Patriotism versus Cosmopolitanism

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

What is it

Patriotism versus Comopolitanism:  Is your loyalty to America and Americans more important than the common humanity you share with everyone on the globe?

Listening Notes

What is patriotism? Ken proposes that it is love for your country just because it is your country. John distinguishes between good and bad patriotism. Is favoring your country above others different from favoring members of your race over others? John introduces Debra Satz, professor at Stanford. Is it right for Americans to be more concerned with poverty at home rather than abroad? Satz think it is defensible to give preference to those we know over strangers, although she says at the least we have to avoid causing harm to others. Where do our duties to strangers come from? Satz says that the cosmopolitan ideal is that all humans are morally equal.


The relationship of my government's action to me is different from my relation to other governments' actions. Am I responsible for the actions of my government even if I oppose those actions? Satz gives the example of German reparations to Jews after World War 2. Satz distinguishes between personal and civic responsibility. The primary responsibility of a state is to its own people, but if a state cannot provide for its people, should we step in and help? Can we take pride in our nationality since it was mere chance that we were born in the US? Satz thinks that our nationality involves us in a historical project.


What does it mean to be cosmopolitan? There is no worldwide city or community of which to be a member. Satz says that there is a global community in a weak sense. Why do we have a sentiment of obligation toward people we know? Satz thinks these feelings do not have a rational basis but that they are extremely important. Satz emphasizes that loyalty to a country has to be bounded by other obligations.


  • Amy Standen the Roving Philosophical Reporter (Seek to 04:15): Amy Standen interviews a car factory manager, an internet salesman, and an economist about “buying American.”
  • Ian Shoales the Sixty Second Philosopher (Seek to 37:15): Ian Shoales gives a quick biography of Diogenes the Cynic, the man who told Alexander the Great to get out of his light and was the first person in recorded history to claim to be a citizen of the world.
  • Conundrum (Seek to 48:00): Mary Lee from Oregon asks whether the relationship between adoptive parents and their children is any less real than that of biological parents and their children.

Debra Satz, Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society, Stanford University


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