Knud Ejler Løgstrup,
Edited by Hans Fink
Knud Ejler Løgstrup’s The Ethical Demand is the most original influential Danish contribution to moral philosophy in this century. This is the first time that the complete text has been available in English translation. Originally published in 1956, it has again become the subject of widespread interest in Europe, now read in the context of the whole of Løgstrup’s work.
The Ethical Demand marks a break not only with utilitarianism and with Kantianism but also with Kierkegaard’s Christian existentialism and with all forms of subjectivism. Yet Løgstrup’s project is not destructive. Rather, it is a presentation of an alternative understanding of interpersonal life. The ethical demand presupposes that all interaction between human beings involves a basic trust. Its content cannot be derived from any rule. For Løgstrup, there is not Christian morality and secular morality. There is only human morality.
The Ethical Demand is of the highest relevance to contemporary debate, especially around those issues raised by Levinas. It will exert a steadily increasing influence both in theology and philosophy.
“This is highly original and rewarding, if difficult, treatise on moral philosophy. Løgstrup, in the same general tradition as Kant whom he criticizes severely, gives a philosophical account of the commandment to love the neighbor as the basis of ethics. Løgstrup’s version of the moral imperative, or ‘ethical demand,’ is ontological: it is the silent, radical, one-sided, impossible, unarticulated, and anonymous demand that ‘we take care of the life which trust has placed into our hands.’ . . . A revised and expanded version, with a helpful introduction, of a 1971 edition, this edition includes both the final chapter, a polemic against Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, and an article attacking teleology and deontology. The critique of Kierkegaard is particularly incisive. . . .” — Religious Studies Review
“. . . The volume is a useful introduction to the work of a very insightful heart and mind. Indeed, The Ethical Demand is one of those rare books that can inspire readers to moral virtue. . . . English readers are in the considerable debt of Fink, MacIntyre, Hauerwas, and Notre Dame Press for making Løgstrup’s magisterial work again available in translation. It is an exercise in attention, a schooling of empathy, that deserves to be much more widely read and responded to.” — Modern Theology