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Bonhoeffer and Løgstrup: the Ethics of Disclosure in a State of Exception

  • Petra Brown
  • Patrick StokesEmail author


Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Knud Ejler Løgstrup were WWII contemporaries: Lutheran theologians and religious figures in their respective German and Danish communities; both active in the anti-Nazi resistance. Being involved in the resistance, Bonhoeffer and Løgstrup were required to rethink what it meant to be ethical, in particular in relation to disclosure and the telling of truth, in a situation of war. In this paper, we consider the grounds on which both Løgstrup and Bonhoeffer acted, their belief in a duty or requirement to resist, in light of the more general problem presented by resistance as action undertaken in a state of exception. We investigate the distinction between the normativity of ordinary or stable time, and action required in a state of exception, using the specific example of truth-telling as a normative demand and its conflict with the exceptional imperative to lie. The example of truth-telling raises important questions about the role of agency and phronetic judgment in a state of exception. In order to determine a foundation for such judgment, we turn to the framework adapted by both Bonhoeffer and Løgstrup to ground their requirement to lie: Luther’s concept of three estates. We consider how their respective concepts of mandates and laws of life/sovereign expressions of life both illuminate and highlight the more general problem of the relation between norm and exceptional action.


Bonhoeffer Løgstrup Ethics Truth Resistance Exception 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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