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Cosmopolitanism and violence: difficulties of judgment




This paper addresses the difficult relation of cosmopolitan ideas to the existence of war and violence. It explores the ambivalences within the cosmopolitan outlook as it seeks to reconcile its attentiveness to the actuality of violence in the modern age with its normative vision of perpetual peace. I address these ambivalences through a discussion of a) what it is to learn from the catastrophes of the twentieth century; b) the contribution Kant's theory of cosmopolitan law to the solution to contemporary problems of violence; c) the reconstruction of cosmopolitan thinking in the wake of the Holocaust as an attempt to take atrocities seriously; d) the application of cosmopolitan criteria to the justification and authorization of humanitarian military intervention; and e) the attempt on the part of Habermas and Derrida to address the ambivalence involved in reconciling cosmopolitanism and violence in Kosovo and Iraq. While cosmopolitanism is usually understood as a reference to a worldly legal and institutional order, the cosmopolitan outlook is also a mode of understanding the world, an ethic of responsibility and an ongoing exercise of political judgment in the face of violence.