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Critique of Cosmopolitan Reason

Timing and Spacing the Concept of World Citizenship


Edited By Rebecka Lettevall and Kristian Petrov

Since the Enlightenment, the definition of terms such as humanity, citizenship and rights has fluctuated and these ideas continue to have relevance for contemporary discussions of globalization from a «cosmopolitan» perspective. This volume goes back to the conception of cosmopolitanism in Greek antiquity in order to trace it through history, resulting in an unmasking of its many myths. The concept is reconstructed with reference not only to well-known (and some lesser known) historical thinkers of cosmopolitanism, but also to noted «anti-cosmopolitans».
The first aim of the book is to display historical perspectives on a discourse which has been dominated by ahistorical presumptions. The second is to critically explore alternative paths beyond the Western imagination, redefining the Enlightenment legacy and the centre-periphery dichotomy. Most notably, Eastern Europe and the Arab world are integrated within the analysis of cosmopolitanism. Within a framework of conceptual history ( Begriffsgeschichte), cosmopolitan reason is criticized from the viewpoints of comparative literature, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, postcolonialism and moral philosophy.
The book’s critical approach is an attempt to come to terms with the anachronism, essentialism, ethnocentrism and anthropocentrism that sometimes underlie contemporary theoretical and methodological uses of the term «cosmopolitanism». By adding historical and contextual depth to the problem of cosmopolitanism, a reflexive corrective is presented to enhance ongoing discussions of this topic within as well as outside academia.
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Philosophic Exile: Plato’s Care for the Self as Cosmopolitanism



The Greek cynic, Diogenes, who called himself a kosmopolitēs, was literal-ly in exile from Sinope.1 Legend has it that when someone reminded him that the people of Sinope condemned him to exile, he responded by saying that he condemned them all to Sinope. Exile, he claimed, let him become a philosopher (Diogenes Laertius, VI, 2, 49). Diogenes’ suggestion is that philosophers, as philosophers, are in exile from the polis and belong instead to the kosmos. According to Diogenes, philosophers are basically cosmopolitan, and to be cosmopolitan is to be defiant of social convention and without a home.2

Plato reportedly called the infamous cosmopolitan “a Socrates gone mad” (Diogenes Laertius, VI, 2, 54). We might take this as an expression of disapproval, which it partially is, or as high praise, for, in Plato’s mind, to be like Socrates (in respect to philosophical ability anyway) is surely worthy of admiration. With this remark, then, we are left to imagine the ways in which Diogenes and Plato’s Socrates are alike. ← 37 | 38 →

Many would argue that Socrates is to some extent cosmopolitan.3 In a work fittingly titled On Exile, the stoic Plutarch claims that Socrates called himself a kosmios, a man of the kosmos (Mor. 600f–601a). Similarly, Cicero, while considering whether exile is an evil, says that Socrates claimed to belong to the mundanum, the world (Tusc. disp. V.37.108). Whether or not Socrates ever said these things, the historical link from Socrates...

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