Academic journal article Analysis and Metaphysics

Western Models of Intercultural Philosophy

Academic journal article Analysis and Metaphysics

Western Models of Intercultural Philosophy

Article excerpt


The paper begins by exploring the concept of intercultural philosophy in the Western tradition and the operating assumption of moral universalism of liberal cosmopolitanism. The second part of the paper investigates the "politics of difference" inspired by Nietzsche and semiotic accounts of the self and culture developed by various poststructuralist philosophers. Finally, the paper picks up on Rorty's pragmatist notion of "the cultural politics of conversation".

Keywords: intercultural philosophy, liberal cosmopolitanism, politics of difference, conversation, Nietzsche, Derrida, Rorty

1. Introduction: The Moral Universalism of Liberal Cosmopolitanism

There are at least two ways of proceeding to investigate intercultural philosophy in the Western tradition: one is to provide the genealogy of intercultural philosophy as dialogue and to chart the different forms of dialogue that scholars have developed and applied; the other is to focus on the notion of interculturalism itself examining the main forms of intercultural philosophy as it has recently emerged as a reaction against and response to Eurocentrism and the moral universalism of liberalism. In this paper I will follow the second course by providing an outline of the main forms of intercultural philosophy that have emerged in the modern era. For reasons of space first I will focus on what is called intercultural philosophy; second, I will explore the "politics of difference" inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche and developed by various poststructuralist accounts of semiotic analyses of culture and self; and finally, I will comment upon Richard Rorty's pragmatist notion of "cultural politics of conversation."1

This approach is not to overlook other approaches within the Western tradition beginning with the significance of Kant's cosmopolitanism as the standard liberal moral universalism or recent developments like Kwame Anthony Appiah's (2007) "ethics of identity" that returns to Mill's essay "On Liberty" to revive the traditions of tolerance, pluralism and respect for both individual and group rights in a conception of "rooted cosmopolitanism" that attempts to save Kant from his Eurocentric universalism.

The root of the word first used in 1614 to mean "citizen of the world" derives from the Greek kosmopolites (kosmos 'world', polîtes, meaning 'citizen', ana polis meaning 'city'). "Cosmopolitanism" with first recorded use in 1828 registers the idea that there is a single moral community based on the idea of freedom and thus in the early twenty-first century is also seen as a major theoretical buttress to the concept of universal human rights that transcend all national, cultural and State boundaries. While the Greeks had a concept of "cosmopolitanism" that issued from the Sophists against the form of political culture advocated by Plato and Aristotle which was wedded to the city and its citizens, and later took a Stoic form that was popular with early Christianity, its modern form emerged with the Enlightenment and was associated first with Erasmus' humanism and with the development of natural law doctrine. Pauline Kleingeld (2006) argues

The historical context of the philosophical resurgence of cosmopolitanism during the Enlightenment is made up of many factors: The increasing rise of capitalism and world-wide trade and its theoretical reflections; the reality of ever expanding empires whose reach extended across the globe; the voyages around the world and the anthropological so-called 'discoveries' facilitated through these; the renewed interest in Hellenistic philosophy; and the emergence of a notion of human rights and a philosophical focus on human reason.

She goes to document that way in which the impulse of cosmopolitanism was strongest in the late eighteenth century both feeding and growing out of the 1789 declaration of human rights. While Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Addison, Hume, and Jefferson, all saw themselves as cosmopolitans, it was Kant who defended and popularized the idea that human beings belong to a single moral community sharing the characteristics of freedom, equality and autonomy that grounded the concept and legitimacy of law. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.