The Monist 103 (1):38-62 (2020)

Irene McMullin
University of Essex
For both Levinas and Løgstrup, the moral encounter is characterized by an asymmetrical prioritization of the other over the self. Some take Løgstrup’s account to be an improvement on Levinas’s, however, insofar as it appears to both foreswear the hyperbole of the latter’s view and ground the ethical claim in the natural conditions of human life. This paper argues, in contrast, that Løgstrup’s own account is equally hyperbolic in its characterization of the self as fundamentally evil, and that his attempt to ground the ethical demand in structures of ‘life’ raises serious difficulties. I will argue that Levinas’s stronger commitment to phenomenology both rules out the problematic metaphysical claims on which Løgstrup’s ontological ethics depends and helps explain the methodological function of Levinas’s own hyperbole. Unlike Løgstrup, Levinas insists that the challenge is not eradicating the claims of the self, but rather resisting its pretention to a global normative priority. In making this case I refute the argument that Levinas, unlike Løgstrup, is committed to a ‘command’ view of morality—whereby it is the other person’s authoritative status that underwrites the moral force of the claim, not the content of the claim itself. But on Levinas’s view, ‘demand’ and ‘command’ accounts merge in his understanding of the face-to-face encounter because responding to the content of the demand—that I treat the other’s claim as reason-giving— just is to see the other person as an authority capable of making legitimate claims on me.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/monist/onz026
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,464
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Being and Nothingness.Frederick A. Olafson - 1958 - Philosophical Review 67 (2):276-280.
The Ethical Demand.Knud Ejler Løgstrup - 1971 - Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
The Ethics of Emmanuel Levinas.Diane Perpich - 2008 - Stanford University Press.
The Problem with Levinas.Simon Critchley (ed.) - 2015 - Oxford University Press UK.

View all 19 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Løgstrup's Unfulfillable Demand.W. M. Martin - 2017 - In R. Stern & Hans Fink (eds.), What is Ethically Demanded: K.E. Løgstrup’s Philosophy of Moral Life. University of Notre Dame Press. pp. 325-347.
The Ethical Demand.Knud Ejler Løgstrup - 1971 - Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
The Problem of Spontaneous Goodness: From Kierkegaard to Løgstrup.Patrick Stokes - 2016 - Continental Philosophy Review 49 (2):139-159.
Towards a New Epistemology of Moral Progress.Patrick Stokes - 2017 - European Journal of Philosophy 25 (4):1824-1843.
Beyond the Ethical Demand.K. E. Logstrup & Kees van Kooten Niekerk - 2007 - University of Notre Dame Press.
Comments on Professor Løgstrup's Paper.Paul Helm - 1979 - Religious Studies 15 (2):239.
Levinas and Our Moral Responsibility Toward Other Animals.Peter Atterton - 2011 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 54 (6):633 - 649.


Added to PP index

Total views
13 ( #772,821 of 2,520,772 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #405,623 of 2,520,772 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes