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Confucian Cosmopolitanism


  • Philip J Ivanhoe

  • This work was supported by a grant from The Academy of Korean Studies funded by the Korean Government (MEST) (AKS-2011-AAA-2102).

Philip J. Ivanhoe, Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong,


Scholars in the humanities and social sciences are keenly aware of and often deeply engaged with more global or cosmopolitan approaches to their respective fields; nevertheless, theories of cosmopolitanism remain exceedingly controversial and arise exclusively from Western philosophical sources. Recently, Martha Nussbaum presented a contemporary Western liberal cosmopolitan theory and sought to integrate it with a call for multicultural education. In this essay, I describe, analyze, and criticize Nussbaum's conception of cosmopolitanism and argue that it does not sit comfortably with her laudable advocacy of multicultural education. I then draw upon resources within the Confucian tradition to sketch two alternative conceptions of cosmopolitanism, which I argue are both more powerful than what Nussbaum proposes and better support the kind of multicultural education she so eloquently advocates.