Ethico-political imagination in Luther, Kant, and Løgstrup

Article by Svend Andersen in Studia Theologica.

Today, imagination is related to the classical concepts φρόνησις and ἐπιϵίκϵια, which both are about taking right action in particular situations. Some regard imagination as an essential requirement of the Golden Rule (GR). The role of imagination according to three thinkers is discussed here: Martin Luther, Immanuel Kant, and K. E. Løgstrup. In Kant’s ethics, the basic problem is the agent’s relation to practical reason. The two others regard ethics as rooted in the agent’s relation to the other. With Kant, imagination (Einbildungskraft) hardly plays an ethical role, but does so via aesthetic judgment. The GR needs “improvement” through adjustment to the categorical imperative. Luther empha sizes ἐπιϵίκϵια: taking the right action in a particular situation, getting free from general rules. The same is true of acting in accordance with GR, which for Luther is a summary of natural law. Løgstrup’s ethics is a reconstruction of Luther’s theory of natural law, philosophically based on existential phenomenology. In The Ethical Demand, imagination is central for the ability to take care of the other. Later, Løgstrup states that GR underlines the importance of imagination and the ability to place oneself in the other’s position. The article concludes by sketching Løgstrup’s view of imagination in political ethics.