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The ethicist

In 1950, Løgstrup – through the Danish writer Ole Wivel – made contact with Heretica , a movement of Danish poets who, in the post-war crisis of values, searched for true humanity.

  • This provided part of the background for Løgstrup's famous book The Ethical Demand ('Den etiske fordring'), published in 1956. In this book he gives a 'human' or philosophical account of the commandment of love in the preaching of Jesus. The fundamental idea is that people are always dependent on and thus delivered over to one another and that this 'fact' entails an unspoken demand to take care of the other person's life.

 

  • The Ethical Demand testifies to an aesthetic interest by including examples from fiction and a separate section on the relation between poetry and ethics. Because of his interest in this field, Løgstrup was elected, in 1961, as a member of The Danish Academy ('Det Danske Akademi'), the object of which is to "work for Danish spirit and language, especially within literature". The same interest is expressed in his book Art and Ethics ('Kunst og etik'), published in 1961, in which Løgstrup advocates the thesis that true art always has an ethical dimension.

 

  • From the beginning of his work as a pastor, Løgstrup had been connected to Tidehverv , a movement within the Danish church, which represented a form of existentialist theology, strongly inspired by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. When working out his idea of the ethical demand, Løgstrup showed a critical attitude to Kierkegaard because he considered him to devaluate earthly life and natural-human love. This critique gave rise to many years of polemics with Kristoffer Olesen Larsen, one of the leading characters within the movement, about the correct interpretation of Kierkegaard, and resulted in Løgstrup severing his connection with the movement in 1965.

 

  • Løgstrup's final attitude to Kierkergaard was displayed in his book Controverting Kierkegaard ('Opgør med Kierkegaard'), published in 1968. The book included his idea of 'the sovereign expressions of life'. The sovereign expressions of life are spontaneous, immediate ways in which we relate to our fellow human beings, e.g., trust, mercy and sincerity in speech. They manifest the grace of God, the Creator, in natural human life, and it is only by virtue of their existence that human beings can live together in harmony. In the sovereign expressions of life the ethical demand is fulfilled spontaneously.

 

  • In his book Norm and Spontaneity ('Norm og spontaneitet'), published in 1972, Løgstrup works out and elaborates his ethical ideas. This book touches on the role of character traits and on sexual-ethical issues. It also includes a detailed account of the problems concerning the political and economic organization of society. This matter had become of topical interest because of the student revolt in the late 60s. Løgstrup, however, dissociates himself from the student revolt as, in his opinion, it leads to what he calls "dilettantocracy", a rule based on simplification of problems.