Born to be Wild: Emergent Wisdom Through Human-Horse Encounters’. In Encountering Earth: Thinking Theologically With a More Than Human World
Humanity’s relationship with the horse goes back almost as far as that of dogs, but it is rather less often commented on in the academic literature. Drawing on my childhood experiences that involved ownership of two ponies, and (as a teenager) a horse, I will propose that human-horse encounters help shape who we are as moral persons. The evolution of morality as portrayed by evolutionary psychology has come under intensive scrutiny in so far as it tends to presuppose a naturalistic ethic and even weaken any ontological basis for moral agency. I will argue that while reductionist evolutionary accounts of morality are problematic from the perspective of Christian theology, new insights into the evolution of inter-species relationships are highly illuminating in order to understand the human moral condition. What emerges in human communities is therefore inter-morality in so far as it is premised on interaction with other creatures and is formed in the light of moral worlds characteristic of particular kinds and individual beings. I will also draw on a preliminary discussion of anthropological inter-species research that is currently underway at Notre Dame, investigating specific roles of horse-human encounters in the development of a particular community in Africa. More explicitly, I will suggest that a theological anthropology that excludes the presence of subjects other than humans makes little sense. Further, a form of natural wisdom emerges through such encounters, and arguably also prepares for transcendent wisdom through receptivity to the divine. In other words, in a more general sense, the immanent presence of God in the natural world makes itself felt through the liminal spaces opened up in encounters with specific animals.