For more recent article about Charles Taylor see Joshua Rothman’s November 11, 2016 “How to restore your faith in democracy” in New Yorker Magazine.

Published in 2007…

It is surprising that so little attention outside of Quebec is being paid to one of the most robust contemporary exercises in democracy, the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences. This commission on the social accommodation of religious and cultural minorities in Quebec, is participatory, accessible online, completely bilingual (French/English), pluridenominational and intercultural. Building on Quebec’s model of sociocultural integratation the Commission is examining issues related to managing diversity in a society committed to democratic participation and the protection of human rights. Issues discussed include relations with cultural communities, immigration, secularism with a focus on the management of religious diversity. Renowned Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, (1931-) and sociologist Gérard Bouchard will oversee the commission’s one-year mandate. The process includes gathering information from public and on-line forums.

Taylor argued that the media have promoted an image of Quebecers as exclusive by focusing on the most explosive racist and zenophobic comments. The moderate majority in Quebec are participating in the forums and are very welcoming toward immigrants and their cultures, and don’t adopt an attitude of exclusion (CBC 2007-11-16).


Some 88% of immigrants in Québec live in the Montréal area and account for 19% of the population (9.9% of the population of Québec). The population of Quebec is 7.6 million with 47% living in the Montréal area (GQ 2007:16).


1948 The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.

1960s Debate[s in Quebec “sought to redefine powers and the division of responsibility between the State and the Catholic Church (GQ 2007:6)”

1960s “Québec has ranked among the top 10 host countries of immigrants* among the OECD countries [since at least the 1960s] (GQ 2007:16). Source: United Nations, Trends in Total Migrant Stock, 1960-2000, 2003 Revision, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2004.

1970s Quebec adopted a “sociocultural integration* model or perspective. The sociocultural integration model compelled the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences “to reexamine interculturalism,* relations with the cultural communities, immigration, secularism* and the theme of Québec’s identity as part of the Frenchspeaking countries and communities of the world. In a word, it is, in particular, the management of diversity, especially religious diversity, that appears above all to pose a problem (GQ 2007:10).”

1975 Quebec adopted its own Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. “Québec’s political system is both democratic and liberal. It is democratic inasmuch as political power is vested, in the last analysis, in the hands of the people, which delegates such power to representatives who exercise it on their behalf for a given period of time. Our democracy is thus representative,* but is also liberal in that individual rights and freedoms are deemed to be fundamental and are confirmed and protected by the State (GQ 2007:12).”

1977 Quebec adopted the Charter of the French language (Bill 101), stipulating that “French [is] the language of Government and the Law as well as the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business (GQ 2007:12).”

1981 “It is generally agreed that the main thrust of Québec’s integration policy was initially defined in 1981 in “Québécois—Each and Every One” which rejected federal multiculturalism* policy in favour of a policy of “cultural convergence.” “Québécois—Each and Every One” (action plan for the cultural communities), Québec, 1981, 78 pages. To our knowledge, this action plan dating from 1981 is the first government document to sanction the notion of a “cultural community (GQ 2007:14 footnote 23).”

1982 Canada incorporated a Canadian charter of rights and freedoms into the Constitution Act.

1985 “Although it is rarely formally spelled out in legislation, accommodation is deemed to be included in the right to equality that the charters recognize. It is a mechanism that the Supreme Court of Canada, which drew inspiration from a concept already recognized in the United States, sanctioned in 1985 in order to combat indirect discrimination,* which, following the application of an institutional norm* such as a statute, rule, regulation, contract, administrative decision or customary practice, infringes a citizen’s right to equality or freedom of religion (GQ 2007:8).”

1985 “March 20, 1985 resolution of the Québec National Assembly on recognition of the rights of the aboriginal peoples (GQ 2007:11).

1989 May 30, 1989 resolution of the Québec National Assembly on the recognition of the Malecite Nation (GQ 2007:11).

1990 “The Énoncé de politique en matière d’immigration et d’intégration was adopted which proposed the notion of a “moral contract*” that establishes, in a spirit of reciprocity, specific commitments by the host society and newcomers. The integration framework proposed adopts the basic principles mentioned earlier, i.e. Québec is a liberal democracy* in which French is the common public language, and specifies the nature of the desired relationship between the host society and immigrants (GQ

2007:14) The Énoncé stipulates that Québec is: • a society in which French is the common language of public life; • a democratic society that expects and encourages all citizens to participate and contribute; • a pluralistic society, open to extensive cultural contributions within the limits imposed by respect for basic democratic values and the need for intercommunity dialogue. Source: Au Québec pour vivre ensemble. Énoncé de politique en matière d’immigration et d’intégration, ministère des Communautés culturelles et de l’Immigration, 1990, page 15. (GQ 2007:14 footnote 24).

2007-01 The municipal council in the Mauricie town of Hérouxville adopted a code of conduct for immigrants in January. Seven of the region’s 10 towns moved quickly to support the list of rules. The Muslim Congress of Canada is considering a human rights complaint against the town.

2007-02-08 On February 8 “Québec Premier Jean Charest announced the establishment of the Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences in response to public discontent concerning reasonable accommodation (GQ 2007:5) [T] he current debate is taking place in a unique context of pluridenominationality (GQ 2007:6).”

2007 “Almost all Western nations are facing the same challenge, that of reviewing the major codes governing life together to accommodate ethnocultural differences while respecting rights (GQ 2007:5).”

2007-11-16. CBC. 2007. “Quebec accommodation hearings are serving a ‘great need,’ co-chair says.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/16/qc-boutay1116.html

2007-11-21 CBC. 2007. “Montreal immigrants fuel debate on accommodation.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/20/qc-accommodation1120.html

Keywords used in Consultation on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences

[A]ccommodation related to cultural differences [. . .] “is based on the principle of negotiation, whether or not it is formal, between two parties, usually an individual and an organization, the first of which claims to be the victim of discrimination. Such negotiation seeks to strike a balance between each party’s rights without imposing an undue burden on the party targeted by the complaint.” [A]ccommodation practices or arrangements fall under two largely overlapping spheres, the citizen (cooperation) sphere and the legal sphere (GQ 2007:5).”


CBC. 2007. “Quebec accommodation hearings are serving a ‘great need,’ co-chair says.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/16/qc-boutay1116.html

CBC. 2007. “Montreal immigrants fuel debate on accommodation.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2007/11/20/qc-accommodation1120.html

GQ (Gouvernement du Québec). 2007. Accomodation and Differences: Seeking Common Ground: Quebecers Speak Out: Consultation Document: Dialogue Makes a Difference. http://www.accommodements.qc.ca/documentation/document-consultation-en.pdf


I came to know about George Smiley’s dilemma over breakfast as I read through novel after novel by John Le Carré. Smiley’s brilliance in his tradecraft was not enough to equip him for the ethically ambiguous role in which Le Carré placed him. Through the anti-Bond, middle-aged, mild-mannered, master of bureaucratic manoeuvring (wiki), George Smiley, Le Carré seemed to work through his own questions, “What are the real costs of national security policies such as espionage?” Aronoff (1998) examined Le Carré’s spy novels in terms of ethical dilemmas that confront citizens, particularly of democracies, when their nations engage in diplomacy, covert action and espionage with other nations.

Shulsky1 and Schmitt, two intelligence analysts juxtaposed political philosophy with spy novels by comparing their mentor, realist political philosopher Leo Strauss to the gentle, wise, world-weary and disillusioned George Smiley. Both Strauss and Smiley had the “ability to concentrate on detail, [with] consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines” and both believed that we live in a very cruel world of dangerous adversaries who aim to deceive by providing misleading clues and evidence (Shulsky and Schmitt 1999).

Strauss claimed that since your enemy aims to deceive you, you are also allowed to deceive. He interprets Plato to argue that “philosophers need to tell noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful politicians” (Holmes cited by Hersh 2003). “Echoing one of Strauss’s major themes, Shulsky and Schmitt criticize America’s intelligence community for its failure to appreciate the duplicitous nature of the regimes it deals with, its susceptibility to social-science notions of proof, and its inability to cope with deliberate concealment” See (Shulsky and Schmitt 1999 Hersh 2003).

The ideology of Leo Strauss has been described as “elitist, amoral and hostile to democratic government (Lobe 2003)” yet according to University of Calgary’s Shadia B. Drury he had a cult following of key US neo-conservative strategists (Drury 1988, 1999) including Paul Wolfowitz2, William Kristol, Gary Schmitt, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Clarence Thomas, Newt Gingrich, Abram Shulsky, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

I wonder if Aronoff would agree with the suggested similarities between George Smiley and Leo Strauss?

Keywords: cognoscenti, Drury, Wolfowitz, Siglitz, neoconservative, Calgary school, Chicago school, Bloom, elitism, Rand, politics, political philosophy,


1. “Schmitt is with the neo-conservative Project for the New American Century. Shulsky, of the RAND Corp. when the essay was written, is now director of the Department of Defense Office of Special Plans. OSP is the infamous alternative intelligence agency created in the immediate aftermath of September 11 by Pentagon hardliners who believed that the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies had missed or were soft-peddling evidence of Saddam’s WMD programs and links to al Qaeda. As director of OSP, Shulsky was at the center of administration efforts to weave together bits of intelligence to match their rock-solid belief that Saddam was an imminent and omnipresent threat (Rozen 2003).”

“Indeed, the Iraq intelligence debacle swirling around Shulsky’s OSP seems to fit some of Le Carre’s enduring revelations about the espionage business: that intelligence is almost always politicized, and that the ideological assumptions and personal obsessions that drive people in the spook world can be as disabling as the secrets and disinformation with which their enemies set about to deceive them (Rozen 2003).”

2. In March 2005 Joseph Stiglitz (Preston 2005) warned of the consequences of placing Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank.

Re: Leo Strauss a realist :

“The topic must appear at first as a very strange one: what possible connection could there be between the tumultuous world of spies and snooping paraphernalia, on the one hand, and the quiet life of scholarship and immersion in ancient texts, on the other? However, intelligence isn’t only involved with espionage and whiz-bang gadgetry; a large part of it deals with the patient piecing together of bits of information to yield the outlines of the larger picture. When one considers that this effort, called “analysis,” often focuses on such major questions as the nature and characteristic modes of action of a foreign regime, then perhaps the juxtaposition of political philosophy and intelligence may seem less far-fetched. Indeed, in his gentleness, his ability to concentrate on detail, his consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines, and his seeming unworldliness, Leo Strauss may even be said to resemble, however faintly, the George Smiley of John LeCarré’s novels (Schmitt and Shulsky 1999).”

“Robert Pippin, the chairman of the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago and a critic of Strauss, told me, “Strauss believed that good statesmen have powers of judgment and must rely on an inner circle. The person who whispers in the ear of the King is more important than the King. If you have that talent, what you do or say in public cannot be held accountable in the same way.” Another Strauss critic, Stephen Holmes, a law professor at New York University, put the Straussians’ position this way: “They believe that your enemy is deceiving you, and you have to pretend to agree, but secretly you follow your own views.” Holmes added, “The whole story is complicated by Strauss’s idea—actually Plato’s—that philosophers need to tell noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful politicians.” See Hersh (2003).

“The Straussian movement has many adherents in and around the Bush Administration. […] Strauss’s influence on foreign-policy decision-making (he never wrote explicitly about the subject himself) is usually discussed in terms of his tendency to view the world as a place where isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger from hostile elements abroad, and face threats that must be confronted vigorously and with strong leadership. How Strauss’s views might be applied to the intelligence-gathering process is less immediately obvious. As it happens, Shulsky himself explored that question in a 1999 essay, written with Gary Schmitt, entitled “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous)”—in Greek philosophy the term nous denotes the highest form of rationality. In the essay, Shulsky and Schmitt write that Strauss’s “gentleness, his ability to concentrate on detail, his consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines, and his seeming unworldliness . . . may even be said to resemble, however faintly, the George Smiley of John le Carré’s novels.” Echoing one of Strauss’s major themes, Shulsky and Schmitt criticize America’s intelligence community for its failure to appreciate the duplicitous nature of the regimes it deals with, its susceptibility to social-science notions of proof, and its inability to cope with deliberate concealment.” See Hersh (2003).

Re: Wolfowitz:

At Cornell University in the 1960s Wolfowitz lived at Telluride House on the Cornell campus to learn about democracy through the practice of running the house and organizing seminars. In 1963, philosophy professor Allan Bloom served as a Cornell faculty mentor living in the house and had a major influence on Wolfowitz’s political views with his assertion of the importance of political regimes in shaping peoples’ characters.[8] Schmitt observes that Wolfowitz first “became a protégé of the political philosopher Allan Bloom, and then of Albert Wohlstetter, the father of hard-line conservative strategic thinking at the University of Chicago.”[10] That year, Wolfowitz joined the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by Martin Luther King, Jr..[citation needed] According to Schmitt, “At Cornell Mr. Wolfowitz majored in mathematics and chemistry, but he was profoundly moved by John Hersey’s Hiroshima and shifted his focus toward politics. ‘One of the things that ultimately led me to leave mathematics and go into political science was thinking I could prevent nuclear war,’ he said.”[10] Then Wolfowitz went to the University of Chicago to study under Bloom’s mentor, Leo Strauss.[citations needed] Wolfowitz enrolled in Strauss’ courses, on Plato and Montesquieu, but, according to Mann, they “did not become especially close” before Strauss retired. Although Wolfowitz denies it, “in subsequent years colleagues both in government and academia came to view Wolfowitz as one of the heirs to Strauss’s intellectual traditions.”[citations needed] Wolfowitz claimed that, “I mean I took two terrific courses from Leo Strauss as a graduate student. One was on Montesquieu‘s spirit of the laws, which did help me understand our Constitution better. And one was on Plato‘s laws. The idea that this has anything to do with U.S. foreign policy is just laughable.[12][13]” See Wikipedia

Re: Shadia B. Drury

“In Drury’s opinion, contemporary society is threatened by a small school of American academics labeled Straussians, after the German born, Jewish-American political scientist, Leo Strauss (18991973). She has not shied away from voicing a critical interpretation of Strauss’ work, linking it to American right-wing public policy. In print and on the airwaves she has stated that Straussians are a “cult” (CBC Radio, Michael Enright interview CBC Sunday Edition), a group of dangerous people who need to be exposed and analyzed not in terms of what they say, but what they do. Drury has produced a body of work on the impact of Strauss that has placed her in the position of authority for many students, academics and media personalities. In an effort to espouse political theory with modern political practice, Drury has garnered a rather controversial position in American politics. Part of the criticism she receives comes from her latest book, where she examines “two equally arrogant and self-righteous civilizations confronting one another”. In Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics, and the Western Psyche, Drury regards the contemporary political problem as “thoroughly Biblical.” “Each (civilization) is convinced that it is on the side of God, truth and justice, while its enemy is allied with Satan, wickedness, and barbarism.” (wiki) >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadia_Drury

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States for his first term, and the conservative revolution that was slowly developing in the United States finally emerged in full-throated roar. Who provoked the conservative revolution? Shadia Drury provides a fascinating answer to the question as she looks at the work of Leo Strauss, a seemingly reclusive German Jewish emigré and scholar who was one of the most influential individuals in the conservative movement, a man widely seen as the godfather of the Republican party’s failed “Contract With America.” Among his students were individuals such as Alan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind. Strauss influenced the work of Irving Kristol, Gertrude Himmelfarb and William Kristol, as well as Chief Justice Clarence Thomas and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Drury delves deeply into Strauss’s work at the University of Chicago where he taught his students that, if they truly loved America, they must save her from her fateful enchantment with liberalism. Leo Strauss and the American Right is a fascinating piece of work that anyone interested in understanding our current political situation will want to read (Palgrave review).

Bibliography and webliography

Aronoff, Myron J. 1998. The Spy Novels of John le Carré: Balancing Ethics and Politics. St. Martin’s Press.

Aronoff, Myron J. 1998. The Spy Novels of John le Carré: Balancing Ethics and Politics. Palgrave Macmillan.

Barry, Tom. 2004. “A Philosophy of Intelligence: Leo Strauss and Intelligence Strategy,” IRC Right Web (Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, February 12, 2004).

Drury, Shadia B. “Leo Strauss.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Drury, Shadia B. Alexandre Kojeve: The Roots of Postmodern Politics. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 1994. ISBN 0-312-12092-3

Drury, Shadia B. The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss. 1st ed. Macmillan: London, 1988. ISBN 0-333-41256-7

Drury, Shadia B. Leo Strauss and the American Right. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 1999. ISBN 0-312-21783-8

Drury, Shadia B. Terror and Civilization: Christianity, Politics, and the Western Psyche. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2004. ISBN 1-4039-6404-1

Hersh, Seymour M. 2003. “Selective Intelligence: Donald Rumsfeld has his own special sources. Are they reliable?New Yorker. May 12.

Lobe, Jim. 2003. “US Foreign Policy and Leo Strauss.” Inter Press Service. March 15, 2003.

Monbiot, George. 2005. “With Wolfowitz Have we forgotten what the World Bank is for?” April 5. >> http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7581

Preston, Robert. 2005. “Stiglitz Warns of Violence If Wolfowitz Goes to World Bank.” Telegraph. UK. March 20. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0320-01.htm

Rozen, Laura. 2003. “Con Tract: The theory behind neocon self-deception.” The Washington Monthly. October.

Schmitt,Gary J. and Abram N. Shulsky. 1999. “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous).” Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and the American Regime.

sourcewatch.org. “Leo Strauss.”

Stiglitz, Joseph. 2002. Globalization and its Discontents. Allen Lane, London.

©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Stranger than Fiction: Wolfowitz, Strauss and Smiley.” >> Speechless

©© Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Stranger than Fiction: Wolfowitz, Strauss and Smiley.” >> http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_277dkknnc

Cupboards, drawers, boxes and storage bins are open and private everyday objects are strewn about, turned into something public in preparation for the moving sale. Personal histories related to each item are re-examined. Will they survive without the physical archives? Do they need to?

Le Carré describes this tortuous upending of a home in A Perfect Spy as agents tramp through every cranny and cupboard of her house. Mary’s husband, gifted in the spy tradecraft, has gone missing. He’s taken a ‘retirement’ and is writing his autobiography. I am intrigued by his process because he wants his story to read like a fiction and he wants his hero, himself to be lovable. In her interrogation with the agents, she said,

He’s not writing yet. He’s preparing.

He calls it a matrix.

When he retires, he’ll write.

He’s still finding the line. He likes to keep it to himself.

Listen to this: ‘ When the most horrible gloom was over the household; when Edward himself was in agony and behaving as prettily as he knew how. ‘

It’s from something he read. When he reads a book he underlines things in pencil. Then when he’s finished it he writes out his favourite bits (Le Carré 1986:51).

I think of a mise-en-abime, the hypodiegetic and diegetic framing narratology but this is only a spy mystery. But I also think of the collage-montage and I remember Benjamin. It seems to be what I am doing with my blog. I underline with digg or deli.cio.us. I cut and paste using Flickr, Youtube, Google docs or WordPress itself. But unlike Benjamin or the perfect spy, I scrupulously hot link the most reliable url I can find to every image, citation, idea. The blog itself may seem fragmented or may link the images with new juxtapositions but the sources can be followed by the reader. So my blog is more like a collage-montage than writing.

Before being driven to suicide through physical and mental exhaustion while fleeing the Nazis at the French border in 1940, German cultural theorist, Walter Benjamin was working on a consuming project to educate his own generation and awaken a new political consciousness (Buck-Morss 1991: 336, 47 in Holtorf 2001) . Using the Paris arcades as his prime metaphor, through his passion for collecting fragments of everyday urban experience he wanted his contemporaries to engage in a cleansing memory work, history with an ethical dimension, to revisit 19th century Parisian social and cultural history. He introduced a new form of ‘writing’ which consisted of cutting-and-pasting original citations without citation marks.

Benjamin’s fragmented direct, literal quotations, images and things were purposefully taken out of context. In this way they were deliberately not reduced to generally accepted theoretical or methodological frameworks or categories. He wanted his contemporaries to question unchallenged assumptions about anthropological nihilism, iron construction, the flâneur, the collector and capitalism itself. Something new was created from the old by constructed these fragmented, de-racinated elements into a collage-montage by juxtaposing them in a new way. In this way Benjamin questioned commonly held notions of ‘representation as finding some correspondence with an exterior reality’ (Shanks 1992: 188-90 Holtorf 2001).

Webliography and Bibliography

Benjamin, Walter. 1991. Trans. Buck-Morss. Das Passagen-Werk. Gesammelte Schriften, vol. V [1982]. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp. [English edition 1996]

Buck-Morss, Susan (1991) The Dialectics of Seeing. Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project [1989]. Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press.

Holtorf, Cornelius. 2001. Walter Benjamin’s Passagenwerk.

Le Carré, John. 1986. The Perfect Spy. New York: Penguin.

Shanks, Michael (1992) Experiencing the Past. On the Character of Archaeology. London: Routledge.

Charles Taylor distinguishes between ethics and morality by describing the latter as “that part of ethics which is concerned with our obligations to others, in justice and benevolence.” In the course that he is currently teaching (2007) Taylor examines how,

For some thinkers, this is the really important department of ethics, far more significant than questions about what constitutes a good or worth-while life. For others, this primacy is quite mistaken and unacceptable. This issue is often fought out under the description “the primacy of the right over the good”. If one accepts the primacy, certain questions open up: viz, utilitarianism versus a Kantian approach. If one refuses this primacy, then another set of questions become important, because there are a host of different ways of defining the good life (Taylor 2007).

Nussbaum (1994) rejected pro-patriotism arguments in favour of a more cosmopolitan identity which prioritizes human rights above a sense of national belonging. She began her essay with a quote from 4th century BC Cynic Diogenes who, “Asked from what country he came, he replied, “I am a citizen of the world.”4

The Stoics stress that to be a citizen of the world one does not need to give up local identifications, which can frequently be a source of great richness in life. They suggest that we think of ourselves not as devoid of local affiliations, but as surrounded by a series of concentric circles. The first one is drawn around the self; the next takes in one’s immediate family; then follows the extended family; then, in order, one’s neighbors or local group, one’s fellow city-dwellers, one’s fellow countrymen — and we can easily add to this list groupings based on ethnic, linguistic, historical, professional, gender and sexual identities. Outside all these circles is the largest one, that of humanity as a whole. Our task as citizens of the world will be to “draw the circles somehow toward the center” (Hierocles 1st 2nd CE)1, making all human beings more like our fellow city dwellers, and so on. In other words, we need not give up our special affections and identifications, whether ethnic or gender-based or religious. We need not think of them as superficial, and we may think of our identity as in part constituted by them. We may and should devote special attention to them in education. But we should work to make all human beings part of our community of dialogue and concern, base our political deliberations on that interlocking commonality, and give the circle that defines our humanity a special attention and respect.

The Stoic model is of course imperfect since Stoic process of drawing the circle toward the centre was based on assimilation. There was no concept of a sophisticated Derridian “philosophy from a cosmopolitical point of view” or a “politics of friendship” which unsettles relationships to the stranger, the unfamiliar, the unheimlich.

Taylor has deplored the fact that most of us are content to not question what we value. What are the ethics and morals that are most important to us? Where and when did we adopt them? Was it conscious choice or osmosis? Pondering these questions in moral philosophy is not part of our everyday lives. As we slide towards a form of world citizenship, we will need to know ourselves so the values that are important to us are the ones we end of defending.

While Charles Taylor2 (1994) admired Martha Nussbaum’s (1994 ) with one caveat, he disagreed with her proposal that cosmopolitan identity replace patriotism. And of course they are both correct. Nussbaum’s call for a more inclusive global citizenship based on responsibility and caring is essential to the sustainable futures. But for all appearances we are still national citizens (Rorty 1994). However, the concept of the Westphalian nation-state has a historical beginning and its future form may be quite different from what we now experience. National sense of belonging will be quite different a decade from now just as it was prior to 911 when these articles were written. As we move into the unknown area of morality in a post-national world, will the secular humanist discourse be enlightened enough to stretch our sociological imaginations and allow us to negotiate solutions to seemingly irreconcilable differences.
Writing in Palestine3 in 1917 Abdu’l-Baha, a Persian spiritual leader called for a unity of the Orient and Occident, the North and the South. He called these concentric circles, ‘collective centres of human association and unity’ which were necessary for the prosperity of the world of humanity. However, he reminded his audience that these centres are accidental and temporary, composed of matter not substance, and therefore vulnerable over time to being swept away by revolutions and upheavals. He compared the transitory nature of these concentric circles of belonging and responsibility to the eternal and everlasting spiritual collective centre which is capable of embracing all races of men.

In the contingent world there are many collective centers which are conducive to association and unity between the children of men. For example, patriotism is a collective center; nationalism is a collective center; identity of interests is a collective center; political alliance is a collective center; the union of ideals is a collective center, and the prosperity of the world of humanity is dependent upon the organization and promotion of the collective centers. Nevertheless, all the above institutions are in reality, the matter and not the substance, accidental and not eternal — temporary and not everlasting. With the appearance of great revolutions and upheavals, all these collective centers are swept away. But the Collective Center of the Kingdom, embodying the Institutes and Divine Teachings, is the eternal Collective Center. It establishes relationship between the East and the West, organizes the oneness of the world of humanity, and destroys the foundation of differences. It overcomes and includes all the other collective centers. Like unto the ray of the sun, it dispels entirely the darkness, encompassing all the regions, bestows ideal life, and causes the effulgence of divine illumination. Through the breaths of the Holy Spirit it performs miracles; the Orient and the Occident embrace each other, the North and South become intimates and associates; conflicting and contending opinions disappear; antagonistic aims are brushed aside, the law of the struggle for existence is abrogated, and the canopy of the oneness of the world of humanity is raised on the apex of the globe, casting its shade over all the races of men. Consequently, the real Collective Center is the body of the divine teachings, which include all the degrees and embrace all the universal relations and necessary laws of humanity. (Abdu’l-Baha 1917)


1 Each of us is, indeed, as it were circumscribed by many circles, larger and smaller, comprehending and comprehended, according to various mutual circumstances (Hierocles 1st 2nd CE)

This essay is hosted on a Charles Taylor resource site by Professor who describes it as “a response to Martha Nussbaum’s “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism” which appeared in the Boston Review (Vol. 19, No. 5). Taylor’s response is part of an excellent discussion which includes Hilary Putnam, Benjamin Barber, Judith Butler, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., William E. Connolly, Sissela Bok, and several other excellent thinkers. For Nussbaum’s reply to her critics, see “Asking the Right Questions,” from the same issue of the Boston Review.”

3. Delivered on March 8, 1917, in the summerhouse (Isma’il Aqá’s room) at `Abdu’l-Bahá’s house in Haifa, Palestine and addressed to the small, emerging community of Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada. Throughout his writings there is an insistence on the unicity of God and inclusivity though union and diversity, so that ‘divine teachings’, Holy Spirit, the Cause refers to a progressive religion which is constituted by all world religions.

4. The irascible Cynic Diogenes is perhaps not the most noble example of a world citizen since he lived by the precept that one’s personal happiness was “satisfied by meeting one’s natural needs and that what is natural cannot be shameful or indecent. His life, therefore, was lived with extreme simplicity, inured to want, and without shame.” Asked from what country he came, he replied, “I am a citizen of the world.” (Diogenes. vi.). His world citizenship was not based on the responsibility or caring of a world citizen rather on his insistence on dismissing societal norms for his own sense of happiness. See Grout (1997-2007). Diogenes is perhaps a citizen of the world in the same sense as Humphey Bogart as Rick in the 1942 film Casablanca who declared his nationality was “drunkard” when interrogated by German officers. His companion joked that “That makes Rick a Citizen of the World.”


Abdu’l-Baha. 1917. “Tablet to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada.” Tablets of the Divine Plan. Haifa, Palestine.

Abdu’l-Baha. “The Divine Plan: The Cause of Baháu’lláh.” Baha’i World Faith.

Diogenes Laertius. 4th BC. “Diogenes the Cynic.” >> Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Essays on Greek history and culture and the later Byzantine empire. Encyclopaedia Romana and Greece. University of Chicago.

Grout, James. 1997-2007. Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Essays on Greek history and culture and the later Byzantine empire. Encyclopaedia Romana and Greece. University of Chicago.

1st 2nd CE.Conduct towards Relatives.” >> completepythagoras.net

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