Human Solidarity, Sentiment, and Cosmopolitan Justice

Human Solidarity, Sentiment, and Cosmopolitan Justice

‘Human solidarity’ is proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly to be ‘one of the fundamental and universal values that should underlie relations between peoples in the Twenty-first century’. But with a global climate marked by increasing nationalism, populism, and protectionism, and a resurgence of parochial identities, cosmopolitanism is currently on the back foot.

A politics overly reliant on appeals to emotion is widely held to bear a significant share of the blame for this turn of events. However, an emerging sentimental cosmopolitan project offers an alternative diagnosis and a potentially persuasive answer for those looking to understand and address this reactionary turn. Advocates of sentimental cosmopolitanism argue that the problem is not emotion as such, but the narrow scope of our emotional attachments. They therefore suggest cultivating emotional identification with humanity as a community, or overlapping transnational communities, and the extension of sympathy or empathy beyond national borders.

This focus on sentiment is supported by contemporary research in neuroscience which demonstrates that affect plays a central role in moral deliberation. Accordingly, accounts of cosmopolitan duties which ignore an agent’s emotional attachments and identifications will offer an incomplete picture. Sentimental cosmopolitanism, then, has the potential to offer resources to address the ‘motivational gap’ that is receiving growing attention in the literature on cosmopolitanism.

However, sentimental cosmopolitanism is itself an emerging field; there is work to be done in clarifying exactly what the project entails, and to bring together scholars working in this area, many of whom are spread across departments and disciplines. Hitherto, most work in this tradition has been overtly liberal, and located firmly in Western Anglophone moral, political and social theory. One question to be addressed is how far such a tradition is truly capable of theorising human solidarity.

This workshop will seek (i) to define and explore this emerging sentimental cosmopolitan project, (ii) to engage the liberal sentimental cosmopolitan vision in dialogue with other perspectives, and (iii) to examine sentimental cosmopolitan responses to practical issues of global justice.

The workshop will consider papers on any aspect of sentimental cosmopolitanism, including but not limited to

  • Defining the sentimental cosmopolitan project, and identifying its key theoretical and practical commitments, its shortcomings and potential.
  • Sentimental cosmopolitanism as offering a feasible approach to practical problems of global injustice, including, but not limited to, migration, global poverty, and climate change.
  • Understanding the role of affect in motivating human solidarity, and the challenges to this posed by populist nationalism.
  • Understanding the relationship between national identity and cosmopolitan identity, and if/how sentimental cosmopolitanism can allow room for national solidarity.
  • The role of education and the media in the sentimental cosmopolitan project, and whether the creating or entrenching of national identities offers any useful lessons for attempts to develop cosmopolitan solidarity.


Papers for the workshop will be pre-circulated. We welcome submissions from a range of relevant fields and from scholars at any career stage.


To submit a paper for the workshop please send an abstract to both workshop convenors at the email addresses below, by 31st May 2017. Full papers will be due for circulation to workshop participants by 25th August 2017.


Workshop convenors:

Dr Kerri Woods, University of Leeds (

Joshua Hobbs, University of Leeds (