The Phenomenology of Moral Agency in the Ethics of K. E. Logstrup

Dissertation, University of Essex (2017)

Abstract

Many philosophers hold that moral agency is defined by an agent’s capacity for rational reflection and self-governance. It is only through the exercise of such capacities, these philosophers contend, that one’s actions can be judged to be of distinctively moral value. The moral phenomenology of the Danish philosopher and theologian K. E. Løgstrup, currently enjoying a revival of interest amongst Anglo-American moral philosophers, is an exception to this view. Under the auspices of his signature theory of the ‘sovereign expressions of life,’ Løgstrup provides a rich moral phenomenology aimed at establishing the ethical value of ‘spontaneous,’ non-deliberative actions, such as those exemplified in the showing of trust and acts of mercy. In this thesis, my aim is to investigate what mode of moral agency, if any, is compatible with Løgstrup’s phenomenology of the sovereign expressions of life. I argue that Løgstrup’s moral phenomenology is compatible with a distinctive medio-passive mode of agency. According to this conception of moral agency, the subject’s agency is constituted not through her capacity to stand back and make a judgment on how to act, but rather in the way the subject comports herself in relation to situations and encounters that are experienced first-personally as overwhelming and encompassing. I will proceed by providing detailed analyses of the core aspects of Løgstrup’s moral phenomenology and his theory of the sovereign expressions of life. In the process, I will elucidate the decisive influence that thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Martin Luther and Søren Kierkegaard had on Løgstrup’s way of thinking about ethics. Thus, in this thesis my aim is to contribute both to Løgstrup scholarship and to central on-going debates in moral philosophy and the philosophy of action.

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References found in this work

Internal and External Reasons.Bernard Williams - 1979 - In Ross Harrison (ed.), Rational Action. Cambridge University Press. pp. 101-113.
Trust and Antitrust.Annette Baier - 1986 - Ethics 96 (2):231-260.
Trust.Carolyn McLeod - 2020 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Cunning of Trust.Philip Pettit - 1995 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (3):202-225.

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