Kwame Anthony Appiah at his Tribeca home in New York City. “My sisters and I live in four different countries … it’s just me here in America. I like that idea of taking your roots with you — whether it’s deep in your family or your faith or whatever, you take them with you. You bring that to your new nation and your new culture. So [laughing] that’s why I believe in rooted cosmopolitanism.”

KAA in his Tribeca home
Kwame Anthony Appiah at his Tribeca home (2)

KAA: “Why did I become an American? Well, I came to these thoughts because I wrote that book about honor a while back. And you know, people always talk about love of country. But I think, just from my own experience, this is what you feel as a patriot: a sense of investment in the honor of your country.”

Kwame Anthony Appiah at his Tribeca home (3)

KAA: “So when your country does great things, it’s uplifting, but it’s also depressing and shaming when your country does bad things. And if you didn’t identify with the country, those things wouldn’t matter to you.”

Kwame Anthony Appiah at his Tribeca home (4)

Appiah with his husband, New Yorker editorial director Henry Finder, in their Tribeca home. KAA: “The point of talking about ‘love of country’ is a connected thought. It’s like family: it doesn’t really matter, like with people you love, even when they do wrong things, they’re still your people. But when a stranger does a bad thing, it’s just a bad thing. When somebody you love does a bad thing, it’s very different. So people who think that patriots will never criticize their country, I think that’s just wrong.”

KAA with his husband, Henry Finder, at home
Kwame Anthony Appiah walking across the street

KAA: “Precisely because patriots care that their country should be doing good things, and they notice more when it isn’t, and they are motivated to want to pull it back in the right direction. It’s that moment of pride that makes you feel, ‘OK, we’re going the right way here.’”

KAA and HF head west through the streets of Tribeca
Kwame Anthony Appiah outside in New York City

KAA: “Criticism can be a form of love, of admiration. A stranger spits on the sidewalk, you don’t care much. A child spits on the sidewalk? You want to correct it. It’s embarrassing and it affects you, but you can only be affected by people if you have some share of identity."

HF and KAA on Pier 25, Hudson River Park in Tribeca, One World Trade Center towering highest at left near center
Kwame Anthony Appiah side profile

KAA: “So why did I become an American? You have to be able to say — you want to be able to say — we not you. I’m talking about the country that I live in. My father was a politician, a member of the opposition in several parliaments. But what he taught us was: ‘I don’t require you to live in Ghana, but I do require you to be a good citizen wherever you do live.’ Truly invested in your country, wherever it is.”

KAA in Battery Park City, the Statue of Liberty in the far distance
Kwame Anthony Appiah indoors

KAA: “From the age of about eight if you asked me what I was going to do I said I was going to be a doctor. But in high school while I was doing all this stuff to get ready to go medical school I was enjoying and reading philosophy with friends and with a couple of teachers who ran clubs for that sort of thing. Now, the first thing you do as an undergraduate medical student at Cambridge, week one, you go and you meet this dead body, which you have to cut up. And it became clear to me that I was going to have to adjust if I was going to do this, because I'm pretty squeamish. And also in those days it was very boring. You just had to learn the names of things. Long boring lectures, whose point was unclear to me because all they were telling you was stuff that was in the books. So it was a really unsatisfying intellectual experience (just parenthetically, a medical education at Cambridge has gotten much better). And so then I had to … my college let me switch, which is a big deal in the British system. Why should they let you do philosophy? But they did, very kindly. And then I loved it.”

Kwame Anthony Appiah at his Tribeca home (5)

KAA: “Here’s a joke. A mathematician goes to the dean and says, ‘You know, don’t you think you should pay us mathematicians more? Because — unlike the physicists and the chemists — we don’t need labs, we don’t need equipment … all we need is paper, and a pencil, and an eraser.’ And the dean replied, ‘Yes, but in that case, we should pay the philosophers even more, because they don’t need the eraser.’ A very sort of donnish joke, yes, but it's pretty brilliant. It reflects how different academics really think about each other.”

Kwame Anthony Appiah family photos

Family Pictures: “Kwame Anthony Akroma-Ampim Kusi Appiah was born in London, where his Ghanaian father was a law student, but moved as an infant with his parents to Ghana and grew up there. His father, Joseph Emmanuel Appiah, a lawyer and politician, was also, at various times, a member of Parliament, an ambassador and a president of the Ghana Bar Association; his mother, the novelist, Akan art collector and scholar, and children’s writer Peggy Appiah, whose family was English, was active in the social, philanthropic, and cultural life of Kumasi. Their marriage, in 1953, was widely covered in the international press, because it was one of the first ‘inter-racial society weddings’ in Britain; and is said to have been one of the inspirations for the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner." Read more at appiah.net

A grouping of family photographs in the Appiah/Finder home

1–3, 8–9: KAA in his Tribeca home
4: KAA with his husband, Henry Finder, at home
5: KAA and HF head west through the streets of Tribeca
6: HF and KAA on Pier 25, Hudson River Park in Tribeca, One World Trade Center towering highest at left near center
7: KAA in Battery Park City, the Statue of Liberty in the far distance
10: A grouping of family photographs in the Appiah/Finder home

appiah.net | @KAnthonyAppiah

Related Links: The Secret of AmericaGreat Immigrants | Sally JewellArt AcevedoArianna HuffingtonJohn Leguizamo 



Photographed by Jennifer S. Altman, New York City, April, 5, 2018 | Produced by Kenneth Benson