The Cosmopolitan Tradition: A Noble but Flawed Ideal

The Cosmopolitan Tradition: A Noble but Flawed Ideal

by Martha C. Nussbaum

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Overview

From one of our preeminent philosophers—winner of the Berggruen Prize—a work that engages critically with important examples of the cosmopolitan ideal from ancient Greece and Rome to the present.

The cosmopolitan political tradition in Western thought begins with the Greek Cynic Diogenes, who, when asked where he came from, responded that he was a citizen of the world. Rather than declaring his lineage, city, social class, or gender, he defined himself as a human being, implicitly asserting the equal worth of all human beings.

Nussbaum pursues this “noble but flawed” vision of world citizenship as it finds expression in figures of Greco-Roman antiquity, Hugo Grotius in the seventeenth century, Adam Smith during the eighteenth century, and various contemporary thinkers. She confronts its inherent tensions: the ideal suggests that moral personality is complete, and completely beautiful, without any external aids, while reality insists that basic material needs must be met if people are to realize fully their inherent dignity. Given the global prevalence of material want, the lesser social opportunities of people with physical and cognitive disabilities, the conflicting beliefs of a pluralistic society, and the challenge of mass migration and asylum seekers, what political principles should we endorse? Nussbaum brings her version of the Capabilities Approach to these problems, and she goes further: she takes on the challenge of recognizing the moral claims of nonhuman animals and the natural world.

The insight that politics ought to treat human beings both as equal to each other and as having a worth beyond price is responsible for much that is fine in the modern Western political imagination. The Cosmopolitan Tradition extends Nussbaum’s work, urging us to focus on the humanity we share rather than all that divides us.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674052499
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 08/13/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 762,886
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, appointed in the Law School and the Philosophy Department. Among her many awards are the 2018 Berggruen Prize, the 2017 Don M. Randel Award for Humanistic Studies from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the 2016 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy.

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