Before I dive into a full-blown exposition of part of Løgstrup’s metaphysics, I would be remiss not to point out that in moving from his writings about ethics, which were discussed in my prior posts about him, to his writings about metaphysics, a significant measure of philosophical “respectability” is thereby lost. The arc of Løgstrup’s career, from his first major book, Den etiske fordring (The Ethical Demand), to his last major book, the four-volume work Metafysik (Metaphysics), consists of his desire to ground the metaphysical presuppositions that were present in his work, at least in embryo, from the start. Within the history of philosophy, one may debate about who (or is it what?) killed metaphysics, but about the fact of its demise in modern philosophy – this appears to be a settled question not open for debate. Thus, by his own admission, Løgstrup’s metaphysical quest “will have the appearance of a retreating army fighting a rear-guard action before it disappears into the darkness of anachronism” (Metaphysics, vol. I, p. 1, translation by Russell L. Dees). Some students of Løgstrup’s thought go the distance with him (e.g. Ole Jensen, who, in the book mentioned in my last post, quipped, “I walk the plank with Løgstrup!”), but many don’t. Jakob Wolf writes about this in his contribution to the book Løgstrups mange ansigter (pp. 79-80, my translation):
The normal reaction to Løgstrup’s ideas about sensation [sense perception] is that he went too far. They are too wild and too odd for us to take seriously. The consequence of this classification of Løgstrup’s analyses is that they are if not flatly wrong then, at best, rather uninteresting. That may be why Løgstrup’s analyses of sensation have had, by and large, no clout. The world goes on as if nothing had happened. One book after another is written which, like the greatest truism in the world, takes for granted that sensation is receptive and assures us that language and the understanding are our fundamental access to arrive at a cognition of the world. Offhand, I cannot name a single philosopher [besides Løgstrup] who maintains the view that sensation is distanceless. Very few know the viewpoint at all, and I think those who have dedicated time to inform themselves of and to criticize the viewpoint can be counted on one hand. I consider that, taken on the whole, it is the case that Løgstrup’s metaphysical project has had no impact. The vast majority of the philosophical and theological literature I encounter is, as though it were the most self-evident thing in the world, thoroughly antimetaphysical. When I, on suitable occasions, defend metaphysical points of view, I am greeted with consternation. Surely you can’t mean it! Alasdair MacIntyre said, in a discussion I had with him at a seminar, that Løgstrup’s ideas about the ethical demand were interesting and ought to be disseminated internationally, but the metaphysics – we could safely forget it, “it doesn’t stand a chance.”
Lest there be any doubt – and not being a card-carrying philosopher, I have nothing to risk in terms of professional reputation – I too go the distance with Løgstrup.