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Critique of Cosmopolitan Reason

Timing and Spacing the Concept of World Citizenship

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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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Exemplary Universality: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Global Citizenship

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NINA LEX

Regarding the long yet disparate history of the term cosmopolitanism, the time of the Enlightenment is surely considered an era that provides key sources to today’s discourse on cosmopolitan philosophy. However, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, often referred to as an intellectual extremist or political radical, is scarcely seen in the line of thinkers that formed the notion of a world citizen. Reading Émile, ou de l’éducation: “Distrust those cosmopolitans who search out remote duties in their books and neglect those that lie nearest” (Rousseau 1762/1921, 10) one would even strongly doubt that the author is an advocate of cosmopolitanism and universal values. And indeed, as indicated in the quotation above, Rousseau held a view of cosmopolitanism that was far more negative than those of many of his contemporaries.

In the mid-eighteenth century the French philosopher Diderot stated that cosmopolitans are “strangers nowhere in the world” (quoted in Laertius 1925, 63), pointing towards the question of strangeness and nationality. This was a step towards questioning the tension contained in the term “cosmopolitanism”, yet its critical potential was still not sufficiently present to a great number of eighteenth-century thinkers. While the Encyclopaedists still had a basically conflict-free view of the relationship between patriotic loyalty and universalistic human morals, as it is expressed in Enlightenment cosmopolitan thought, Rousseau breaks with this idea and articulates a much more problematic conceptual relationship.

My aim in this contribution is to show that despite the enhancement of proto-nationalistic ideas and...

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