A review by smarcorodriguez
The Ethics of Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah


This book was a very, very timely book for me to read in 2016, as American higher education convulses with controversy and Trumpismâ„¢ & Brexit alter the political landscape.

The book is a book of moral philosophy, exploring what we mean when we talk about "identity" and how it might inform our ethics and political engagement. After a romp through many philosophical problems, Appiah arrives at what he calls "rooted cosmopolitanism," which is his preferred way of balancing diverse 21st-century global identities with Enlightenment liberalism. I have to say, his argument made me rethink a lot of the Enlightenment bashing I have enjoyed in the past. In his view, the failures of old dead white guys are not the fault of the Enlightenment; they are a failure to fully be the Enlightenment. Fascinating words from a gay Ghanaian/British man with impeccable intersectionality cred.

The prose itself is very witty and even manic at times, and his argument is buoyed by a bounty of literary examples which enliven the book considerably.

Also, John Stuart Mill figures large in the first third of the book, and as I am unfamiliar with the works of Mill, it was a great introduction to some of his key ideas. I appreciated the invitation to move past the caricatures I had to hear him in his own words.