Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Anthropology

From Foil to Fertile Soil for Eco-Justice


  • Emily Dumler-Winckler Saint Louis University




Ralph Waldo Emerson, anthropology, anti-slavery, environmental ethics, gender, eco-justice, women's movement, justice, virtue, race


Until recently, popular presumption and scholarly consensus have cautioned against using Emerson as a constructive resource for eco-justice. Emerson’s views of nature, race, and gender as well as his involvement in the abolitionist and women’s movements of the nineteenth century have been a source of ongoing debate. At a time when concerns about social justice and equity have rightly become prominent in eco-justice, scholars of theology, religion, and ecology may wonder whether Ralph Waldo Emerson is best used, if at all, as a foil. Emerson’s anthropology and his reception history are both, at points, deficient. Nevertheless, because justice and love are central to his theological anthropology, he provides a resource for thinking about right relations among human beings and the
natural world. This anthropology provides a way beyond the false binary between anthropocentrism and ecocentrism that continues to haunt environmental ethics.


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How to Cite

Dumler-Winckler, E. (2023). Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Anthropology: From Foil to Fertile Soil for Eco-Justice. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 16(4), 471–496. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.22996