Despite the ubiquity of contemporary debate in learned and popular cultures concerning the place of the cosmopolitan and cosmopolitanism, the historical background to this peculiarly Western vision of world unity remains understudied and virtually unknown. This is particularly the case, rather surprisingly, for the early modern period, when the term “cosmopolite” reappeared in European vocabularies for the first time since antiquity. It is during this period, however, that the most significant, enduring and problematic features of the cosmopolitan concept are articulated, particularly in those conceptions of world community which drew on Pauline notions of heavenly citizenship. Employing a modified Begriffsgeschichtliche approach, this article utilizes several case studies of cosmopolitan thought from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – including Erasmus, Guillaume Postel, Johann Valentin Andreae and others – in order to critique the history of the concept of the cosmopolitan. This essay argues, on the basis of this evidence, that there is an aporia which is constitutive of cosmopolitan concept, and which impacts on all attempts to understand, analyse and apply the category from antiquity to the present. Namely, although the cosmopolitan ideal is a peculiarly Western mythology which has always possessed a patina of benevolent inclusivity, it is contingent on establishing boundaries and establishing exclusivity.
Koselleck“Einleitung,” in Geschichtlichen Grundbegriffe(see above note 10) xv. Later Koselleck moved away from the strictures of the Sattelzeit particularly with regard to the assumption of the “stasis” of concepts after 1850.
Erasmus to Zwingli 3[?] September1522in Collected Works of Erasmus Volume 9: The Correspondence [...] 1522 to 1523 trans. R. A. B. Mynors annotations J. M. Estes (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1989) 184.
S. M. LeeThe Cosmic Drama of Salvation: A Study of Paul’s Undisputed Writings from Anthropological and Cosmological Perspectives (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck2010) 5–133.
On Postel see G. Trédaniel (ed.)Guillaume Postel 1581–1981 (Paris: Maisnie1990); W. J. Bouwsma Concordia Mundi: The Career and Thought of Guillaume Postel (1510–1581) (Cambridge ma: Harvard University Press 1957); and C.-G. Dubois La mythologie des origins chez Guillaume Postel: De la naissance à la nation (Paris: Paradigme 2000).
ShermanJohn Dee143–145. Sherman here engaged in a critique of G. Yewbry “John Dee and the ‘Sidney Group’: Cosmopolitics and Protestant ‘Activism’ in the 1570s” PhD dissertation University of Hull 1981 esp. 3–4 14–15 17 etc.
On Sendivogius see R. BugajMichał Sędziwój (1566–1636): Życie i Pisma (Wrocław: Zaklad Narodowy im. Osslińskich1968); R. T. Prinke “Nolite de me inquirere (Nechtětje se po mně ptáti): Michael Sendivogius” Alchymie a Rudolf ii. Hledání tajemství přirody ve středni Evropě v 16. a 17. století ed. I. Purš and V. Karpenko (Prague: Artefactum 2011) 317–334; and Z. Szydlo Water which does not Wet Hands: The Alchemy of Michael Sendivogius (London/Warsaw: Academy of Sciences 1994).
See W. Hubicki“The Mystery of Alexander Seton – Cosmopolite,” in Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of the History of Science (Tokyo-Kyoto 1974) (Tokyo: Science Council of Japan1974) 379–400.