Objectivity is the attempt at moving towards an unbiased, universal knowledge that has been characteristic of the modern period. It aims at a view from nowhere; at a cool and calculating gaze at the world that transcends gender, culture, class, ethnicity, nationality, etc.
There are many problems with the idea of objectivity, and I will not get so much into those here, as my intent is to rehabilitate the noble goal at the heart of objectivity: the desire to extend our thinking beyond the scope of our own particular perspective.
Impartiality is a better mode of rationality than objectivity. Impartiality engages us in the world and in relationship with others, taking seriously our perspective (recognizing that, to begin with, we are partial), while trying to go beyond it for the sake of the other. Impartiality is thus ethically charged, not merely an abstracted rational principle.
Impartiality only takes us part way towards the other. It calls us out of our own perspective, but without a destination. Still better than impartiality is empathy: it calls us, as far as possible, to enter the perspective of the other, to have a “fusion of horizons” that allows us to truly communicate, and therefore, be able to have rational discourse with one another.
What supposedly “objective” discourse fails to do is to give us a compelling reason to go beyond ourself and to orient our self around the other. Empathy, on the other hand, is quite simply an expression of love, not only in the intellectual life, but in all of life.
Objective rationality distances us from the world and the people around us, but empathetic rationality finds us more fully engaged in both. This is as it should be, for I also contend that most—if not all—people begin their intellectual journey out of a desire to see a particular area of human existence flourish. Why then should our methods distance us from the very end we are trying to accomplish?
Finally, this makes perfect sense to the Christian intellectual, for we understand that the call to love God and others is the fundamental goal of our lives (Mat 22:36-40). We seek to understand people and all of the complexities of how we relate to one another. We do this to better love them, not to gloat in our intellect. St. Paul instructed us in this very thing when he said that knowledge and insight without love is nothing at all (1 Cor 13:2).