What Are You Reading…On Cosmopolitanism

Since my last “What Are You Reading” column, I have traveled halfway around the world to China, where I am beginning a position teaching business ethics and logic to students at SIAS University at the behest of Ft. Hays State University’s philosophy department. The training weeks were useful, if tiring, as was the bureaucracy associated with entering China (e.g. all people beginning residency in the Henan province must undergo a short mammogram, among other tests). But my favorite part thus far has been meeting my new colleagues and students.

The culture team, performing a Chinese history fashion show

The students at SIAS have been great, as many volunteered for a “culture team” to help our transition to China. At the airport we were greeted by upwards of 20 of them, who were eager to hear about our flights, our likes and dislikes, and life in America. Since many students here are unfamiliar with the discipline of philosophy (apart from Mao’s writings on Marx and some of Confucius’s work), the conversation quickly turned to pop culture, as many students know the same artists, movies, books, and celebrities that I do (my personal culture team member picked his English name—LeBron—from his favorite athlete).

The experience reinforced my belief in culture as an important stepping stone to a more cosmopolitan society. The only regret I have is my inability to speak as fluently about their pop culture as they could about mine. Apart from basketball player Yao Ming, I am unable to name any contemporary Chinese musicians, actors, or athletes. It would be a valuable endeavor in the West to promote other cultures more, not as a replacement for ours, but as a way of building more understanding over time. The following papers have some similarly helpful thoughts about cosmopolitanism I hope you’ll enjoy.

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