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Does cosmopolitan thinking have a future?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2001

Abstract

It certainly has a past.For the Greek foundations, see H. C. Baldry, The Unity of Mankind in Greek Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965). An informative recent article focusing on the Roman period (though rather misleading on Alexander the Great's importance in the history of cosmopolitan thinking) is Lisa Hill, ‘The Two Republicae of the Roman Stoics: Can a Cosmopolite be a Patriot?’, Citizenship Studies, 4 (2000), pp. 47–63. And that past, especially in its Stoic foundations, reveals a clear ethical purpose: ‘As long as I remember that I am part of such a whole [Universe],’ explained Marcus Aurelius, ‘. . . I shall . . . direct every impulse of mine to the common interest’.Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (trans. C. R. Haines), The Communings with Himself (i.e. Meditations) (London:Heinemann and Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1961), X, 6. Moreover, the word ‘cosmopolitan’ derives from kosmopolites, citizen of the universe, and polites, citizen, notably in its Aristotelean definition, has a decided ethical content. Accordingly, if the citizen of a state (polis) should be possessed of civic virtue (arete), by extension, the citizen of the universe (kosmopolis) should live a life of virtue, guided by his perception and understanding of the divine, natural law. True, in non-academic parlance the word ‘cosmopolitan’ has, from the eighteenth century, acquired the vague and vulgar connotation for an individual of enjoying comfortable familiarity with a variety of geographical and cultural environments. None the less, the more precise, political–ethical sense of a kosmopolites is so much more apposite to our present purpose that this essay will be framed in the main by this meaning.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2000 British International Studies Association

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