A defense of moderate cosmopolitanism
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references. In this dissertation, I argue for a moral view, moderate cosmopolitanism, which is a response to a conflict between two currents of thought in contemporary debates about moral obligation: a) a strict cosmopolitan current, which, grounded in the principle of equal moral worth, claims that our obligations to humanity are always primary and that we are justified in giving preference to family members and compatriots only insofar as doing so can be thought of as the best way to benefit humanity as a whole; and b) an anti-cosmopolitan current that claims that humanity does not exist as a moral community, that we owe virtually all of what gives meaning to our lives to our membership in particular families, communities and nations, and that if we cease giving priority to "our own," we jeopardize significant sources of positive value. Given the importance of nations and families to individual flourishing--given that our families and our nations are the sites where our characters are formed and where we first learn virtue--any liberal view concerned with the good of individuals has at least instrumental reasons to value those institutions. But it is a feature of those institutions that instrumental valuing cannot but serve to weaken them when it is all there is. In my defense of moderate cosmopolitanism, which occupies a middle position between strict- and anti- cosmopolitanism, I argue for the fundamental (un-derived) status both of special obligations and of obligations stemming from equal moral worth; I defend cosmopolitanism against some of its opponents' main lines of attack--that it is too abstract and idealistic, that there cannot be a moral community comprising all human beings, and that there is no "universal reason"--and I demonstrate the viability of moderate cosmopolitanism as a moral-political view suited to solving practical problems, motivating action and offering just solutions when moral dilemmas arise.
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