Human exceptionalism

Other Names:
Belief in humanity's dominance over nature
Humanist arrogance
Human chauvinism
Humanist superiority complex
Human exemptionalism

Many people regard humanity as so consummately superior to all other forms of life that ecological processes do not apply to them. This radical separation of human beings from all other forms of life encourages environmental devastation and an insoluble loneliness among humankind. According to this humanist superiority complex, nature has instrumental or use value only, not intrinsic value.


The religious rationalization for human exceptionalism is notably derived from the biblical Book of Genesis: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over all the wild beasts that move upon the earth". As a consequence, domination, control and exploitation have been Western humanity's guiding values in relationship to nature. The scientific rationalization, reinforced by humanist perspectives, was that it was man's role to improve on nature, to discover her secrets, by experimental and quantitative means, and to put them to use for better living conditions for humans.

Man has tried to define a "golden barrier" a firm criterion to mark an unbridgeable gap between the mentality and behaviour of humans and all other creatures. Behaviour was tried such as the use of tools, or tools explicitly fashioned for particular use. Next was the distinction of mental attributes such as a moral sense or the ability to form abstractions. The development of culture - the complex behaviour of local populations passed through learning rather than instinct has persisted as a distinctly human attribute.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
18.03.2020 – 20:12 CET