Diogenes the Cynic was the first cosmopolitan. When they asked him where he came from, he did not want to talk about his social class, nor about his male gender, nor about his lineage, nor about his condition as a free man. Kosmo-politês , “citizen of the world”, answered and the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum (New York, 73 years old) starts from that story to examine the validity of that idea in The Cosmopolitan Tradition, a Noble and Imperfect Ideal (Paidós). In the United States, that America First motto in the Trump era is growing stronger and one of the most prominent thinkers in the country, who has dealt with issues as diverse as emotions, inequality or aging, turned to examine the opposite of nationalism. Very Nussbaum.
Professor at the University of Chicago and Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences in 2012, the prolific author of 25 books - including Anger and Forgiveness, The Frontiers of Justice or The Monarchy of Fear - stops at this New work to examine whether material possessions "do not matter when exercising our capacities to choose or for other aspects of our dignity." By the way, she points out the flaws and loopholes that cosmopolitanism presents and broadens the discussion to include authors such as Cicero and Adam Smith. "We are not apparently loving creatures when we philosophize," writes Nussbaum, and indeed the author is sparse and strict. You only agree to answer six questions by email, with no possibility of reply.
QUESTION. Who can be defined today as cosmopolitan?
REPLY. That word is used in very different ways, but I, following the philosophical tradition, define as cosmopolitan someone who considers that one should always put the interests of the whole of humanity before those of the republic of which one is part or those of its own family. My book argues that, for various reasons, this is not such a good position, so I am not concerned with the fact that few people subscribe to it today. The core, the defensible part of cosmopolitanism, which is sustained after my criticism, is that one must promote human rights throughout the world, and also the rights of animals and Nature, in addition to fulfilling special obligations to with one's family or fellow citizens.
Q. Is the rise of nationalism in recent years due to a decline in cosmopolitanism?
A. If there has been a decline that would be a good thing since cosmopolitanism is a flawed approach. But there are good and bad ways to become attached to your nation. Think of families. Parents typically give special care and love to their children. But there are some parents who also want all children to grow up healthy and develop; And even if they don't raise them, they are happy to pay taxes that are used for the welfare of other children. Others want their children to do well and don't care if the others do poorly. So they try not to support policies that try to raise the well-being of all children. This same distinction occurs with nationalism: one can feel a special love and sense of duty towards her country, without wanting to harm others.
Q. Cosmopolitanism defends the dignity and equality of all, and the protests that run throughout the United States stem from this same premise. Is there a cosmopolitan component in these demonstrations that have also spread to other countries? He also writes that justice needs resources, and that seems to resonate with calls to cut funds allocated to police forces.
A. I believe that these protests follow the great tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., who believed that the dignity of all human beings anywhere in the world was at stake. You could call it partial cosmopolitanism. And yes, the request to reallocate the resources destined to the police forces and transfer them to the financing of social policies is something that I and other supporters of the so-called capabilities approach have been demanding for years. In my book Anger and Forgiveness , I write that criminal punishment is the admission of a ruling made by society as a whole.
P. Explore the intellectual and practical problems inherent in the cosmopolitan tradition. Would you say those problems have been changing?
A. Gradually, throughout history, the importance of material resources that the cosmopolitan tradition denied was recognized: Grotius and Adam Smith made fundamental contributions. Also the moral importance of one's nation, as a place that expresses human autonomy and the right to make the laws we want, was recognized by Cicero in Ancient Rome, and, later, again by Grotius, who also marked the beginning of the recognition of the moral importance of caring for the environment.
P. Writes that "the space between and above the States is always moral but it is not always legal" and points out the ineffectiveness of international institutions. Do they need to be reinvented?
A. Any supranational organization like the UN is destined not to be sufficiently accountable to the people, and therefore, prone to corruption. What we need in its place is a dense network of international agreements and institutions, including the WTO, the International Criminal Court, the ILO, and others. We should develop these institutions and make them better. P. Exposes the moral paradox that can be hidden behind a donation. "Donating comforts the donor, but that cannot be the measure of that action." Is this the problem of philanthropy? A. What I tried to say, following the great economist Angus Deaton, is that the important thing is to create a decent and durable health infrastructure. The money that comes from outside is counterproductive because it makes people lax regarding the political effort that must be made. There are many other things that one can do to help poorer nations: intellectual exchange, technology transfer, go there and help directly in communities and schools. Many think that good can be done without dedicating personal effort, but this does not seem to be true.