Løgstrup’s Ontological Ethics: An analysis of human interdependent existence

Bjørn Rabjerg

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The article explores K. E. Løgstrup’s ontological ethics, understood as an ethics rooted in interdependence. Interdependence, the fact that human beings always hold power over each other, has two very different aspects, which I will call negative and positive, each of them in turn leading to different aspects of ontological ethics. By negative and positive I mean the two opposing possibilities of all human interaction that we can either destroy the other person’s life (to a greater or smaller degree) or cause the other person’s life to flourish. We can either be a blessing in the other person’s life or a destroyer, as Løgstrup sometimes puts it. The focus of this article is to explore the positive aspect of interdependence. This is done for two connected reasons. Firstly, the positive aspect of Løgstrup’s analysis of interdependence seems to be largely overlooked because the work done on interdependence has tended to focus on the negative aspect, i.e. the threatening side of interdependence, which leads to his work on the ethical demand. Secondly, the positive aspect of interdependence actually provides the origin and foundation of Løgstrup’s so-called sovereign expressions of life. The overall aim is to provide a coherent exposition of Løgstrup’s ethics. However, the result is not a normative ethics upon which we may act, but rather a descriptive diagnosis of interdependence as the basic ontological condition of human social life, where the sovereign expressions of life may enable us to act.
Translated title of the contributionLøgstrups ontologiske etik: En analyse af menneskets interdependente tilværelse
Original languageEnglish
JournalRes Cogitans
Pages (from-to)93-110
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017


  • Løgstrup
  • Ethics
  • Ontology


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  • Tsinghua University

    Bjørn Rabjerg (Visiting researcher)

    23 Mar 201814 Apr 2018

    Activity: Visiting an external institution typesVisiting an external academic institution

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