Questions Involving a Cosmopolitan Utopia

Is a perfect society for “citizens of the cosmos” a juxtaposition? Can a Cosmopolitan Utopia exist? Will disagreements about ethics lead to the utopia’s dismal end? Is a cosmopolitan utopia, in fact, an oxymoron? Universalists (being counter-cosmopolitans) dream of their utopian society with a single moral fabric – therefore, is a utopia, to a cosmopolitan, a dystopia?

If we lived in a cosmos were utopian society was more then a hypothetical, would a Cosmopolitan version exist? To Kwame Anothony Appiah, a professor of philosophy at Princeton University, “cultural purity” which is necessary for a Utopia to exist “is an oxymoron” (Appiah 113) in itself. For a utopia to be a utopia, there must be uniformity and absolute societal morals in the community. Therefore, to a Cosmopolitan (along with all individuals, even including Sir Thomas More, because his perfect society was labeled as “no place” in Greek) a utopia (and subsequently “cultural purity”) can’t exist in the form of a Cosmopolitan Utopia.

Also, a Cosmopolitan Utopia can’t exist because for “the counter-cosmopolitans … universalism issues in uniformity” (Appiah 145). With uniformity in beliefs being essential to a utopia and to the bedrock of counter-cosmopolitan (or universalist) philosophy, the uniformity required for the existence of a utopian society entails that a cosmopolitan utopia is itself an “oxymoron.” According to Cosmopolitans, there are “some basic mental traits that are universal … [and] normal everywhere” (Appiah 96). Is there enough shared moral fabric, however, between all humans in the world to create a microcosm where a cosmopolitan utopia would flourish?

If we were to rewrite the definition of utopia, to were there is a limited uniformity among the beliefs of the citizens, this arises an interesting question. Are we currently living in a Cosmopolitan Utopia? Along with every society that values tolerance? If so, is a cosmopolitan utopia the only plausible “perfect society?”

If a cosmopolitan utopia was to exist, although it appears that the idea of a utopian society is in fact a dystopia to a cosmopolitan, how much strife between two or more belief opposing cosmopolitan utopian micro-societies would be present, and would opposition – or lack of agreement or consensus – between these groups create trouble for the long-term well-being of the utopia? Some would say that “conversations about values”, among the opposing beliefs systems in the cosmopolitan utopia, “are bound to end in disagreement rather than creating understanding” (Appiah 67). The answer is no, however, disagreement among values will not lead to strife. This is because if the utopia was composed solely of cosmopolitans, cosmopolitans understand that “conversation doesn’t have to lead to consensus about anything, especially not values” (Appiah 85), and therefore conflict will not result from a lack of reached consensus.

Citations taken from Kwame Anthony Appiah‘s Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers.  


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