Ottmar Ette (University of Potsdam) The Scientist as Weltbürger: Alexander von Humboldt and the Beginning of Cosmopolitics

Excellent article on Humboldt and cosmopolitanism, arguing that the ‘Weltbürger’ was a scientist and the scientist a ‘Weltbürger.’ This reminds me of my own research on the use of the term cosmopolitan and citizen of the world in eighteenth century France. Very often people would use it as a moniker to claim a position of universal truth, a certain neutrality of view in international debates, and certainly a position of positivity as a subject. Very sketchily this position was made possible — this is my contention — because of the central position that humanity took in the discourse, and the general belief in the universality of reason. Every person through reason could ponder the laws of universal truth, without any particularistic bias. This is the fundament of positivity and its connection to the cosmopolitan. However, I argue that cosmopolitan and cosmopolitanism are two different things, and cannot be equated to one another. The apparition of the word ‘cosmopolitanism’ is a late nineteenth century invention, contemporary with the social embeddedness of nationalism. Since nationalism claimed the particular, the fixed, the boundary, cosmopolitanism, based on the travelling cosmopolitan became the general, the world, the moving, the boundaryless. Some US/THEM differentiation.

Here is the link on Humboldt and cosmopolitanism:

http://www.uni-potsdam.de/u/romanistik/humboldt/hin/ette-cosmopolitics.htm

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About Frank Ejby Poulsen

Education: MRes History, European University Institute, Florence, Italy. MSc Political Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. LLM International law and EU law, University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France. Academia Profile: http://eui.academia.edu/FrankEjbyPoulsen Languages: French: Mother tongue Danish: C2 English: C2 German: B1-B2 Spanish: A2-B1 Norwegian and Swedish: reading comprehension
This entry was posted in Articles, Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolite, Links to cosmopolitan references, nineteenth century and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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