Knud Ejler Løgstrup

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Knud Ejler Løgstrup (left) receiving the Henrik Steffens Prize (1979)

Knud Ejler Løgstrup (full name Knud Ejler Christian Løgstrup, often abbreviated KE Løgstrup; born September 2, 1905 in Copenhagen ; † November 20, 1981 ) was a Danish philosopher and theologian who was awarded the Søren Gyldendal Prize in 1959 .

During the war he was a pastor and active in the resistance movement. After his appointment to Aarhus University , he also dealt with metaphysics (4-volume standard work) and was a well-known exponent of intuitionism .


After visiting the metropolitan cities , he began studying theology at the University of Copenhagen in 1923 and graduated in 1930. This was followed by a six-year research and study stay abroad with the philosophers Henri Bergson , Martin Heidegger , Hans Lipps and Moritz Schlick as well as the theologians Friedrich Gogarten and Emanuel Hirsch . During this time he received his doctorate in 1932 as Doctor theologiae at the University of Copenhagen with a dissertation on ethics under Max Scheler , which was awarded a gold medal by the university.

After he was pastor of the Danish People's Church in the municipality of Sandager-Holevad in Funen between 1936 and 1943 , he completed his habilitation in 1943 with a thesis entitled Den Erkendelsesteoretiske konflikt mellem den transcendeltalfilosofiske idealisme og theologies .

He then accepted a professorship for ethics and religious philosophy at the University of Aarhus in 1943 and taught there until his retirement in 1975. During the Second World War he fought in the resistance movement against the German occupation forces and had to work between August Living underground in 1944 and May 1945 .

Løgstrup, who was awarded the Søren Gyldendal Prize in 1959, received an honorary doctorate from Lund University in 1965 and from Philipps University in Marburg in 1977 .

His main work, a four-volume textbook on metaphysics , consists of the four books Metafysik I: Vidde og Prægnans. Sprogfilosofiske betragtninger (1976), Metafysik II: Kunst og Erkendelse. Kunstfilosofiske betragtninger (1983), Metafysik III: Ophav og Omgivelse. Betragtninger over historie og natur (1976) and Metafysik IV: Skabelse og tilintetgørelse. Religionsfilosofiske betragtninger (1978).


As a philosopher, he was a representative of an ethical intuitionism , which saw a law-based ethics in the sense of Immanuel Kant critically and rejected an ethical system that tried to determine basic moral laws. The American philosopher Stephen Toulmin presented Løgstrup's philosophical thoughts based on an everyday situation as follows:

“'I borrowed a book from John and the question now is: why should I give this back today as I promised him?' Asks Toulmin, in order to derive more general moral rules. But if I return the book to John because 'I should always keep my promises' or because of the more general rule 'I should never lie', then I'm treating him as a means, and that's just as unethical. "
“'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 Løgstrup's view, morality does not refer to rules, but to the so-called "supreme expressions of life". Everyone has an intuitive feeling for right and wrong - see conscience . The "supreme expressions of life" include feelings as well as actions such as frank speech, trust, compassion, mercy and love. These phenomena are good for intrinsic safety. A good example of this is open speech, because even if the secret police search an apartment, the people living in it cannot help, but they can talk to the police because they intuitively feel they are doing so.

Moral laws are only a substitute for intuition in situations where these intuitive feelings fail to translate into action, such as the Golden Rule being a substitute for compassion. Ultimately, Løgstrup thus took the opposite position to Kant, who assumed that moral laws are the only true moral basis for action and that natural desires can never be moral.


  • Kierkegaard and Heidegger's existential analysis and their relationship to the proclamation. Blaschker, Berlin 1950
  • The freedom of the gospel and the order of society. Kaiser, Munich 1952 (lectures)
  • The etiske fordring. 1956
    • The ethical requirement. Laupp, Tübingen 1959; 3rd edition: Mohr, Tübingen 1989, ISBN 3-16-245335-6
  • with Götz Harbsmeier (Ed.): Controversy about Kierkegaard and Grundtvig. Ch. Kaiser, Munich
    • Volume 1: The Human and the Christian. Contribution to the introduction to the discussion about Kierkegaard and Grundtvig. 1966
    • Volume 2: dealing with Kierkegaard. 1968
  • with Ernst Wolf (ed.): Benefit people. Christian existence and humane experience. Theological and literary impulses. Götz Harbsmeier on his 60th birthday. Kaiser, Munich 1970, ISBN 3-459-00599-8
  • Norm og spontaneously. 1972
  • Norm and spontaneity. Ethics and politics between technocracy and dilettantocracy. Mohr, Tübingen 1989, ISBN 3-16-245185-X
  • Metafysics. 4 volumes. 1976-1983
    • Metaphysics. Mohr Siebeck, Tuebingen
      • Volume I: Width and Conciseness. Linguistic philosophical considerations. 1991, ISBN 3-16-145572-X
      • Volume II: Art and Knowledge. Art-philosophical considerations. 1998, ISBN 3-16-145974-1
      • Volume III: Origin and Environment. Reflections on history and nature. 1994, ISBN 3-16-145975-X
      • Volume IV: Creation and Annihilation. Religious philosophical considerations. 1990, ISBN 3-16-245502-2

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