Praxis Seminar: Research Colloquium in Practical Philosophy, Session 2

Tamara Caraus

Centre of Philosophy – University of Lisbon

“Love Your Neighbour!” – A Cosmopolitan Demand?

11 February 2020, 18:00 h

Room B6 – Library Building

Faculty of Arts and Humanities – University of Lisbon



A common critique of cosmopolitanism is that human motivational drives such as empathy or a sense of fairness cannot be extended to anonymous strangers or to large and distant groups, thus the cosmopolitan motivation can never arise or cannot arise without moral costs, while some accounts of cosmopolitanism speak of a necessity of ‘metamorphosis’, ‘self-transformation’, ‘conversion’, ‘restructuring of the world view’, etc., as a precondition of becoming cosmopolitan. The hypothesis of this presentation is that the difficulties of being cosmopolitan mirror the difficulties of the command ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, and the aim of the presentation is to dismantle the difficulties and demandingness of the command to love your neighbour in order to understand the core of cosmopolitan demandingness. The difficulties of loving the neighbour will be examined by analysing Freud’s account on the un-lovable neighbour in Civilisation and Its Discontents, and Lacan’s stance, from his Ethics of Psychoanalysis, toward Freud’s reluctance to go beyond the alleged impossibility of loving the neighbour. While Freud’s aversion to the neighbour comes from his belonging to the Aristotelian horizon of ethics, happiness and conception of the good, for Lacan the command to love the neighbour is an excess to this horizon, and the concept of the neighbour is linked to a singular structure extimacy which points to a coincidence of something most intimate, intrinsic to us, with something most external and utterly foreign. Thus, the love of the neighbour is always an excess, stretching beyond reciprocity and acknowledging the uncanny strangeness of extimacy. From this perspective, the cosmopolitan metamorphosis/conversion/self-transformation presupposes the love of the neighbour as an experience of the excess and as an event of acknowledging extimacy. Thus, as an excessive event, cosmopolitanism is not a platitudinous love of humanity, it remains a difficult stance. The love of the neighbour can be regarded as the ‘truth’ of cosmopolitanism, however this very demandingness makes room for a radical cosmopolitics.