Review: Appiah’s Cosmopolitianism

Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time)
Kwame Anthony Appiah

I read a fair number of think-piece-next-big-idea type books. Most of these have little to no staying power, either in the culture at large, or in my own head. Appiah’s conception of cosmopolitanism as described in this little book is different. It sticks with me. Call me a globalized liberal who thinks we can work most things out, but the conception of toleration of all but intolerance is incredibly appealing.

It is also appealing that Appiah isn’t laying out an all-encompassing theory of the world here (I am completely sick of all-encompassing theories), yet nor is he content with all-out relativism. Appiah seems to be trying to walk a line somewhere in the middle. He argues that through engagement, “contamination” and tolerance we can create a new ethics of acceptance of difference, both culturally and politically. What exactly this means in practical application isn’t always clear, and this small book doesn’t answer all the questions I have, but it’s a start. And a conception of the world to come that I’m excited about pursuing.


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  1. Review: Sen’s Identity and Violence | Milo and the Calf

    […] Amartya Sen is kind of a hero of mine. He is totally brilliant, diverse in his interests, politically principled while practical, and an economist who understands economics do not explain the totality of the human experience. This is a little book he wrote for the series Henty Louis Gates editors of smarty pants people writing serious but popular books. K. A. Appiah wrote one of these two, and I review it here. […]

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