Distant Suffering and Cosmopolitan Obligations

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Abstract

How far does globalization extend the boundaries of community by bringing distant suffering directly into the lives of onlookers, and how far does the greater visibility of suffering arouse compassion and a willingness to help? Modern self-images that stress the growth of emotional identification between the members of the same society encourage the belief that similar attachments may develop at the level of humanity as a whole. Critics of this position emphasize deep-seated tendencies to remain indifferent to remote suffering. In the light of these differences, this paper asks whether the extension of human solidarity largely depends on the development of feelings of guilt or shame when harm is done to 'distant strangers' or when little is done to help them. It asks whether universal vulnerabilities to basic forms of mental and physical suffering create the possibility of global empathy and sympathy, and whether the idea of 'embodied cosmopolitanism' provides adequate normative foundations for collective action to reduce unnecessary suffering in distant places.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-36
JournalInternational Politics
Volume44
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2007

Keywords

  • cosmopolitan
  • globalization
  • global ethics
  • distant suffering
  • moral emotions

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