The problem of spontaneous goodness

from Kierkegaard to Løgstrup (via Zhuangzi and Eckhart)

Patrick Stokes

pp. 139-159

Historically, Western philosophy has struggled to accommodate, or has simply denied, the moral value of spontaneous, non-reflective action. One important exception is in the work of K.E. Løgstrup, whose phenomenological ethics involves a claim that the "ethical demand' of care for the other can only be realized through spontaneous assent to "sovereign expressions of life' such as trust and mercy. Løgstrup attacks Kierkegaard for devaluing spontaneous moral action, but as I argue, Kierkegaard too offers an implicit view of spontaneous moral response ("second immediacy') as a regulative ideal. In attempting to articulate the model of character-formation that such an ethics requires, we can see both Løgstrup and Kierkegaard as engaging with an ancient problematic, running from Classical Daoism to medieval mysticism, of achieving spontaneity through purgation rather than edification—not building the subject up, but demolishing personality in order to become a conduit for a transcendent normativity.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-016-9377-1

Full citation [Harvard style]:

Stokes, P. (2016). The problem of spontaneous goodness: from Kierkegaard to Løgstrup (via Zhuangzi and Eckhart). Continental Philosophy Review 49 (2), pp. 139-159.

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