‘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