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Cosmopolitan Patriotism

Philadelphia Philosophy Meetup
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Endorsed by Curators:
Nov 15 7:00PM - 9:00PM

Patriotism and cosmopolitanism are rival ideas that drive the divisiveness of contemporary American political debate. Advocates of patriotism argue that love of country is the starting point for politics, and that active support for the nation promotes unity and prevents balkanization of public opinion. Supporters of cosmopolitanism counter that this call for unity is unrealistic and provincial, and that Americans should strive to be citizens of the world rather than citizens of one country. Clashing over the meanings of citizenship, political allegiance, and American identity, each side of this ideological divide has an outlook that is anathema to the other side, and the intense polarization of American politics seems inescapable without some sort of synthesis between patriotism and cosmopolitanism.

In a 1997 essay entitled "Cosmopolitan Patriots," The British-born Ghanaian-American philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah proposes this kind of synthesis for American political life. Appiah argues that what can unite patriots and cosmopolitans is a shared commitment to the American democratic political order and the rights it entails. Although patriots and cosmopolitans spar on many issues, Appiah thinks they can generally agree that the Constitution and its concomitant political institutions are the best means to organize political life. Both sides can value this political order as an instrument through which they pursue what is ultimately important to them.

Appiah's concept of instrumental patriotism has little in common with patriotism as normally understood. He admits that it is a far cry from the traditional kind of patriotism which aims to promote a common national culture that gives citizens a feeling of connectedness and belonging. Due to its large size and demographic diversity, Appiah argues, the United States does not have a common national culture, and so a feeling of patriotism, if it is to provide some unity and consensus, must necessarily be limited to the political sphere.

A purely political patriotism which eschews cultural unity is a compromise position with which perhaps patriots can agree, but it seems unclear how it accommodates cosmopolitans' concerns. Appiah notes that cosmopolitans tend to downgrade the importance of political states and institutions, celebrating cultural variety rather than the political arrangements that produce this variety. But it is exactly because politics is crucial to generating culture, Appiah contends, that cosmopolitans should value the political sphere and should participate in it wherever in the world they choose to be.

Join us for a discussion of Appiah's essay "Cosmopolitan Patriots." Reading the essay beforehand is strongly encouraged, although it is not required to participate in the discussion.

http://appiah.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Cosmopolitan-Patriots.-Critical-Inquiry-23.3.-1997.pdf

How to find us:We will be in the private room in the back on the left.

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