World Citizens

Friday, October 23, 2015, 7:00-9:30pm


    Artwork by Konstantin Kakanias

Onassis Symposium 2015: World Citizens

Think and drink with the greatest minds in the world!


K. Anthony Appiah, professor of Philosophy, Law, New York University

Elizabeth Diller, founding partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Pico Iyer, novelist, essayist, and global traveler

Susan Meiselas, photographer, Magnum Photos, president, Magnum Foundation

Orhan Pamuk, writer, Nobel Prize laureate

Moderated by Paul Holdengräber, director of LIVE from the NYPL 

Watch World Citizens Video Here

Onasssis102315citizens125.jpg#asset:1860 © Photographs by Beowulf Sheehan

The Κόσμος my Πόλις

by Anthony Appiah

The Western articulation of the idea of world-citizenship begins with Diogenes’s idea of the κόσμου πολίτης (citizen of the world). Since, for fourth-century Greeks, a πολίτης (citizen) came from a πολίς (city), the Cynic philosopher must have meant the idea to be paradoxical, since the thought was that you could have the universe as your hometown. A modern oxymoron that does a similar job, I suppose, is the idea of the global village. But that doesn’t quite get it, since the πόλις, unlike a village, was the highest unit of government . . . a “city-state,” as we would now say. Πόλεις could join in alliances, leagues—as Homer’s Achaeans did—but they were constitutionally independent. Because Diogenes’s phrase was an oxymoron, we have to assume that he took it figuratively: he knew there was no world-state of which he could be a citizen. So ancient cosmopolitans, like modern ones in the world since the Enlightenment, have mostly not aimed at the construction of a world government, or at becoming literal citizens of one cosmic society.


This makes these Western traditions somewhat different from ancient Chinese ideals: Confucians thought all those under heaven—tianxia (天下)—should properly be ruled by the emperor, who had the mandate of heaven, so their “cosmopolitanism” did imply a universal empire. Western cosmopolitans, in contrast, have thought of the whole human community as bound together by an ethical bond rather than a political one, with each human being having a call on the moral concern of every other. Furthermore, far from supposing that everyone should live in the same way, joining a uniform universal civilization, they have tended to favor the recognition that human beings live best in many diverse ways in disparate societies, each with languages and literatures, laws, arts, and traditions of its own. That’s why a modern cosmopolitan is likely to display an interest in literature and arts from many places, to be keen on visiting the Great Wall, the Pyramids, Pompeii, and Machu Picchu, and to be in the audience for world music and a great variety of global cinema. A unified world with a uniform culture wouldn’t produce the range of cultural artifacts that a cosmopolitan aesthetics admires. So too, in politics, the cosmopolitan favors a world of alliances among societies, operating at many levels, not the accumulation of political authority into a single state. Or, at any rate, those are the ideals of this cosmopolitan.



“The beauty and mystery of this world only emerges through affection, attention, interest and compassion . . . open your eyes wide and actually see this world by attending to its colors, details and irony.”

— Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red 

Why “World Citizens”?

by Paul Holdengräber

 As a teenager I was fascinated by the Vienna of my parents’ childhood, a city in which art, music, and literature mattered and where, as Stefan Zweig wrote, “every citizen became supranational, cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world.” Although that Vienna was swept away, it lives on as an ideal or aspiration in cities across the world, where different cultures intersect and are thereby enriched. Where does cosmopolitanism stand today? How has the concept of world citizenship changed since its early elaboration in ancient Greece? I can think of no better group to unpack these questions than Anthony Appiah, Liz Diller, Pico Iyer, Yorgos Loukos, Susan Meiselas, and Orhan Pamuk, who have each explored in their own medium what it means to be grounded, or not, in a specific place. Their encounter is sure to yield enlightening results and to leave the audience with a deepened sense of the global soul and of what it means to proclaim, in 2015, “I am a citizen of the world.”


Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at New York University in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Law School. Earlier, he taught at Princeton, Harvard, Duke, Cornell, Yale, Cambridge and the University of Ghana. He grew up in Ghana and was educated at Cambridge, where he took undergraduate and doctoral degrees in philosophy. He has written widely in philosophy of mind and language, ethics and political philosophy, and the philosophy of art, of culture and of the social sciences; as well as in literary studies, where his focus has been on African and African-American literature.  From 2008 to 2011, he was Chairman of the Board of the American Philosophical Association, in 2009 to 2012 he was President of the PEN American Center, and in 2016 he will be President of the Modern Language Association. In February 2012, President Obama presented him with the National Humanities Medal. In 1992, he published the prize-winning In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. His recent publications include: The Ethics of Identity (Princeton, 2005), Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Norton, 2006), Experiments in Ethics (Harvard, 2009), The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (Norton, 2010), Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity (Harvard, 2014), and A Decent Respect: Honor in the Life of People and of Nations (University of Hong Kong, 2015). He is also the author of three novels.

Elizabeth Diller founded Diller Scofidio + Renfro in 1979 with partner Ricardo Scofidio. Along with Scofidio, Diller was awarded the MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Grant from 1999 to 2004, the first given in the field of architecture. She is a Professor of Architecture at Princeton University. Diller’s experience ranges from self-generated art projects to public space, landscape, educational, cultural, civic, residential, and master planning work. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 2012, Diller was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has been awarded the Barnard Medal of Distinction and received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Occidental College. Diller lectures extensively, highlights of which include the World Economic Forum and TED talks. Diller attended The Cooper Union School of Art and received a Bachelor of Architecture from the Cooper   Union School of Architecture.

Pico Iyer is the author of twelve books, on subjects as varied as Cuba, globalism, Graham Greene and the XIVth Dalai Lama, and writes up to 100 articles a year for magazines from The New York Review of Books to Harper’s, and Vanity Fair to Wired. He delivered popular TED talks in both 2013 and 2014—his most recent book is a small TED Book on the theme of stillness, and his talk on the nature of home has attracted millions of viewers—and he has written a film script for Miramax, been a fellow (more than once) at the World Economic Forum in Davos and written introductions to more than 50 other books. Born in Oxford, England, and educated at Eton, Oxford and Harvard, he has been based, since 1987, in Western Japan, while traveling widely, everywhere from North Korea to Ethiopia and Yemen to Easter Island.

Susan Meiselas is a documentary photographer who lives and works in New York. She is the author of Carnival Strippers (1976), Nicaragua (1981),Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997), Pandora’s Box (2001), and Encounters with the Dani (2003). She has co-edited two published collections: El Salvador, Work of 30 Photographers (1983) and Chile from Within (1990), rereleased as an e-book in 2013, and also co-directed two films: Living at Risk (1985) and Pictures from a Revolution (1991) with Richard P. Rogers and Alfred Guzzetti. Meiselas is well known for her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America. Her photographs are included in American and international collections. In 1992 she was made a MacArthur Fellow and most recently was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015).

Orhan Pamuk is the author of nine previous novels, the memoir Istanbul, and three works of nonfiction.  He is the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature.  The Swedish Academy praised Pamuk, 'who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures.'  One of Europe's most prominent novelists, his work has been translated into more than fifty languages.  His newest novel is A Strangeness In My Mind.


 Paul Holdengräber, director and founder of LIVE from the New York Public Library, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary year in 2015, is a seasoned interviewer, whose programs have become known nationwide for providing a forum in which audiences can engage with some of the world’s most influential public figures.

Watch World Citizens Video Here