'Cosmopolitanism': Finding a Moral Middle Ground An increasingly globalized world presents a dilemma: Accept the values of all cultures or seek a moral code that's absolute? Princeton professor Kenneth Appiah says there is a middle ground. The philosophy, "cosmopolitanism," is the subject of his new book.

'Cosmopolitanism': Finding a Moral Middle Ground

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From NPR News in Washington, DC, I'm Neal Conan, and this is TALK OF THE NATION.

Coca-Cola, baseball caps and episodes of Dallas are available almost anywhere in the world today, prompting cries of cultural imperialism that Kwame Anthony Appiah says are misplaced.

Mr. KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH (Professor of Philosophy and Author, "Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers"): I think what goes on is that people interpret these things and make sense of them in their own culture context so that the work has different meanings in different places. I would like a world in which there was more exchange because I think some of the most vital cultural moments, human cultural moments, come when that exchange happens.

CONAN: The philosopher joins us to discuss the benefits of cultural contamination and his new book. Plus a candidate reflects on politics in Canada, and a rock entered the annals of espionage. It's the TALK OF THE NATION after the news.

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. In an article in the New York Times Magazine and in a new book, Kwame Anthony Appiah argues for a philosophy he calls cosmopolitanism. It's an idea that promotes individuals over nations, tribes or peoples, and along the way, he challenges the critics of globalism who argue for international laws to preserve cultures and resist what they call cultural imperialism and promote ideas of cultural purity and authenticity. While Appiah concedes that globalism can produce homogeneity, the universal availability of, for example, Coca-Cola, American TV or Guinness Stout, intercultural contamination stimulates change, he says, and he then adds, societies without change aren't authentic. They're just dead.

In a moment Anthony Appiah joins us to describes what a cosmopolitan world might look like. Later in the program, Russians ask questions about a British spy rock, and we want answers, as in what's a spy rock? We'll also talk with a Canadian usually resident in this country who's running for parliament in Ontario. But first cosmopolitanism, and we hope to hear from you.

What are the rules in your multicultural world? Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. The email address is talk@npr.org. And joining us now from NPR's bureau in New York City is Kwame Anthony Appiah, a professor of philosophy at Princeton. His new book is titled Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. Good to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

Prof. APPIAH: It's very nice to be with you.

CONAN: And I've left out a couple of key ideas about cosmopolitanism which you stressed, and those would be tolerance and humility.

Prof. APPIAH: Yes. I think the key thing, if you're going to be open to the world, is that you approach the world in the spirit of assuming you can learn from the world. Conversation, which is one of my metaphors in the book, conversation is only worth doing if you're listening as well as talking. So I think it does require a kind of cultural and intellectual humility and tolerance, absolutely, though again, tolerance has to have its limits. We can't tolerate people who are deeply inhumane, who are cruel. We obviously can't tolerate genocide and so on, but we, I think cosmopolitans are gonna be much more broadly tolerant than anti-cosmopolitan or un-cosmopolitan people.

CONAN: Mm hmm. And another word you use, a word that most people would take as a pejorative, but you use it as a positive: contamination.

Prof. APPIAH: Yes. Well, it's, of course, meant as a little bit of a provocation, but I do think...


Prof. APPIAH: But I do, you know, this is actually a word with a very interesting history in this context because it was used, first of all, a long time ago, in the second century, first/second century, before the common era, to refer to the style of literary work that Terence, the Roman dramatist and comedian wrote, comedy writer.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Prof. APPIAH: And what he did was he wrote in Latin, but he borrowed plots and ideas from Greek originals. And some people thought that was bad, and so they tried to stigmatize it by calling it contamination. And being a smart fellow, Terrance said, no. Yeah, it's contamination, and contamination isn't bad, it's good. It's good to borrow and build on the achievements of other civilizations. It's good to borrow ideas from other places.

CONAN: Now the other source you cite is Picasso who said, good artists borrow, great artists steal.

Prof. APPIAH: Right. They steal, and they steal from everywhere. That's the key thing. You know, we're famously, some of the sort of ideas in Cubism came from Picasso's exposure to African sculpture. How did he get to see the African sculpture? In the house of an American namely Gertrude Stein. Where? In Paris. He was a Spaniard. Perfect mixture. Spanish, African, Vili, in fact, I think is where some of the sculptures came from, American, French, and that's what created Picasso.

CONAN: Another example of contamination you cite is what we now think of as traditional African garb: the kente cloth.

Prof. APPIAH: Absolutely. I grew up in the home of kente. Kente was in, the sort that is now known all around the United States and indeed around the world, kente was first woven in a village called Bonwire, just outside Kumasi which is my hometown, a couple of hundred years ago, made of silk. There was no silk in that part of the world. Where did the silk come from? Trade. It was brought in by Europeans, grown in Asia. The designs were Asante, but probably produced in part in reaction to exposure to designs from other parts of that region and probably after looking at cloth from Europe as well and possibly some from Asia.

It became very much identified with Ghana, not just with Asante, which is a part of Ghana, with the whole country, because Nkrumah, the president, used to wear it on official occasions. It's worn by the king of Asante. It's also worn in strips around the necks of graduating students at Howard University.

CONAN: Hm. And it's presumably worn on ceremonial occasions in Ghana, but people point out that most of the time, a lot of people would more likely be dressed in baseball caps and T-shirts.

Prof. APPIAH: Yes. I mean, one reason why it's worn on ceremonial occasions is rather similar to the reason why most people don't wear DJ's all the time. It's expensive to wear 12 yards of silk wrapped around you in a country where, you know, the average person earns under $1,000 a year and where that probably cost you $500. That's very expensive. But it's also because it was traditionally regarded as a ceremonial thing, and there are particular patterns of kente which an Asante, you can't wear unless you're a member of the royal Ayoko(ph) clan. But of course, those rules don't stop anybody in the United States. If somebody wants to wear the finest kente, woven on Bonwire for the royals and she can afford it, she can do it.


Prof. APPIAH: But so most of the people aren't wearing it most of the time. They're wearing jeans, T-shirts. They're wearing shirts and shoes from Korea, China, India and Europe, and why? Well, one reason is they're cheap. We can afford them. Many of them come in second-hand, of course, but they're affordable. And the other is they keep you covered. I mean, they're good clothing, and people who wear them don't, I think, mostly think of them as coming from anywhere in particular. They just think of them as clothing. That it's cheap and convenient to wear.

CONAN: Yeah, I remember being in the Solomon Islands a few years ago and just marveling at the number of Yankee baseball caps.

Prof. APPIAH: Yeah. And I don't know if you tried this, but often, you know, with those sort of symbols, and I think this is a very important point about contamination, you'll ask someone, OK, so do you know what that thing means?

CONAN: Yeah.

Prof. APPIAH: And some of them will, but some of them won't. And some of them will have a strange mistaken idea of what it means. Because when these sorts of cultural objects travel, you can't, they don't come with an interpreter, they don't come with someone who tells you what they mean, and so people can reinterpret things.

I suppose people think of Coca-Cola as a relatively informal drink in the United States, but where I grew up, it's something you, you know, you can drink and offer someone on a respectable occasion, at a funeral, say, as a sign of respect. So these objects travel all over the place, but they don't necessarily travel with the meanings that they have where they come from. I just mentioned with the kente.

Most people in my hometown would recognize the pattern of a royal kente, and so would assume, if they saw someone wearing it, that they were from that clan. Obviously, if somebody wears that kente in Washington, DC, first of all, there's no reason to suppose they are a member of the clan, and second, most people won't know.

CONAN: Hm. Let's get some listeners involved in the conversation. We're talking with Anthony Appiah, author most recently of Cosmopolitanism. He's also a professor of philosophy at Princeton University. 800-989-8255 if you'd like to join us, or send us an email, talk@npr.org. And let's begin with Ken, and Ken is calling from Concord in California.

KEN (Caller): Hi.

Prof. APPIAH: Hello.

KEN: Thanks for letting me on the program.

CONAN: Sure.

KEN: One of the things I've noticed and what your take is on one cultural appropriation, especially American-Indian appropriation, misusing symbols that we use in sacred ceremonies, I'm from South Dakota.

And also what about cultures, for instance, tribal cultures in this country that the dominating culture has categorically tried to destroy in many different ways? And one of the strengths of our culture is to preserve our culture and traditions and give us a sense of identity and place. What's your take on that?

Prof. APPIAH: Well, no sane person is going to be against identity in the modern world. No sane person is going to think that we should all have only a human identity and nothing else.

Identities of that sort, local ethnic identities, regional identities, family identities, all of these matter deeply to human beings; and, so as you can imagine I'm not against them. I have them myself and I value the ones that I have.

What I was arguing against was a kind of view, which aims to come to people from the outside and tell them how to be authentic.

KEN: Mm hmm.

Prof. APPIAH: A view that says, Oh, you can't do that, you're an Indian. Indians don't do that.

CONAN: Indian's don't build casinos.

Prof. APPIAH: Indians don't build casinos. It seems to me it's, roughly speaking it's up to Indians to decide what Indians do. And if Indians want to do something different from what they used to do, that's their business as far as I'm concerned.

So that's the main point. As far as appropriation is concerned, I guess I may disagree with you a little bit about this. I think that when we borrow symbols from other places we obviously have to be careful to be respectful.

We saw this in this city of New York, where I'm sitting right now, some years ago when a famous artist did a representation of a crucifix, a cross, which was embedded in human urine. It was stored in human urine.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Prof. APPIAH: Now, obviously, if you're a religious person, if you're a Christian of any sort you're likely to be at least potentially offended by that.

KEN: Mm hmm.

Prof. APPIAH: The guy who did it actually meant it as a sacramental gesture. He was thinking of human body products as somehow sacramental. But of course the average, there was no reason why the average Christian viewer should have known that.

In those sort of context you risk offending people and courtesy is a fine principle of cross cultural interaction.

KEN: Mm hmm.

Prof. APPIAH: So when people borrow things from other people, I think they should do so respectfully.

But when I, we were just talking just now about kente cloth. I mean I don't think people in Asante can stop people in New York wearing kente cloth that in Asante is only worn by royals.

KEN: Mm hmm.

Prof. APPIAH: Maybe we'd rather they didn't. That depends on your attitude to royalty.

KEN: Right.

Prof. APPIAH: Being a republican myself, I, with a small "r," I'm not sure I'd worry too much about that. But plenty of people in Asante would think it's wrong to wear something that was not, as it were appropriate to who you were.

But I think that we don't have the right. People take the cloth they value it, I think we should be pleased that they've borrowed from us and valued what they've borrowed.

CONAN: Ken, thanks very much for the call.

KEN: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking with Anthony Appiah about his new book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers.

If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255 or talk@npr.org; back after the break.

I'm Neal Conan, it's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION; I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Our subject today is Cosmopolitanism and our guest is philosopher Anthony Appiah. He's got a new book out by that name.

If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255; our e-mail address talk@npr.org. What do we have in common across cultures? And, let's see if we can get another caller on the line.

And this is Zalea(ph), am I pronouncing that correctly?

ZALEA (Caller): Zalea, yes.

CONAN: In Tucson, Arizona, go ahead.

ZALEA: Yes. Thank you very much for having me. I just wanted to comment that we're talking about globalization in cosmopolitanism as if it's an equal and fair exchange of ideas and cultures around the globe; but I really don't see that in a lot of ways. And I see that the globalization movement is a lot of times driven by corporative, corporatism and the drive for profit.

And, for instance, you don't see the world putting on America or American culture incorporating a lot of the world's ideas of relaxation. But, for instance, here along the border if you go to Mexico, you see a lot of American corporation's kind of globalizing outward, but you don't see a lot of Mexican corporations globalizing inward.

So I just wanted to say that I think that it's framed in a way that makes the cosmopolitan look very democratic. But I don't think that that's fundamentally what's driving globalization; and I'll take the response off the air thank you.

CONAN: Thanks for the call.

Prof. APPIAH: Well, I don't - globalization really isn't my word. And I think the word globalization is used now to mean so many different things that it's not always sort of helpful when you're trying to think about these things to use it. I...

CONAN: You do use it a lot.

Prof. APPIAH: I use it to describe a particular phenomenon. The phenomena that I think are most important here are relevant to the very idea of cosmopolitan because the idea of cosmopolitanism, of course given the etymology, from a Greek phrase meaning "citizens of the world," the idea of cosmopolitanism requires us to think of ourselves as citizens of a single human community. In order to do that, there are two essential preconditions, it seems to me, for that to make sense.

One is that we should actually be able to affect one another. The first cosmopolitans in the fourth and fifth century B.C., they couldn't affect people everywhere on the globe, so they didn't meet that condition.

And the second thing is that we should know about other people. And that, fifth century and fourth century cosmopolitans didn't know about most people in the world. They didn't know what was going on in most of the human community.

The features of globalization that I think are important are, for my purposes, are: we can affect other people; we do affect people all the time. We buy their stuff, we sell them stuff, we, our armies are in their countries and so on. And we can know about them, not just through radio and television, but obviously increasingly through the World Wide Web. That's the kind of globalization I'm interested in.

The phenomenon of economic globalization, which is, I think, something that's happened over a much longer time scale, actually. Well, it has its bad side. I'm not going to defend everything that's ever been done by a corporation.

And I do think and I'm, I say in the book that one of the things that I do share with people who want to preserve culture, is a concern to make sure that the people who want to hold onto things, who want to hold on to valuable traditions of their own, have the resources to do so.

But, as I said, in response to Ken, I think it's important that it's their decision what they hold on to. It's not up to us to tell people how to be authentically a Mexican or authentically Zuni or authentically anything else.

So yes there are dangers with the corporations, kind of corporatization can do damage internationally. It can do damage at home. You don't have to be an enthusiast for the market in every context to think, but nevertheless, a global market and idea of the global exchange of cultural objects mediated by money is a good thing.

I wish that there was more money in say Africa, because then people in Africa would be better placed, not only to participate in equal terms politically, but also on equal terms culturally. We'd be seeing more of the cultural product of Africa than we do if there were stronger industries in Africa. And if African governments were in a position to defend their cultural products in the way that the United States very successfully tries to defend its cultural products in the world market.

CONAN: Let's talk now with Steve. Steve calling from Portland, Oregon.

STEVE (Caller): Hi, I was really fascinated by your comment about brand images and how meaning is assigned or not assigned or people will take the wrong meaning from the wearing a Yankee baseball cap.

And I'd like you to comment if you would on brand imagining and brand identities and the cultural restrictions, say in the Muslim world where, as I understand it, the portrayal of humans and others in art would run against, you know, sort of a cultural contamination.

And I'll take your response off the air.

CONAN: Okay, Steve, thank you.

Prof. APPIAH: Well, there's a lot in the book about Islam, not because I'm a Muslim, I'm not. But because I think that dealing obviously, figuring out how to relate in the cosmopolitan way to the many Islamic societies of the world is one of the great challenges we face today.

The Muslim countries, countries which are predominantly Muslim, stretch of course from Morocco to Indonesia. And the largest Muslim country in the world is Indonesia, which isn't in the Arab world at all, as people often forget.

It is true that some traditions in Islam were hostile to the representation of the human form, or indeed of animals. But it's also true that some of the finest representations of humans, for example, in Persian miniatures, were produced in Muslim societies.

So we shouldn't assume, Islam, like Christianity, is complex and internally very diverse. Yes, that means that in the places where the representation of humans is thought to be religiously forbidden or idolatrous or something, they won't take kindly to borrowing of those representations. And, roughly speaking, my view is that's up to them if they don't want to.

I think they, I think they lose out by it, but in order to figure out whether what they do is out by it is, matters, they're going to have to figure out what they think about this fundamental religious question of how to, whether you may or may not represent people.

And it doesn't seem to me that it's my job as an outsider to tell them what to do about it or our job as outsiders to force upon them a different cultural world from the one that they're going to produce democratically by themselves.

If you go to, I just spent some time recently in them, in the Middle East, I was in Oman and a little bit in Dubai. You wouldn't know what, what our caller just said, you wouldn't know what Steve just said from being those places because they are full of representation of human beings.

CONAN: Where you said it's not our job to tell them what to do about their representations and their art. Is it our job to tell them about what they should do about women's rights?

Prof. APPIAH: I think that it's, that should be a topic of a global conversation. First of all, women are half the population...

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Prof. APPIAH: ...speaking of the species, and when people say well, you know, one question you might ask in response to that sort of issue is, Well, who's the 'they'? You know half of them are women. Do they think that they should have the place in public life that the men who speak for the society say they should? Not all of them. Not all the men think that that's right.

There, it's not as if there's a single view about these things, again, within Islam or within, particular Muslim countries. I do think that because there is a global conversation now about gender, it's perfectly appropriate for us to have, through organizations like the U.N. Women's Conferences, to have global conversations about the status of women. And when countries sign up as they often do to treaties to point out that if you have a treaty obligation, then it's part of the job of the international community to make sure you live up to it.

In those conversations, those global conversations, we will hear things about the way women are treated and behave in the West. That's what I mean by conversation. If you're going to talk, you have to listen. And some of what they say about how women are treated in the West we may or may not agree with. But it might change our view of about how we see the way they treat women in the various places over there.

So I think it's, cosmopolitanism for me has two strands. One is that you have to take seriously the idea that we're collectively responsible, all of us, for the fate of all of us. And the other is respect for the choices people make to be different from one another.

But the base line of the first commandment, which is that everybody matters, means that if a society other than our own is treating people in a way that they ought to not be treated, yes, I think we have the right to talk about it, just as they have the right to tell us that we're treating people in ways we shouldn't in Guantanamo Bay. That we're treating people in ways we shouldn't. The Europeans would tell us we're treating people in the ways we shouldn't in our prisons, that our prison system falls below international standards of human rights, and so on. These are perfectly legitimate topics of conversation across cultures, I think.

CONAN: Let's talk now with Adam. Adam is with us from Kalamazoo.

ADAM (Caller): Hi, I was wondering how you account for these ethical differences and what kind of like methodology you see in coming to these conclusions of like a universal truth or, you know, human rights as you had mentioned.

Prof. APPIAH: Well, I think here it's very important to distinguish between two different questions. One is, how I or maybe philosophers in my tradition decide these things. I could give you a course on that, it's not easy to give a short answer to. But whatever my answer is to that question in the end how we're going to develop human rights discourse across the species isn't going to depend on the answer to that questions. It's going to depend upon all of us conversing with one another about what things we take to be fundamental to human dignity and how we're going to make sure that everybody gets access to them.

In those conversations it's not going to be helpful to me to appeal to complicated metaphysical ideas from the Western tradition or from any tradition. It's going to be helpful rather just to engage with people, to exchange ideas. And one of the striking things that's happened is, as Michael Ignatieff once said in a nice formulation, human rights has gone global by going local. People all over the planet have used human rights treaties and language to fight fights locally. And that's the way in which human rights I think is going to get everywhere. It's going to be because women in Bangladesh and particular communities use the language of human rights to ask why they lose their property rights when their husband's die and so on.

CONAN: I thought a good example you gave in the book was the change in China that ended within a generation the centuries-old practice of foot binding.

Prof. APPIAH: Yes. That's a very interesting example. I don't understand it well enough yet and one of the things that I'm trying to work on actually for the next project is to figure out what really went on in that case. So here is a practice that went of for a thousand years or so in China, binding women's feet into sort of a very painful way and until the turn of the last century this was thought to be very beautiful and women of good family were pretty much unmarriageable unless this had been done to them when they were young. Then in the course of a generation, about twenty years or so, there was a big shift and at the end of that shift many young women who had had their feet bound in order that they should be beautiful were unmarriageable. After a thousand of years over about a generation the Chinese gave it up.

They gave it up for lots of reasons, but one of them was the result of a sense that they were failing to live up to a kind of universal human standard. They had the idea that they looked kind of backward and primitive to other people. And they didn't want to look backward and primitive to other people and so they argued through these anti-footbinding societies that formed all over China to persuade families to stop. And as I say, in the course of a generation it stopped.

There's a similar thing that happened, which I don't talk about in the book, but it's a very interesting story, with abolition. As we all know in the seventeenth century in this country and into the early eighteenth century, while their were abolitionists and while people like Quakers were deciding that they couldn't own slaves, by and large people took slavery rather for granted. At a certain point, around about 1800 or so, large numbers of people in the Western world, which had had forms of slavery basically forever, came around to a different view according to which it was wicked, uncivilized, old fashioned and wrong to have and use slaves.

How did that happen? I mean again, you know, this is a story that's been told but I still think it's, we don't understand it well enough. We don't understand how these forms of moral changes occur. But one thing we can say about them is that they happened as a result of a conversation that was not national. It wasn't that there was one conversation in England and one in France and one in the United States.

CONAN: I have to, excuse me, I have to say that you're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's talk with Jennifer and Jennifer is calling us from Kumasi in Ghana.

JENNIFER (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, Jennifer. Go ahead please.

JENNIFER: Thank you, yes, I'm calling from Professor Appiah's hometown.

CONAN: Great.

JENNIFER: I would first like to say I really appreciated his article in the New York Times.

Prof. APPIAH: Thank you.

JENNIFER: I have a question about education. Professor how do you respond to the fact that the education system in West Africa is the result of colonialism and can sometimes be ineffectual in the context of the culture and the economic realities of the country? Do you think it's properly preparing students for the economic realities that they will face upon graduation?

Prof. APPIAH: We're trying hard obviously to make our modern education system rather than our modern circumstances and that applies to primary, secondary, and tertiary education and I think there are obviously features of the way the system developed. The modern education system was essentially the result of a mixture of colonial policy and I should say the creation of schools by missionaries from many different religious denominations, Christian denominations, and in the North Muslim education. So, it does have this history, but I do think that, you know, increasingly we've tried to shift the education system to reflect the realities.

More, they made a change about a decade ago which increased the frequency with which ordinary people got to spend some of their time in their school learning how the vast majority of Ghanaians make their living, which is by farming and so on. But I should say that I also think that it is important for us to be educating people who are first rate knowledgeable people in the global systems of knowledge and physics and computer science and economics and so on, because we are not going to make progress, nobody in the world now can make progress without being engaged with the world system.

And one of the things that I think is great about Ghana is that by and large most Ghanaians have been enormously open to the world. In my book I talk about a family that grew up on the street that I grew up on and they now live in four different, they live in Japan, Spain, London, New York, all these brothers. And most of them didn't finish high school. But they were prepared for the world and open to the world and they've got jobs in these places. But they couldn't have done that if they hadn't learned how to speak European languages and so on.

CONAN: Jenn...

Prof. APPIAH: So...sorry.

CONAN: I'm just running out of time here. Jennifer, thanks very much. We appreciate the call.

Prof. APPIAH: Yeah, thanks for calling.

JENNIFER: Thank you.

CONAN: Earlier Anthony Appiah mentioned Michael Ignatieff, by chance we're talking to him when we come back after the break. We'll also be, he's running for Parliament in Canada. We can talk about the difference between Canadian and American politics and we'll also have more about 'Cosmopolitanism'. This is NPR News.

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CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Right now we're talking about 'Cosmopolitanism' with Kwame Anthony Appiah. His new book is of that name, 'Ethics in a World of Strangers' is the title. And let's get another caller on the line and this is Lauren. Loren's calling from Cheyenne, excuse me, Eugene, Oregon.

LOREN (Caller): Oh, hi.

CONAN: Hi there.

LOREN: Yeah, I just, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Uh huh.

LOREN: And I had a question I wanted to ask just about maybe a particular culture and that would be, the French are famous for trying to exclude American phrases, Americanisms, slang and so from their culture, their literature...

CONAN: To protect the purity of the language, yeah.

LOREN: Yeah. And in, what effect do you think this has had, you know, this attempt to avoid cultural contamination, had effect on the French culture, whether it's literature or whether it's had a reverse effect or...

Prof. APPIAH: I don't know whether its had a reverse effect, but I can tell you that it hasn't worked. As everybody who's spent anytime in France will tell you. After all you couldn't have a weekend without English. That would mean most of the weekly vacations of the French would have to go. You can't move earth around in Paris without 'en bulldozier', so I'm afraid that try as they might they're ignoring the fundamental thrust of human cultural history when they try to do that. And one of the reasons, I think, one of the reasons why English has been so successful is that it doesn't have an 'Academe Ingles' busy trying to keep it pure and clean. English is a wonderful language in part because it's full of Germanic and Latinate and South Pacific and African words. It's full of words like taboo which comes from the South Pacific. So, they tried, they failed, they were bound to fail in my view because that's not how people are. People see a good idea somewhere else they borrow it.

CONAN: Loren, thanks very much.

LOREN: Yeah, well, thanks, thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

LOREN: Bye-bye.

CONAN: And just a couple of minutes left with you Anthony Appiah and I wanted to ask you briefly about the group of people you call anti-cosmopolitanists and those would be universalists, many of, though not all, religious beliefs.

Prof. APPIAH: Yes, if I'm worried about as it were one group of enemies of 'Cosmopolitanism' it is people who are like 'Cosmopolitans universalists', that is they think that the whole human community matters and they're preoccupied and concerned about the whole human community but they don't share the second stand of 'Cosmopolitanism' which is this respect for differences, this tolerance and recognition of our own intellectual moral fallibility, a willingness to listen. And many Christians are cosmopolitan, 'Cosmopolitanism' entered Christianity very early on.

As St. Paul said, in me there is neither Jew nor Greek and that's a cosmopolitan sentiment. But many modern Christians and many modern Muslims and many modern Hindus, for example, are deeply anti-cosmopolitan. They want, they care about the whole world, but they want the world to be reshaped in their own image. And it's that willingness to live alongside and in a world with people who are different from you that I think distinguishes 'Cosmopolitanism' from other forms of more homogenizing, universality and that makes it for me a more hopeful way of thinking about how we can live together as fellow citizens of the planet than the views of the fundamentalist who think the only way to do that is to convert everybody to their picture.

CONAN: Anthony Appiah's new book is 'Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers.' Thanks very much for joining us today.

Prof. APPIAH: It was a great pleasure and say hi to Michael Ignatieff for me.

CONAN: Very briefly, very shortly. Anthony Appiah joined us from our bureau in New York City.

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