Home > Uncategorized > Elaine Scarry on why Cosmopolitanism and Sentiment is not enough

Elaine Scarry on why Cosmopolitanism and Sentiment is not enough

This is Elaine Scarry’s piece in Nusbaum’s for love of country:

How to prevent cruelty to strangers? One way is Cosmopolitan generous imaginary, the other is constitutional design. Can’t rely on the first. Regard for those inside the country but also those outside requires constitutional design. If rejection of nationalism for internationalism is replacing constitutional constraints with goodwill then it is worse off for the world. Rights need a basis to enforce, and ideas are inconsistent in application. We injure others because of our failures in imagining them as real. Contracts, social contracts set up to prevent this. It is hard enough to imagine a single friend let along 500 others. Why philosophic discussions of other contemplate the singular. Only institutions guarantee that failures of imagination do not turn into injuries. (really good one) We can’t imagine all the Iraqi’s killed in the war on Iraq, but we shouldn’t have to if constitutional design is in place. Rawls and Bertrand Russel, the point is not to give others as much weight as ourselves, but to make ourselves have no weight and then see what to do. When reading news substitute names of countries to see if our reaction is moral or based on prejudice. Fate of other must not be contingent upon our imagining. (She is a Rawlsian). You can place these into the domestic constitutions, so US says not president declare war, but people, you are saving the rest of the world from US action. International congresses are important only if national policy requires their approval. Alarm over US constitutional undermining, not patriotic institutions being removed, but the very foundation that allows treating others well. “The work accomplished by a structure of laws cannot be accomplished by a structure of sentiment.”

This is great because she really highlights how inadequate the impulsive personalistic method to welfare really is. We don’t have time or the attention span to feel for everyone. Eventually callousness sets in. That is why institutionalization is needed. I’m not too sure how important constitutions are, she seems to prioritize constitutions, whereas I think institutions may be better.

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