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Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  1,074 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
Drawing on a broad range of disciplines, including history, literature, and philosophy—as well as the author's own experience of life on three continents—?Cosmopolitanism? is a moral manifesto for a planet we share with more than six billion strangers.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2006)
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Caleb
May 18, 2009 Caleb rated it it was ok
As a student of philosophy, and as a person genuinely interested in the type of project that Appiah pursues herein, I became increasingly frustrated with his work here. In an attempt to avoid metaphysical claims--and the subsequent alienation such notions entail--but, in the process, fails to come up with a coherent theory for dealing with these issues. His examples and storytelling feel frequently like counterexamples as much as examples to make his points.

I was very interested in Appiah's proj
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Worthless Bum
Mar 20, 2010 Worthless Bum rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy, ethics
Thoroughly, disappointingly mediocre. A couple of the arguments in this book were pretty terrible, the rest being rather tepid. Appiah disagrees with Peter Singer et al about the conclusions drawn from the Shallow Pond thought experiment, in which we are said to have very demanding ethical obligations to donate as much of our worldly possessions as possible to help the poor in the third world. His objection to this argument? We can't know all of the consequences of our actions, so we can't say t ...more
Babette
Jul 03, 2008 Babette rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Tom Friedman, debunkers of Tom Friedman
Appiah writes elegantly about cosmopolitanism, lacing his narrative (employing "we" as in, "we cosmopolitans") with anecdotes, effectively referencing philosophers, authors, and the like. The book is insidious, however...too easy in its conclusions. It celebrates the "contamination" of cosmopolitanism's curiousity and engagement with difference without critiquing seriously enough the uneven distributions of power that produce and map those differences. Moreover, there is little if any acknowledg ...more
Sean Sullivan
Sep 21, 2007 Sean Sullivan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
I have to say I find Appiah’s cosmopolitanism to be incredibly appealing. Call me a globalized liberal who thinks we can work most things out, but the fact that besides a bedrock belief in toleration of all but intolerance, there is little else that exists as a absolute in Appiah's thinking is attractive to me.

I am sick of all encompassing theories. But I am also wary of an all out relativism. Appiah seems to be trying to walk a line somewhere in the middle. He argues that through engagement, "c
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L.A.
Dec 14, 2015 L.A. rated it really liked it
What are our ethical obligations to strangers? Appiah's answer, packaged int his relatively short, readable book, is the philosophy of cosmopolitanism. If the word conjures up images of chic city dwellers or the frou-frou drinks they possibly consume, rest assured: Appiah's using cosmopolitanism in the sense of the original root word: cosmos. So, if we're all citizens of the cosmos -- or, to scale it back, the planet -- how should we interact with and treat each other?

Appiah covers a lot of diff
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Louise
Jan 25, 2008 Louise rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
Recommended to Louise by: Susan Yelavich
Everyone everywhere who lives in a complex world should read this book. It takes a difficult topic: How do we live in a world that's diverse and contradictory – and engages a thoughtful and gentle conversation and consideration about this subject

This books is intensely well-written. Appiah's concepts and arguments are exemplified and explained anecdotally through his own personal experience. He generously uses these diverse cultural experiences as models, thus cutting down the abstraction of phi
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Peter Van
Nov 18, 2013 Peter Van rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This is a very disappointing book on Cosmopolitanism. For someone who wants the people of the world to enter into conversation with one another Appiah is surprisingly dismissive of others. We are presented with caricatures of anti-globalists, postmodern relativists and people who want to preserve some kind of cultural authenticity, their arguments being presented in an overly simplistic fashion so that Appiah can easily wave them away.
But even in these situations he is hardly convincing. To the
...more
Phillip Rhoades
Mar 22, 2010 Phillip Rhoades rated it really liked it
My interest in Professor Appiah's work began a week ago when he presented at SUU on the topic of "Moral Disagreement", one of the chapters in this book. I was pleased to witness a writing style as engaging as his oration. Kwame Appiah explains a complicated philosophy with both whit and wisdom; he uses modern examples to highlight the central tenants of ageless cosmopolitanism. While the book succeeds at detailing a philosophy that deals with the challenges of a "global", modern life (though as ...more
Michele
Jun 17, 2009 Michele rated it really liked it
I don't always find books by philosophers easy to read, but I think that's just because I often don't understand the shorthand references to "Hegalian" perspectives and such that require a knowledge of philosophy to interpret.

But this book is a really nicely balanced discussion of Appiah's personal history, globalism (or cosmopolitanism in the author's terminology) and ethics. It goes beyond the simplicity of 'multiculturalism' or 'globalization' to investigate and value the ways in which we are
...more
Ralowe Ampu
Jul 06, 2015 Ralowe Ampu rated it did not like it
"Would you really want to live in a world in which the only thing anyone had ever cared about was saving lives?" pg 166. lol for reals? easily the most offensive thing i've read in a while. definitely no mbembe. he and gavin newsom should go jack off over policy together.
Adrienne Davis
May 25, 2015 Adrienne Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why it took me so like long to read Appiah.

Appiah is one of those authors whose name kept getting mentioned in other books and I kept meaning to pick up something by him. Cosmopolitanism was my first book by Appiah and I wish I had been reading long before I did.

His argument is lucid and in the best humanist tradition. He is able to talk of the faults of the West without descending into reflexive anti-Western dogma. He is at his most powerful,when he gently but firmly exhorts again
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Phillip
Jul 30, 2016 Phillip rated it it was amazing
A really good book introducing a particular, ethically-grounded style of cosmopolitanism. Appiah argues that we should seek a kind of pluralism, in which we acknowledge and accept that there are multitudinous ways of existing in the world, and a plethora of values/value systems. However, it is not contingent on us to embody or live according to all of those values, which would be a preposterous demand. Appiah discusses universal values--by which he means values that are pervasive enough to be fo ...more
Jeroen
Mar 20, 2016 Jeroen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although Kwame Anthony Appiah is – as he warns us – a philosopher “by trade” (“and philosophers never write useful books”, he goes on to note somewhat sullenly) this is unmistakeably a book written in the (all too human) hope of having some positive impact, in the hope of dissuading or at least assuaging not just the more rampant forms of xenophobia, but also their less obviously hurtful counterparts like orientalism and occidentalism, the exoticising of the eternal other, and the emphasising of ...more
Chris Fisher
Apr 26, 2015 Chris Fisher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Appiah defines cosmopolitanism as universality plus difference and makes a brilliant argument that we can learn to respect and appreciate other cultures and their beliefs and customs even though we disagree. Familiarity creates understanding. Many fear global cosmopolitanism because of they assume it will necessarily change their own culture. Appiah argues this is not necessarily the case. Respect for diversity can allow us to disagree while simultaneously living side-by-side as citizens of the ...more
Jessica
This is a thought-provoking, very practical and applicable study of cosmopolitanism -- the title really says it all. I loved reading this and applying Appiah's understandings of cosmopolitanism to Moby Dick, which was why we had to read this text. I am so thrilled my professor introduced Appiah to me. I had a chance to hear him speak last semester, and I recommend it to anyone who has the time.
Audra Waleryszak
May 20, 2014 Audra Waleryszak rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
From chapter six and on I found this book to be engaging, informative, and prompting of deeper thought about international ethics and issues.
However, for the first five chapters (especially the first four) I found myself getting a little annoyed with the way Appiah tends to over-simplify complex philosophical issues then continue on as though they had been explained in full. I say this not from the standpoint of a person ignorant of those issues, frustrated that they were not explained well eno
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Mary
Kwame Anthony Appiah says globalization has not brought homogeneity. "No one could say that the world's villages are -or are about to become -anything like the same". Everywhere people prefer local soap operas to American TV even if they do like some other American TV. "You can get Coca Cola on every continent. In Kumasi you will get it at funerals. Not...in the West of England, where hot milky Indian tea is favored." Levi's are everywhere, but they are formal attire in some places and casual we ...more
Alison
Jan 08, 2016 Alison rated it really liked it
An intelligent though not perfect exploration of what it means to live in a globalised world. Appiah uses examples from the Ghanian side of his family as introductions to discussions of moral disagreement, practical ethics, dealing with strangers, globalisation, and culture and cultural appropriation. He ends with a discussion of how to behave ethically in a world where far-away people are now much closer than they used to be. This last will appear to people who dislike Peter Singer's drowning c ...more
Li Seagull
3.5 stars tbh. I kind of was looking for more of a bite but I think it's a good book I'd want a lot of people to read.
Matt Martinson
Feb 12, 2015 Matt Martinson rated it really liked it
Appiah writes intelligently and intelligibly about the conundrums of living in our modern, "global" world. These include valuing other cultures in a respectful way, figuring out what is our moral responsibility toward others, and even if/how this time is any more unique than past times where cultures collided constantly.

Appiah is a good philosopher, which means he explains things clearly, is convincing, but doesn't really cover as much ground as at least I hoped. Nevertheless, it's the kind of
...more
Andrew
Jul 30, 2016 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Not my usual sort of read, but I had to read it for a school assignment. I read it on vacation, mostly during train rides. Although I was at first reluctant to read it, Appiah's writing style won me over with its clever use of anecdotes and quotations. I particularly enjoyed his chapters about "cultural preservationism," which were witty and interesting, and changed how I saw Berlin while I was there. Perhaps the best thing about this book is how unpretentious it is; the author never seeks to co ...more
Matt
Jun 07, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
I came to this book looking for an explanation for why people get along that went beyond the narrowly biological that people clump up with and protect those they share genes with. That explanation seemed to deny the interest I feel for novelty, for a wide range of experiences, but I struggled to explain the value of that novelty-hunger.

Appiah makes a strong case, but of course his approach is much broader than my own narrow question-- he explores the philosophical problem of how and why people a
...more
Upom
Considering how quickly the world is globalizing and how integrated the world is becoming, it brings up the interesting question of what composes ethical behavior in a world of a multitude of cultural beliefs, practice, values, and norms. Some people have suggested the only proper way to go is total hostility towards "inferior" cultures. Others believe we should answer with complete apathy to the cultures of he world, letting them live and let be as is. In this book, Appiah attempts to come to a ...more
Dave
May 10, 2010 Dave rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
Reading through this one for the third (second serious) time, I found Appiah's initial reasoning sound, but I took issue with some of his pronouncements towards the end. It's not that anything he said was wrong, illogical, or incorrect. He paints a picture where curious and sincere individuals from around the globe can develop through interactions, exchanges, interdependence, and mutual obligation. My only critique is that Appiah fails to recognize (through omission, and perhaps, only through to ...more
Sergej Middendorp
Aug 29, 2013 Sergej Middendorp rated it really liked it
A very inspiring read into an important topic that is finding its way into my scholarly and practitioner life as a frame that is well suited to deal with the everyday and the global at the same time. Focused on the ethical challenges present in cosmopolitanism, and caleidoscoping into the full awareness of the complexity of many of its challenges, Appiah helps me integrate and catalyse many important points that I work on in my practice. Thanks for this beautiful and profound contribution.

A few
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Rashaan
Mar 21, 2009 Rashaan rated it really liked it
Pico Iyer opened his New York Times review of Yiyun Li's latest novel, The Vagrants saying,

All the world's stories are America's stories now, and this constant glory of our literature; as never before in our lifetimes, so many histories flooding into America, and so many Americans going out to claim the world as an extension of their homes, that our imaginations are being stretched (one hopes) along with the words we use, the wisdoms we inhabit, the sounds and philosophies we can begin to reinve
...more
Rebecca
Aug 31, 2014 Rebecca rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
I had to read this book for my Senior Seminar class and I was not really looking forward to it. I ended up not hating it. Although the first couple chapters were a little too abstract for me, after chapter three Appiah gets a little more concrete. Interesting read if you're contemplating the similarities and differences of people across the world. Presents a great message, that I think we all need to hear, about how to live our lives and communicate with the other 6 billion plus people out there ...more
Jesse Field
From "Introduction: Making Conversation"

Cosmopolitism dates at least to the Cynics of the fourth century BC, who first cointed the expression cosmopolitan, ‘citizen of cosmos.’ The formulation was meant to be paradoxical, and reflects the general Cynic skepticism toward custom and tradition. A citizen -- a polite-s -- belonged to a particular polis, a city to which he or she owed loyalty. The cosmos referred to the world, not in the sense of the earth, but in the sense of the universe. Talk of
...more
Frank Spencer
Jul 27, 2013 Frank Spencer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ethics
I enjoy Appiah's books. They take me a bit beyond what I can easily understand, but they never get me totally lost. In this one, he provides some discussions of issues that provide a framework for making ethical decisions. Cosmopolitanism is more; it is an -ism that informs ways of interacting with others in all sorts of situations. Some of the issues discussed are what to do with ancient pieces of art, how religions can co-exist, how best to be helpful to those less advantaged than ourselves, a ...more
Dave
Jul 27, 2011 Dave rated it really liked it
A very interesting read and highly appropriate in this era of global communication and fear of a one-world-government cabal. His background growing up partly a child of Africa in Ghana and partly a child of England, and his education in the USA give the author an interesting perspective. His chapter on beliefs and values was fascinating, and his argument for leaving some of those treasures in the British Museum won me over. I also related to his take on some of Peter Singer's thinking in his cha ...more
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What do we owe strangers? 1 15 Apr 02, 2010 09:50AM  
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  • Liberty: Incorporating Four Essays on Liberty
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Kwame Anthony Appiah, the president of the PEN American Center, is the author of The Ethics of Identity, Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy, The Honor Code and the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism. Raised in Ghana and educated in England, he has taught philosophy on three continents and is a former professor at Princeton University and currently has a position at NYU.

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“I am urging that we should learn about people in other places, take an interest in their civilizations, their arguments, their errors, their achievements, not because that will bring us to agreement, but because it will help us get used to one another.” 0 likes
“Once you start offering reasons for ignoring the interests of others, however, reasoning itself will usually draw you into a kind of universality. A reason is an offer of a ground for thinking or feeling or doing something. And it isn’t a ground for me, unless it’s a ground for you. If someone really thinks that some group of people genuinely doesn’t matter at all, he will suppose they are outside the circle of those to whom justifications are due.” 0 likes
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