Transcendent Pluralism

Contributor: Donna J. Perrry
May 5, 2022

Author: Donna J. Perry, PhD, RN

First published 2005

Major Concepts

Human dignity
Ecological dignity
Dialectic of dignity
Vertical liberty
Self affirmation
Effective purpose
Group bias
Genuine encounter
Knowing personhood
Feelings of valuation
Affective transformation
Transformative effect
Transformative risk
Sustaining elements
Transformative solidarity


Middle range theory

Brief Description

Transcendent pluralism is a middle-range theory inspired by the Righteous Gentiles, individuals who risked their own lives to save Jewish people during the Holocaust. The theory addresses human transcendence of difference and is grounded in human and ecological dignity. Transcendent pluralism is defined as, “The evolution of the spirit of living beings within mutually transformative relationships leading to a loving community through human and ecological dignity” (Perry, 2015). My early work in this theory explored instances of nonviolent social transformation in which persons transcended their own group in order to advance the dignity of people in a different group. This included research about Israeli-Palestinian peacemakers in the Combatants for Peace movement and Catholics who undertook personal risk in order to support same-gender marriage during its initial legalization in Massachusetts. I have also studied humanitarian health care providers who traveled globally to provide care in resource-limited settings. In recent years, I have used the theory to examine relations between humans and other species in the field of human-animal interaction and health. My current research focuses particularly on human-wildlife relations. Transcendent pluralism is rooted in the unitary transformative paradigm.

Primary Source

Perry, D.J. (2015, Oct.-Dec.). Transcendent pluralism: A middle-range theory of nonviolent social transformation through human dignity. Advances in Nursing Science, 38(4), 317-329.

Application Sources

Perry, D. (2005, Feb.). Transcendent pluralism and the influence of nursing testimony on environmental justice legislation. Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice, 6(1), 60-71.

Perry, D.J. (2008). Catholic Supporters of Same Gender Marriage: A Case Study of Human Dignity in a Multicultural Society. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press.

Perry, D.J. (2011). The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Movement: Combatants for Peace. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Perry, D.J. (2013, Summer). Effective purpose in transnational humanitarian health care providers. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, 8(3), 157-68.

Perry, D.J. & Ojemeni, M. T. (2016, Fall). Expanding humanitarian global health capacity for the human good; Global Health Governance, X(2),107-123.

Perry, D.J. & Averka, J.P. (2020). Caring for the circle of life: Wildlife rehabilitation and sanctuary care, Human-Wildlife Interactions, 14(2), 309-324.

Perry, D.J., Averka, J.P., Johnson, C., Powell, H. & Cavanaugh, A. (2022, on-line ahead of print). Visitors’ feelings toward moose and coyote in a wildlife sanctuary: The transcendent feelings of animal valuation scale, Society & Animals, 1-22.

About Donna J. Perry

Donna J. Perry, PhD, RN is an Associate Professor at the UMass Chan Medical School Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing. Donna received her PhD at Boston College where she studied the work of Bernard Lonergan as a philosophical underpinning for her research. She also completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Lonergan studies. Dr. Perry’s research is conducted using a theory she developed on the evolution of human and ecological dignity called transcendent pluralism. The theory has been used to study intergroup relations within a variety of contexts of peaceful social transformation. Recently, Donna has focused her research on inter-species relations, specifically human co-existence with wildlife. She is currently researching the influence of wildlife immersion activities for veterans with PTSD through an R-21 funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Donna is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and volunteers at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Massachusetts.