The Accidental and the Essential

"One sign of the times is which traits we see as accidental to a person, which essential."

This afternoon on Twitter, philosopher Agnes Callard perfectly distilled a vital distinction while criticizing this brief profile of Jane Coaston:

"One sign of the times is which traits we see as accidental to a person, which essential.
For example in this profile sexual orientation, marital status, religion, and job are posited as things that 'happen to be' true of a person, by contrast with race and political orientation."

For quite some time I have been struggling with the feeling that the crowd is ever more focused on ever less important parts of people’s lives. Think about which of the traits in this list are within our agency, and which you hear emphasized in public. I hope that in our quest for a freer and more just society we do not forget that the traits that we choose and pursue are far more important than those which can be assigned by default.