The Changing Fortunes of Cosmopolitanism: Demos, Cosmos and Globus

Oct 5 2023 to Oct 19 2023
Universitätsring 1
Vienna 1010
11.10. 18:30, 19.10. 18:30
Thursday, October 5, 2023 to Thursday, October 19, 2023
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IWM Lectures in Human Sciences

The intense interest in cosmopolitanism in the social and political sciences, cultural and legal studies dates back to the last two decades of the twentieth century. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the reunification of Germany, and the extension of the European Union to east and central European countries formerly under Communist rule, the Kantian cosmopolitan ideal of uniting diverse countries under the rule of law, respect for human rights and the free exchange of goods and services seemed to come alive. By the beginning of the new century, cosmopolitanism had fallen on hard times. This lecture series will defend cosmopolitanism from below by engaging with the postcolonial critiques of Kantian thought, voiced by James Tully, Inez Valdez, Sylvia Wynter and Walter Mignolo.

Thursday 5 October 2023, 18:30 CEST, Kleiner Festsaal, Universität Wien, Universitätsring 1

I. Kantian Cosmopolitanism and its Critics

Cosmopolitanism is a contested legacy: whether one describes Socrates as the first cosmopolitan––kosmopolitēs (“citizen of the world”)––or reserves the term for the cynic, Diogenes Laertius, Marcus Tullius Cicero or Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor, (Appiah 2006) cosmopolitanism begins with a critique of the polis and the civitas in the name of the cosmos, of an ordered reality whose rationality transcends the many and conflicting, and often unjust, nomoi (laws and customs) of the political world. By interpreting cosmopolitanism as “world citizenship,” Kant makes a fundamental contribution to this tradition. By focusing on Kant’s essay on “Perpetual Peace,” Seyla Benhabib defends aspects of Kant’s legacy against liberal nationalisms as well as postmodern and de-colonial criticisms.

George Karamanolis, Associate Professor of Ancient Philosophy and Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Vienna, will open the lecture series and give the welcome address.

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Wednesday 17 October 2023, 18:30 CEST, Skylounge, Oskar-Morgenstern Platz 1 (Zugang über Berggasse)
This lecture was originally scheduled for 11 October 2023 and has been postponed to Tuesday, 17 October 2023.

II. From the Hermeneutics of Suspicion to Reconstructing Cosmopolitan Law

Seyla Benhabib begins the second lecture with the Caribbean critic, Sylvia Wynter, whose work pushes us towards a reconsideration of the modernist project in the direction of a less Eurocentric and more global vision. She then turns to the work of a group of scholars named TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law), whose reconstructive contributions to international law enable us to leave behind “the hermeneutics of suspicion” (Paul Ricoeur) towards a more cosmopolitan dimension, very much along the lines of the distinction envisaged by Kant between Völkerrecht and kosmopolitisches Recht. Benhabib distinguishes between liberal nationalism, liberal internationalism, neo-liberal globalism and cosmopolitanism from below.

IWM Rector Misha Glenny will deliver the welcome address and introduce the speaker.

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Thursday 19 October 2023, 18:30 CEST, Hörsaal 14, Oskar-Morgenstern Platz 1 (Zugang über Berggasse)

III. The Globe as World, Earth and Planet

In the third lecture, Seyla Benhabib wants to analyze three dimensions of globality: the world; the earth and the planet. Globalists are surely correct that as a consequence of economic as well as technological movements, we have reached an unprecedented intensity in time and space in the movement of news and people, services and microbes, fashion and money across borders. This is our world of practices and institutions; conflict and consensus; wars and commerce. But these processes have also endangered the earth: that thin membrane around the planet earth, according to Bruno Latour, which has made human life possible. Must we then adopt a planetary perspective? What does this even mean? The speaker returns here to an important distinction made by Hannah Arendt between “world alienation” and “earth alienation” to reorient our thinking on these issues.

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Seyla Benhabib is the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy Emerita at Yale University. She is currently Scholar in Residence at Columbia Law School and Professor Adjunct of Law, where she teaches legal and political theory as well as a course on refugee, migration and citizenship law in comparative perspective. She also holds appointments in Columbia University’s Center for Contemporary Critical Thought and the Department of Philosophy. Professor Benhabib is the author of numerous publications, including: Exile, Statelessness, and Migration. Playing Chess with History from Hannah Arendt to Isaiah Berlin (2018), Another Cosmopolitanism (2006), The Claims of Culture (2003), and The Rights of Others (2004). She is currently working on a book called At the Margins of the Modern State. Critical Theory and the Law (Forthcoming with Polity Press). Her work has been translated into twelve languages. Professor Benhabib has previously taught at the New School for Social Research and Harvard Universities, where she was Director of Harvard University’s Program for Degrees in Social Studies. Throughout her professorial career, she has held many prestigious visiting professorships including the Spinoza Chair in Amsterdam (2001), the Gauss Lectures at Princeton (1998), the John Seeley Memorial Lectures (Cambridge University, 2002), and the Tanner Lectures (Berkeley, 2004). Professor Benhabib is the recipient of the Ernst Bloch prize (2009), the Leopold Lucas Prize (2012), and the Meister Eckhart Prize (2014). Currently, Seyla Benhabib is Albert Hirschman Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (Insititut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, IWM) in Vienna.

A cooperation of:

Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie der Universität Wien
Institut für Philosophie der Universität Wien
Institut für Politikwissenschaft der Universität Wien
Institut für Soziologie der Universität Wien

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