Show Less
Restricted access

Critique of Cosmopolitan Reason

Timing and Spacing the Concept of World Citizenship


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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Herder and Cosmopolitanism



Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) is the philosopher most commonly remembered for his appreciation of the diversity of national cultures, as well as his defence of moral particularism and pluralism in general (see e.g. Berlin 1980). In recent years, this view has been complemented by an increasing emphasis on the universalist side of Herder’s thought (Beiser 1992; Barnard 2003; Sikka 2012; Spencer 2012). It is now widely recognized that Herder’s relationship to Enlightenment ideals is a complex one, and that his distinctive kind of moral relativism and pluralism do not exclude commitment to universal ideals (Sikka 2012). At the same time, Herder’s relationship to cosmopolitanism continues to be characterized as one of straightforward rejection (Barnard 1965, xix; Barnard 2003, 40; Muthu 2003, 226; Evrigenis 2004, xx; Sikka 2012, 24, 87, 101, 120).1 Indeed, there is much to commend this interpretation, since Herder was an outspoken critic of various forms of eighteenth-century cosmopolitanism. Yet does it do justice to Herder’s own moral views? Were there perhaps also forms of cosmopolitanism which he approved of, or even appropriated for his own moral and political philosophy?

In this chapter I wish to argue that Herder does articulate an evocative version of cosmopolitanism that is based on a distinctive kind of universalism which is sensitive to moral particularism and pluralism. It is true that the best-known accounts of cosmopolitanism are based on foundations which exclude this kind of sensitivity. The original Stoic idea of cosmopolitanism, for...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.