In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, we live in a world fissured by warring cultures and creeds, a world divided between the West and the rest, between "us" and "them."
Kwame Anthony Appiah's "Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers" (W.W. Norton, $24.95), the first book in the new Issues of Our Time series edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., is a moral manifesto that urges us to reconsider the very idea of morality, to reject the widely exaggerated power of difference and to reconsider the power of one.
In this technological age, it is impossible for us to live in neatly hived-off communities. A traveler can reach the other side of the world in less than 24 hours; a businessperson can communicate instantly through e-mail with a colleague who lives thousands of miles away. Yet, Appiah points out, much of humanity is separated by chasms of incomprehension, and many of the doctrines that dominate the headlines today are deliberately manufactured to create a world of division rather than unity.
Appiah, a professor of philosophy at Princeton University, argues that this rift should not be characteristic of our 21st-century civilization. Rather, he challenges us to equip our minds and hearts "with ideas and institutions that will allow us to live together as the global tribe we have become."