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Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 139–159 | Cite as

The problem of spontaneous goodness: from Kierkegaard to Løgstrup (via Zhuangzi and Eckhart)

  • Patrick Stokes
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Kierkegaard Løgstrup Spontaneity Daoism Wu-wei Mysticism 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to John Lippitt, audiences at Australian Catholic University and the 7th International Kierkegaard Conference at St Olaf College, Minnesota (particularly respondent Rob Compaijen), and an anonymous referee for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Humanities and Social SciencesDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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