Home » Modern and Post Modern » Modern and Post Modern – Cosmopolitan

Modern and Post Modern – Cosmopolitan

This is my last essay for the course Modern and Post Modern. I was concerned about this one as I didn’t have a lot of time to concentrate on and write it and had to do it in my work breaks.

Anyway here it is, comments and grades at the bottom.


Kwame Anthony Appiah during a visit to Knox Co...

Kwame Anthony Appiah(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Cornel West, keynote speaker at the M...

Cornel West,  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Which two thinkers in our class do you think Anthony Appiah would consider “Cosmopolitan” in his terms?

I think that Rorty and West fit the bill.

Firstly to determine what Appiah’s terms are for being “Cosmopolitan”. For him it “begins with the simple idea that in the human community, as in national communities, we need to develop habits of coexistence: conversation in its older meaning, of living together, association”[1] . He talks a lot about the importance of conversation and how we can use it to better live together.  In order to coexist he says there are two main basis. Firstly we need to agree that our obligations towards others “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” and secondly “we need to take seriously the value not just of human life but of particularly human lives, which means taking an interest in the practices and beliefs that lend them significance.”  So briefly everyone has some obligation to everyone else, all human life is important as are their cultures and beliefs that make them who they are. Everyone has the right to a life of significance and dignity

In his book [2] Rorty states that “One cannot be irresponsible towards a community of which one does not think of oneself as a member. Otherwise runaway slaves and tunnelers under the Berlin Wall would be irresponsible. If such criticism were to make sense there would have to be a super community one had to identify with-humanity as such”.

For him there are no foundations and we need to be rational within the group that we are in and at the same time respect the groups that we are not in. So the runaway slaves in the above quote were rational within their group. The slave owners were responsible to their group but gave no moral respect to the group the salves were in.  “The moral justification of the institutions and practices of one’s group….is mostly a matter of historical narratives … rather than of philosophical metanarritives.”.  We shouldn’t try to find the “big other” and accept societies for what they are.

For him life is about making the world a better place for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. No one is outside a community so that you can’t view other societies from a neutral viewpoint and we have to accept that. You can only be rational within your own group. Human dignity comes from being within your own community. I think this makes Rorty a cosmopolitan as he believes that each community has its own rights and values that are equally valid and that people can’t logically criticise groups that we are not in. We shouldn’t try to demolish groups that we are not in as we can’t understand them

Cornel West describes ‘Prophetic pragmatism’” as attempting “to keep alive the sense of alternative ways of life and of struggle based on the best of the past. In this sense, the praxis of prophetic pragmatism is tragic action with revolutionary intent, usually reformist consequences and always visionary outlook”.[3].Unlike Rorty who was more a Platonist than a pragmatist West sees society based on catastrophe.  Despite the beginnings of society he does agree that the world is diverse and that’s OK. As long as everyone has enough of everything then individual beliefs and ways of life should be able to rub along together.

West sees a sense of urgency within societies to change others but he tempers this with the tragedy that no one can do this. He says “..prophetic pragmatism denies Sisyphean pessimism and utopian perfectionism” . He tries to guide society between traditions and pessimism. He also sees that we can make the world a better place through change for our children and grandchildren. He has the same view as Rorty in that he feels our views are all based on the societies to which we belong. Although he doesn’t have the same view as Rorty about foundationalism as he believes that the foundations of religions give us a stronger basis.

Appiah lays down a definition of cosmopolitanism that includes dignity and significance for everyone with appreciation for different cultures and ways of life. Rorty sees acceptance of current ways of life as giving everyone this dignity and moral freedom. West thinks everyone should have dignity and moral freedom but feels that we need revolution in order to achieve it.  Although they see different ways of getting there they all want the same thing.

  1. Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. Anthony Appiah.
  2. Postmodern Bourgeois Liberalism : Richard Rorty
  3. Pragmatism :A reader : Cornel West

“Your grade is 9, which is simply the grade you received from your peers.”

I was astonished and delighted. I had three peer assessments, here is what they said.

Exposition Feedback:

peer 2 → The writing is not very scientific style but more everyday language sometimes. Also you should avoid “I” in that kind of essays. Be persuasive! Of course YOU think that Rorty and West are cosmopolitan persons, but state it as a fact. Don’t weaken your position by saying “I think that this makes Rorty cosmopolitan.” You just proofed your point, therefore it should be “This makes Rorty cosmopolitan.” I am not grading you down for this, because overall I enjoyed your essay a lot. Just a little note for future courses.

Overall Feedback (optional):
peer 1 → Very good essay.
peer 2 → Great job! Thank you for letting me read this!
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