Radical Embodiment

By David H. Nikkel

A theological exploration of human nature engaging with modernist and postmodernist thought, and emphasising the reality and significance of our physical being.

ISBN: 9780227173534


It is my conviction that our modern culture has lived under an insane picture of human nature, which has conspired to deprive us of a meaningful life and world.
From the Preface

‘Radical embodiment’ refers to an epistemology and anthropology fundamentally rooted in our bodies as always in correlation with our natural and social environments. All human rationality, meaning, and value arise not only instrumentally but also substantively from this embodiment in the world. Radical embodiment reacts against Enlightenment mind-body dualism, as well as its monistic offshoots, including the physicalism that reduces everything to component matter/energy at the expense of subjectivity and meaning. It also rejects certain forms of postmodernism that reinscribe modern dualisms.

David H. Nikkel develops and explores this perspective of ‘radical embodiment’ by examining varieties of modern and postmodern theology, and the nature and role of tradition – in terms of linguistic and non-linguistic experience, the religion and science dialogue on the nature of consciousness, and the immanent and transcendent aspects of God.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

David H. Nikkel is Associate Professor of Religion at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He is the author of Panentheism in Hartshorne and Tillich: A Creative Synthesis (1995).

Prior to coming to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, he taught at several universities and pastored several United Methodist Churches. He is an officer of the North American Paul Tillich Society.



1. Discerning the Spirits of Modernity and Postmodernity
2. Postmodernism(s) and Tradition
3. The Body in Tradition
4. Tradition as Body
5. Radical Embodiment in Light of the Science and Religion Dialogue
6. The Postmodern Spirit and the Status of God
7. Radical Embodiment and Transcendence



Endorsements and Reviews

David Nikkel’s Radical Embodiment makes a strong and persuasive case against the philosophical fracturing of reality that stems from the modern legacy of mind/body dualism. Nikkel’s alternative is a scientifically informed, philosophically insightful, and theologically sensitive panentheistic model of radical embodiment that aims to counter the postmodern metaphysical ‘homelessness’ of both God and human beings. This rich, clear, and engaging work will serve to remind us that, indeed, we are at home in the universe.
Eric Weislogel, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Metanexus Institute

The desire to know the elemental structure of existence drove philosophy’s earliest inquiries. David H. Nikkel, of the University of California, makes this quest contemporary. Instead of looking for the essential components constituting the world, he presents our biological creatureliness as phenomenologically basic to our religious experience. Nikkel’s concept of ‘radical embodiment’ attempts to develop this claim and to essentialize human materiality within his portrayal of religion, God’s existence, transcendence and the afterlife. … Nikkel’s argument draws upon a startling range of resources to produce a colourful mosaic that, while not always cohesive, invites readers into scientific and psychological discussions not usually heard among theologians.
Nathan D. Hieb, in Theology, Vol 115, No 3

This is an interesting book that engages with a number of disciplines to bring together an argument that is radical embodiment and to situate it within the current theological world. It is a loud call for recognising intersubjectivity as a theological given which seems to me to be a message that needs to be repeated many times in these days.
Lisa Isherwood, in The Expository Times, Vol 124 (1)

[Nikkel] never tries to disguise that the motivation for his thinking is ‘trusting our religious demands’ and ‘trusting our bodily naturalness’. That makes his argument very personable, vey understandable – and sometime very suggestive.
Christina Aus der Au, in Theologische Revue, No 1, 2013

Almost effortlessly Nikkel weaves together studies from linguistics, zoology, neurobiology, art history, and theological revelation. These seemingly disparate topics work surprisingly well together to show the significance of the body in different ways of being. … More than anything else, the posing of his final question demonstrates that the goal of the book is to challenge what readers think they know. In this, it is undeniably a success.
Brooke J. Nelson, in Reviews in Religion & Theology, Vol 20, Issue 2