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    Stoic Cosmopolitanism and Confucian Cosmopolitanism:

    A Comparison

    Chen Yudan

    Four centuries after the signing of the Peace of Westphalia, an inter-state system with

    national sovereignty as its fundamental principle, spread from Europe into the entire world.

    While the nation-state system has always been the core element in practice, reflections of

    cosmopolitanism which go beyond the nation-state have never disappeared in human

    thought, thoughts ranging from serious philosophical works to romantic poems.1 Since the

    discipline of international relations was established in the early 20th century, however, most

    IR theorists have centered on the concept and limit of inter-national. They regard the

    existence of nation-states as a prerequisite of their analysis, showing little interest in

    cosmopolitanism.2 At the same time, cosmopolitanism is still vivid in the disciplines of

    political science, sociology and philosophy. Ulrich Beck, Robert Fine, Martha Nussbaum and

    Thomas Pogge are only a few names among the modern cosmopolitanism scholars, who

    have influenced IR studies, especially on normative theories. Many of them, in their

    discussions on cosmopolitanism, trace the cosmopolitan tradition back to Stoicism and even

    Cynicism.3 The Stoic movement is indisputably the first among the three major moments of

    cosmopolitan thought prior to the current re-engagement with its problematic and

    disposition (Beardworth 2011, 17). Stoic cosmopolitanism provides the modern

    cosmopolitan researchers not only the notion of cosmos in which human kind might live

    together in harmony, but also, to some extent, the idea of world citizenship (Held 2005,

    18; Couture and Nielsen 2005, 183).

    Chen Yudan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Politics at Fudan University. 1 It is interesting that in 18

    th and 19

    th centuries, when the institution of nation-states was fixed in

    Europe, great figures as Kant, Goethe and Schiller were keenly calling for an idea of world

    citizenship. (See for example, Francke 1927, 183-190) 2 There are, however, some exceptions (Brown 2000b, 7-26; Bartelson 2009; Beardsworth, 2011, etc.).

    3 It is noteworthy that Martha Nussbaum herself is a well-known Classicist.

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    At the other side of the earth, China has witnessed the rise of its own cosmopolitanism

    under the name of Tianxia Zhuyi(The doctrine of Tianxia) since the mid-1990s.4 Some

    scholars have tended to employ this conception - which is generated from a Chinese classical

    tradition - to transcend the imported idea of the nation-state. Li Shenzhi, one of the most

    prominent Chinese IR scholars in the last century and the former president of the Chinese

    Academy of Social Science,5 declares in his article Globalization and Chinese Culture (1994),

    that a vulgar nationalism, is totally against the trend and spirit of globalization as well as

    Chinese traditionThe traditional Chinese idea is Tianxia Zhuyi and not nationalism (Li

    1994, 7-8). Another important article which raised enthusiastic discussion and even disputes

    on Chinese cosmopolitanism was by Sheng Hong, published in a leading Chinese social

    science journal under the title From Nationalism to Tianxia Zhuyi in 1996. The author

    argues that since China is the only civilization in human history that once ended a warring

    states period (with the establishment of Tianxia Zhuyi culture), its cultural tradition may

    become a spiritual resource for us to establish Tianxia Zhuyi culture today (Sheng 1996,

    19). From then on, quite a few Chinese scholars have tried to view the world from a

    traditional Chinese cosmopolitan perspective.6 Like their Western counterparts, Chinese

    researchers often look back upon the Classical period, picking up phrases from Confucian

    classics dating from two thousand years ago, and which have been regarded as the main

    source of traditional cosmopolitanism. When China put forward the conception of

    harmonious world in 2005, some scholars tended to connect classical cosmopolitanism

    with the harmonious world idea, to prove that the latter is based on the uniqueness of

    Chinese culture and can benefit from its traditional cosmopolitanism.7

    Since both modern Western and Chinese cosmopolitanisms appeal to some extent to

    something beyond nation-state, it would be interesting and helpful to compare their

    respective ancestors, that is, Stoic cosmopolitanism and Confucian cosmopolitanism.8 Are

    they essentially different and incommensurable? Or do they share something common that

    4 Tianxia is a concept widely used in ancient China which means the Universe, or under the

    Heaven literally. Zhuyi simply means -ism. I will retain Tianxia Zhuyi if it is in a citation, but use

    cosmopolitanism otherwise for the reason of easy-reading. 5 Li participated in Chinas foreign affairs actively in 1950s with Premier Zhou Enlai and in the late

    1970s, with Deng Xiaoping. He was also the founder of the Institute of American Studies in the

    Chinese Academy of Social Science (in 1980s). 6 The most influential figure is Zhao Tingyang, a professor in philosophy. He published the book The

    Tianxia System: A Philosophy for the World Institution in 2005, which has been widely spread among

    IR scholars in China. 7 There are numerous books, papers and articles on this topic, among which, I have to say, only a few

    are serious and profound academic works (See for example, Yang 2008). 8 While there existed diversity within both Stoicism and Confucianism, this article will consider them

    as unified theories, or it would be too much for the capacity of a single paper.

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    might benefit contemporary reflections in a changing world? The comparison between these

    two cosmopolitanisms in this article includes two aspects: the political space for people in

    the world to dwell in, and the way they live harmoniously in such a space. The article then

    turns to modern theories in the conclusion, with a brief discussion based on consideration of

    these two ancient philosophies.

    I. Cosmos and Tianxia: The Space to Dwell in

    During the Classical period (5th-4th century B.C.), both political thought and political practices

    in Greece reached their climax within the form of polis (city-state). Beyond the level of polis,

    there were senses of ethnos and even Greek identity, but the latter referred to common

    religion, culture and blood, not a political community.9 However, the 4th century B.C.

    witnessed the conquest of Greek poleis by Macedon, a peripheral kingdom, and it was

    Alexander the Great who led the Greeks to destroy the most typical barbarian figure in their

    minds: the Persian Empire.10 The city-state system then began to collapse in political practice.

    Meanwhile, ideas beyond city-state and even beyond the distinction between Greeks and

    barbarians appeared in political thought.

    Diogenes, the renowned Cynic philosopher in the 4th century B.C., as a homeless exile, to

    his country dead, might be the earliest to put forward a cosmopolitan idea when he said, I

    am a citizen of the world (cosmopolits) (Diogenes Laertios 1972, VI. 38, 63). 11 However,

    he has no works surviving today, and it is difficult to make clear the real meaning of his

    words. It might be rather a rebellious reaction against every kind of coercion imposed by

    the community upon the individual than a true philosophic implication of

    cosmopolitanism (Hadas 1943, 108).12

    The Stoic school created in late 4th century B.C. is always seen as the real origin of Western

    cosmopolitanism. The early development of the school was in the Hellenistic period, when

    9 Recent studies in Classical Greek inter-state relations are shared by classists and political scientists

    (cf., Arnopoulos 1999; Low 2007; Giovannini 2007). 10

    We should keep in mind that the Macedonians were seen by the Greeks as semi-barbarians.

    Demosthenes in his famous Philippic III held Philip, the king of Macedon in strong contempt: not only

    is he no Hellene, not only has he no kinship with Hellenes, but he is not even a barbarian from a

    country that one could acknowledge with credit;he is a pestilent Macedonian, from whose

    country it used not to be possible to buy even a slave of any value(Pickard 1912, 31). 11

    See also VI.72 in the same work: The only true commonwealth was, he said, that which is as wide

    as the universe. Both the Greek and English texts I cite here are from R. D. Hickss text in Loeb

    Classical Library. 12

    For a brief but detailed discussion on Diogenes cosmopolitanism and its relations with Stoic

    cosmopolitanism, see: Schofield 1991, 141-145.

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    Greek civilization spread into the non-Greek world. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was not

    an authentic Greek. The center of Stoicism in the middle phase began to transit outside the

    Greek world, resulting in the late Stoa finally having its headquarters at Rome. Therefore,

    Stoicism was born with the characteristics of universality and tolerance. We are not

    surprised to read from the works of late Stoics, some of whom were Roman politicians, an

    ethical tendency to evoke the world citizen.

    Confucian c