A New Anthropology for Ecotheology: Rethinking the Human in the World with Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Flesh
Dean, Dorothy Chappell
This dissertation constructs a theological anthropology for ecofeminist theology. In spite of their insistence that human beings need to feel “at home on the earth,” ecofeminists have not developed a theological anthropology that explicitly counteracts human exceptionalism. Without such an anthropology, the distancing conceptions of the human being that contributed to the ecological crisis are not fully challenged. I propose a conscious turn to a focus on matter as a means by which ecofeminist theology can achieve nonexceptionalist anthropology. I draw from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of visible and invisible “flesh” to construct a theological anthropology that accounts not only for human bodies but also for human cognition and experiences of transcendence in a way that does not differentiate us absolutely from the material world. Specifically, I use Merleau-Ponty’s figure of the chiasm to construct an “apophatic anthropology” in which the boundary between self and world is fundamentally indeterminate. I argue that this anthropology is more conducive to an ecologically sound relationship with the world because it cultivates a mode of seeing ourselves as entirely continuous with material reality and enables us to live into our embodied interconnection.