NYU finally has one up on Princeton. Noted philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah is departing the ivy-league to take up dual engagements with NYU’s philosophy department and law school. Appiah, who will make the move at the end of the year, will not confine himself to the University’s Washington Square campus, however. According to the New York Times, Appiah will make the rounds at NYU’s 12 abroad locations, including the developing “portal campuses” in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.
But this engagement with NYU’s global campuses is right up Appiah’s alley: much of his work is grounded in cosmopolitanism, the ideology that all people, irrespective of ethnic group, share a common morality. We study cultures “not because cultures matter in themselves,” Appiah writes in his article Education for Global Citizenship, “but because people matter, and culture matters to people.” In other words he’s the personification of globalized, cross-cultural study.
Big names like Appiah’s are a difficult catch, even for schools as large as NYU. “For me, it’s been about a 15-year effort,” John Sexton told the Times of his efforts to hire Appiah. “I am an enormous fan.”
Appiah’s appointment is also notable in that it is the first to specifically mandate a professor to travel between NYU’s home and abroad campuses. The diverse student populations between campuses will allow Appiah to test his ideas — new theories on shifting cultural values — on perhaps the widest audience available in an academic setting. Every spring, he will lead an undergraduate seminar simultaneously in New York, Abu Dhabi, and potentially other campuses. The course, which will presumably encourage students from these different campuses to connect online, will promote discussion of Appiah’s cultural theories in a global forum.
“There’s an enormous value in having students interact not just with me, but with each other,” Appiah told the Times. “What happens when you have a conversation about the most important questions facing us — gender, the environment, animal rights — with people coming from very different places?”