The partiality of perspective: this is the great teaching of the contemporary tumult. The problem is that we have not only begun to acknowledge our partiality, and the partiality of others, we have also begun to revere it, and this is a mistake. If pain does not provide access to the truth, neither does particularity. The worship of particularism is one of the great impediments to social justice, and in its exhilarating way it coarsens us all. In our moral and social thinking, our obsession with otherness has concealed that the foundation of moral and social action is sameness. The “other” is exotic, but there is nothing exotic about the homeless man on the street: he is the same as me, a human being, except that he is hungry and I am not. The difference in our circumstances is not a difference in our definition. When I hand him a few dollars I am not extending myself toward an alien being; I am practicing species solidarity. I am not discovering his humanity; I am responding to it. I am acting, in other words, universally, and none of the social problems that afflict us will be solved unless we recover the universalist standpoint that sees beyond the visible divisions, and is not trapped in, or enraptured by, the specificities of our tribes. Pluralism secures the right to turn inward, but it also broaches the duty to turn outward. By surrounding us with other partialities it legitimates our own partiality, but it also reveals that there is more to the world than what is merely ours.
Leon Wieseltier, “Steadying,” Liberties (Fall 2020), 406