TITLE: PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY; COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES
IMPACT: ALTHOUGH BORN IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH GREW UP IN GHANA. His father, who came from a royal Ashanti lineage, was a lawyer and diplomat, and his mother was a novelist and children’s book writer. Appiah studied at Cambridge, where he earned a PhD in philosophy in 1982. In the decades since, he has emerged as perhaps the most influential social philosopher and ethicist working in the English language. Through professorships at Princeton and now NYU, his gracefully written column in the New York Times—in which he analyzes readers’ real-life ethical travails—and his critically acclaimed 2006 book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, Appiah has promulgated the classical philosophy of cosmopolitanism, summed up in his core question: “What do we owe strangers by virtue of our shared humanity?” He argues that all people share certain basic values and that we are bound by those values and an obligation to other people as well as ourselves. His philosophy does not praise diversity for diversity’s sake, nor does he preach relativism; rather, Appiah acknowledges diversity as a reality and looks beyond it for common ground.