Knud Ejler Løgstrup

Knud Ejler Løgstrup (1905–1981) was a Danish philosopher and theologian.

Løgstrup was an ethical intuitionist who was critical of rule-based ethics of the type advocated by Immanuel Kant. In other words, he disliked ethical systems which try to determine basic moral laws.

Løgstrup mentions philosopher Stephen Toulmin's example of an everyday situation: "I have borrowed a book from John and the question is now, why should I give it back today as I promised him?", Toulmin asks in order to derive more general moral rules. But if I give John back his book because "I should always keep my promises" or because of the more general rule "I should never lie", I treat him as a means; this is unethical, as well. In the 1930es Løgstrup was a part of the Tidehverv movement in Danish theology which at the time espoused a dialectical theology, he left the movement in the early 1950es.

Morality is not about rules, but about the so-called 'sovereign expressions of life'. All men have an intuitive feeling of right and wrong. 'Sovereign expressions of life' includes feelings and actions as open speech, trust, compassion, mercy, and love. These phenomena are intrinsically good. A good example is open speech. Even when secret police are searching an apartment, the people living there cannot help but speak with the police sergeant, because it feels intuitively natural to do so.

Moral laws are only substitutes for intuition in situations where these intuitive feelings fails to lead to action. For instance, the Golden rule is a substitute for compassion.

So, Løgstrup takes the opposite point of view to Kant, who believed that moral laws are the only truly moral basis for action, and that natural desires can never be moral.

Read more about Knud Ejler LøgstrupTranslated Works, Secondary Works

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Knud Ejler Løgstrup - Secondary Works
... Løgstrup (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) ... Die Fundamentalethik Knud E ... Løgstrups (Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2011) ...