In his intellectual biography of the Danish philosopher-theologian Knud Ejler Løgstrup, Ole Jensen uses a brief passage from a well-known Danish novel to highlight the distinction between two kinds of understanding. Per Jensen, the first is understanding for exploitation; the second, understanding for wonder or admiration. Løgstrup refers to the first type of understanding as “causal,” and the second as “analogous.” We will to try to digest this aspect of Løgstrup’s thinking, and his important idea of the “singular universal,” in more detail in the posts to follow. The following paragraph (my translation), from page 151 of Jensen’s book (Historien om K. E. Løgstrup), may serve as an appetizer:
It is the parish clerk on Sandoy [Island, in the Faroes,] in Martin A. Hansen’s The Liar who completely gets it [the distinction between the two types of understanding]: “Today I have been with the class of little ones out to see where the flowers grow. We touched no plants on the tour. We began by being deferential to the flowers, and why not show a dandelion as much respect as a minister? I had as yet scarcely left the little class when they took the flowers apart and counted the stamens. I know not where the folly comes from that one must begin by cutting the flowers to pieces and counting the sex organs. Systematic theology! No, first we learn to know them by what they have dressed themselves in and how they stand and show off. And then they get names. Like all things that mean something grow in the language itself and are living there, flowers must matter to our lives, before we play scholar, before we play scientist” (Hansen 1950, 177f. – compare Grundtvig: “Charming is the flower dressed and budded,/ loveliest to see on hills so barren”, Salmebogen [Danish hymnbook], nr. 41).