‘At Home on the Earth’

Toward a Theology of Human Non-Exceptionalism


  • Dorothy C. Dean University of Houston




Christian ecotheology, Sallie McFague, human exceptionalism, embodiment, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ecofeminism, mesh, phenomenology, climate change


The climate crisis requires a revaluation of what it means to be human that radically rejects human exceptionalism. I argue that such an account of human being can be constructed from a combination of Sallie McFague’s theology and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. While McFague’s theology established the parameters for an embodied, ecotheological concept of human being, I contend that Merleau-Ponty’s late work can push this vision of humanity from being anti-anthropocentric to being truly non-exceptionalistic, by making it possible to understand humans as part of the ‘mesh’ of the world. This allows for a human non-exceptionalism that still has room for the differentiation and relationality necessary to honor human diversity and to facilitate ameliorative action. The result is a foundation for a new ecotheological concept of human being that can speak to what it means to be human in the Anthropocene.

Author Biography

Dorothy C. Dean, University of Houston

Mellon Partners for Humanities Education Postdoctoral Fellow

Visiting Assistant Professor, Religion and Women's and Gender Studies


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How to Cite

Dean, D. C. (2021). ‘At Home on the Earth’: Toward a Theology of Human Non-Exceptionalism. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 14(4), 480–495. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.40899