Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism and the Challenge of the Exotic

British Journal of Aesthetics 59 (2):161-178 (2019)


This paper explores how the virtuous aesthetic cosmopolitan—one actively engaged in cultivating an authoritative appreciation for culturally unfamiliar works or traditions of art, in a manner informed by moral cosmopolitan principles—engages with the ‘exotic’ artwork in a manner that is both morally responsible and aesthetically discerning. After providing an overview of philosophical cosmopolitanism and the aesthetic cosmopolitan’s project, I consider in depth a particular example: the music of Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali as encountered by an unaccustomed listener. I explore potential problematic responses to the work, including both chauvinistic and exoticizing responses. I then consider possible strategies for alternative responses, informed by the aesthetic and hermeneutic theories of Hume, Gadamer, and Charles Taylor. Having revealed deficiencies with these alternatives, I go on to argue that the cosmopolitan’s best strategy is a mode of appreciation that is ‘conversational’ in nature, an open-ended approach modeled on an exchange between the appreciator and an other-cultural interlocutor. In proposing such a model, I draw on the work of Kwame Appiah and Maria Lugones, as well as Anthony Laden’s recent work on conversational norms.

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Author's Profile

Mike Rings Rings
Indiana University, Bloomington

References found in this work

Of the Standard of Taste.David Hume - 1757 - In Essays Moral, Political, and Literary. Libertyclassics (1987). pp. 226-249.
Cosmopolitanism.Pauline Kleingeld & Eric Brown - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Six Varieties of Cosmopolitanism in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany.Pauline Kleingeld - 1999 - Journal of the History of Ideas 60 (3):505-524.
The Aesthetic Appreciation of Music.Jerrold Levinson - 2009 - British Journal of Aesthetics 49 (4):415-425.

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Citations of this work

Normativity, Agency, and Value: A View From Aesthetics.Dominic McIver Lopes - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (1):232-242.

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