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 The owl of Minerva and the notion of cosmopolitanism

by Julian Memetaj

The owl of Minerva and the notion of cosmopolitanism

Julian Memetaj[1]

Hegel wrote, in the preface to hisPhilosophy of Right: 'The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.'[2] What he meant is that philosophy understands reality only after the end of a closing era unable though to denote how the world ought to be.

Similarly, compared to the high hopes of the past, we are in a historical moment, where it seems that there is no longer any legitimate centre point, from which to look and to communicate with the world.

Risks, such as financial crisis, international terrorism, environmental problems, and irregular migration, to name a few, have escaped the control of institutions allowing the exceptions to become the norm.

What’s more worrying into these blurred boundaries of time, it’s 1) the inefficient response of international community to offer credible proposals and solutions 2) a return to the national perspective, which excludes the otherness of others, and 3) a foreign policy that is a domaine réservé of an elite.

For Europe, the present hour should not be a retrospective turning point. Europe, as Ulrich Beck said, cannot become neither a state nor a nation. Hence, it cannot think of it in terms of nation state. Thinking about the future implications of a nationality shared past, is a monoligic imagination according to him.

Admittedly, words casting as a frame of reference in the past for setting the pillars of a globally shared collective future, such as: faith in transnational politics, common risk consciousness, universal ideas, global values, a sense of global citizenship, global cooperation and democracy are now under severe criticism and doubt.

What is the wider script that we should follow? A return into a Hobbesian war of all against all that might replace global order or a cosmopolitan regime where key questions of a way of life would be settled globally or glocally?

Certainly cosmopolitanism is not a literal guise. It incorporates a set of political ideas, philosophies and ideologies, sometimes very controversial between them. For Heinrich Heine, cosmopolitanism is the kingdom of the air.

On the other hand, for Hannah Arendt, cosmopolitanism is an invitation to develop a sensus communis or a community sense. It’s an empirical exploitation for globalization from within that cast doubt upon nation-based memory of the past. It is a de facto recognition of cultural otherness both internally and externally.

Anna Laura, five years old, wrote that as long as Pangaea existed all men felt they were united. Then the earth was separated and men began to feel divided even though they actually are not.

Where the nexus to unravel cosmopolitanism in terms of space, means the de-territorialiazation of the socio-economic and political, in terms of time, means the re-traditionalization of the social, political and cultural thought though a globally shared collective future, as Beck wrote. It is the future, not the past, which integrates cosmopolitan ages as he profoundly acclaimed.

Young generations merit closer attention, as they will be its long-term beneficiaries of a global sphere of responsibility. Can we choose rightly? I leave it to you to contemplate.



[1] Editor-in-chief, European Expression

[2] G. W. F. Hegel,Hegel's Philosophy of Right, tr. T. M. Knox (Oxford, 1967).

ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 99 - 22/4/2016

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