify and defend an ethical outlook that can work in what the subtitle of Cosmopolitanism calls “a world of strangers.” The twenty-first century world is both the same and different from the world of the fourth century BC. When ancient philosophers coined the term “cosmopolitan,” referring to a “citizen of the cosmos, Then and in contemporary life as well, one has normally been a citizen of a particular place, city, state, or country not of the universe.. In the twenty-first century, however, the world’s population is approaching nine billion. In space and time, people live closer than ever, but never have there been so many potentially hostile strangers.

Amid these similarities and differences, while immense changes in the world have taken place and indeed partly because of them, a long-standing tradition has grown over the centuries: a person could and should be a citizen of the world. Cosmopolitanism is an idea with links to a variety of significant and long-standing ideals, including the view that all human beings are members of one family, the conviction that there are universal human rights and obligations, and the hope that there can be a cooperating league of nations that advances goals that are beneficial for humankind. On a personal level, cosmopolitanism embodies much needed virtues that include respect for people who are different from ourselves, resistance against discrimination and prejudice, and hospitality toward strangers that of others. The ideal balance between the universality and specificity should be based upon a neutral level that might be out of individual perception and that conceives the content of sacrifice.

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