The Ethical Demand
342 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback | 9780268009342 | February 1997
Hardcover | 9780268206994 | September 2022
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268161262 | February 1997
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268161255 | February 1997
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.
Knud Ejler Løgstrup (1905–1981) was professor of ethics and philosophy of religion at the University of Aarhus until his retirement in 1975. He is the author of numerous books in Danish. English translations of central texts from other ethical works by Løgstrup are available in Beyond the Ethical Demand (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007).
Hans Fink is professor emeritus of philosophy at Aarhus University.
Alasdair MacIntyre is research professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of numerous books, including Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame Press, 1988) and Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition (Notre Dame Press, 1990).
“Løgstrup's The Ethical Demand is a challenging and valuable addition to the growing ethical literature meeting the desperate needs of our own time. The book is a particularly valuable addition because of its attempt to meet the difficulties implicit in the Kantian and Kierkegaardian moral traditions which have been so influential in Europe in the past one hundred years." —The Canadian Catholic Review
“[T]his book presents an interesting new way of looking at ethics, and its account of the various ways we rationalize our failures to live up to the demand had me examining how far I fell short. It would prove interesting to compare it to accounts of ‘particularist’ ethics, and of the ethics of care.” —Comptes rendus philosophiques (Philosophy in Review)
“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
“This collection of essays by the late Danish philosopher and theologian Løgstrup presents his theory of using phenomenology in understanding our ethical decisions. According to Løgstrup, phenomenology not only provides an understanding of human existence but also of ethics, through examination of phenomena of ethical concepts. . . . Løgstrup combines detailed writing with an excellent critique of competing ethical theories to explain his own ethical theory, which stresses the moral experience over ethical principals. These essays will be valuable to scholars and students in philosophy and ethics.” —Library Journal