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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The primacy of the ethical in a cosmopolitan education : Fukushima Daiichi and other global risks Spector, Hannah


While this dissertation responds to and builds upon various iterations of why cosmopolitanism?, I also articulate the meaning of a cosmopolitan education in ways that are different from previous arguments and descriptions: as actually existing global phenomena and as an ethical response to such phenomena. Drawing upon Ulrich Beck’s writings on world risk theory and cosmopolitan realism, I discuss the Fukushima nuclear disaster as a case of actually existing cosmopolitanism, or world risk turned catastrophe. At once a local and global environmental disaster that has consequences for a “non-excludable plurality,” the irresponsibility that contributed to and continues to be at play regarding fallout from Fukushima summons a transnational, planetary ethic of responsibility. Whereas nuclear meltdowns and warfare, pandemics, and global financial crises are world risks turned catastrophes whose consequences can be validated empirically, I also consider world risks that are intangible, impossible to ascertain with evidence-based research. By way of the faculty of the imagination, I draw a link between Chernobyl heart deform and United States “school deform”; I also read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, specifically Raskolnikov’s dream of a worldwide plague as an allegory for the breakdown of the faculty of judgment across time and place. What might an ethic of responsibility in response to world risks look like? Drawing upon theoretical writings on cosmopolitanism and empirical realities that solicit responsible actions, I contend that acting with the faculty of judgment and a compassionate heart are vital to re/creating the world. In writing upon judgment, I turn to Hannah Arendt whose style of writing about totalitarianism and its antithesis, freedom, is just as important for understanding what it means to judge and to act responsibly as is the content of what she writes. I question if judgment is the only faculty needed to live an ethical life, to act ethically toward others in an increasingly interconnected, codependent world. While Arendt is critical, even dismissive of the role that compassion has played in politics, I contend that a both/and rather than either/or ethic which includes judgment and compassion ought to work together to re/fashion a world habitable for all.

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