1. Philosophy, Cultural Diversity and Personal Identity

diversityPhilosopher Kwame Appiah, in his recent work, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, argues convincingly for practicing the golden rule of cosmopolitanism, “I am human: nothing human is alien to me.”

In a rebuke to the anti-globalisation and cultural imperialism argument of global capitalism dictating the tastes and consumption patterns of ignorant peoples, he states “it is deeply condescending and it isn’t true.”

“Behind much of the grumbling about the cultural effects of globalization,” adds Appiah, “is an image of how the world used to be – an image that is both unrealistic and unappealing.” He argues that people respond to cultural outputs according to their existing cultural context and nothing more. He insists that cultural consumers are intelligent people.

For Appiah, the intelligent individual who is not able to creatively express himself is a legitimate concern. But it should not be used as an argument for the preservation of culture over developing an economic and cultural policy that enables individual creative expression. He believes that preservation should be a choice.

On the question of homogeneity produced by globalization he highlights the threat globalization also poses to homogeneity. Diversity matters, he says because freedom is about options and a diversity of options is important for people to shape their lives. Globalization also provides options and more intense human connections.

I am human is an ethos and idea that is easily understood. Something created by one human should not be alien to another.

“My people – human beings – made the great wall of China, the Chrysler Building, the Sistine Chapel: these things were made by creatures like me, through the exercise of skill and imagination. I do not have those skills, and my imagination spins different dreams. Nevertheless, that potential is also in me. The connection through a local identity is as imaginary as the connection through humanity. … These connections are made in the imagination; but to say this isn’t to pronounce either of them unreal. They are among the realest connections we have.”

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