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The Cosmopolitan Self

George Herbert Mead and Continental Philosophy

In this incisive commentary, Mitchell Aboulafia examines the relevance of the American pragmatist philosopher George Herbert Mead to current debates on pluralism, universalism, and the fostering of a democratic temper. Addressing the relationship between Mead's notions of self and society and those of important continental thinkers, The Cosmopolitan Self demonstrates that Mead's ideas not only speak to resolving the tension between universalism and pluralism, they do so in a manner that challenges and advances the positions of these continental theoreticians.

Aboulafia examines how Mead's insights illuminate Hannah Arendt's reading of Immanual Kant's third Critique and Jürgen Habermas's understanding of the relationship among communicative action, universality, and individuation. Teasing out strands of agreement and disagreement among Mead and these theorists on topics such as impartiality and good judgment, Aboulafia develops a conception of universalism that is compatible with contemporary notions of pluralism. He also addresses the serious challenge presented to Mead's approach to pluralism by Emmanuel Levinas, who holds that true pluralism, presupposing an irreducible individualism, is fundamentally irreconcilable with universalism.

The Cosmopolitan Self offers a model of the democratically inclined individual who embodies both a capacity to establish common ground with others and a sensitivity to their uniqueness. This important volume appreciably advances the dialogue between continental thought and classical American philosophy.

Mitchell Aboulafia, professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Denver, is the author of The Mediating Self: Mead, Sartre, and Self-Determination and The Self-Winding Circle: A Study of Hegel's System and the editor of Philosophy, Social Theory, and the Thought of George Herbert Mead.

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