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Motivating Cosmopolitanism? A Skeptical View

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We are not cosmopolitans, if by cosmopolitan we mean that we are willing to prioritize equally the needs of those near and far. Here, I argue that cosmopolitanism has yet to wrestle with the motivational challenges it faces: any good moral theory must be one that well-meaning people will be motivated to adopt. Some cosmopolitans suggest that the principles of cosmopolitanism are themselves sufficient to motivate compliance with them. This argument is flawed, for precisely the reasons that motivate this paper – we are cosmopolitan neither in our attitudes nor in our behaviors towards others. Other cosmopolitans suggest that 'global solidarity' is sufficient to generate a commitment to carrying out duties towards others. These latter efforts implicitly rely on insights best captured by the nationalist thesis, that is, that national communities are the best vehicles, morally speaking, through which individuals can carry out their obligations to others. I consider, and refute, two objections to my argument: first, that it is guilty of a 'time-lag fallacy' and, second, that it ignores an emergent cosmopolitan attitude among global citizens.


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