Personal Destinies: A Philosophy of Ethical Individualism

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Princeton University Press, 1976 - Philosophy - 398 pages
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What is the meaning of life? Modern professional philosophy has largely renounced the attempt to answer this question and has restricted itself to the pursuit of more esoteric truths. Not so David Norton. Following in the footsteps of Plato and Aristotle, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, Jung and Maslow, he sets forth a distinctive vision of the individual's search for his place in the scheme of things.

Norton's theory of individualism is rooted in the eudaimonistic ethics of the Creeks, who viewed each person as innately possessing a unique potential it was his destiny to fulfill. Very much the same idea resurfaced in modern times with the British idealists and Continental existentialists. The author reviews these antecedents, showing how his theory differs from those of his predecessors.

After a fascinating chapter on "The Stages of Life," Norton shows how the mature consciousness of one's destiny leads to direct, intimate knowledge of other persons, and how this in turn provides the basis for social morality. The conception of justice in which this theory culminates, rooted as it is in essential human differences, provides a challenging alternative to the much-discussed theories of Rawls and Nozick.


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The Ethical Priority of SelfActualization
Critique of Recent Eudaimonisms British Absolute Idealism
Critique of Recent Eudaimonisms Kierkegaard and Nietzsche
Critique of Recent Eudaimonisms The Existentialism of Sartre
The Metaphysics of Individualism
The Stages of Life Childhood Adolescence Maturation Old Age
Eudaimonia The Quality of Moral Life in the Stage of Maturation
Our Knowledge of Other Persons
Social Entailments of SelfActualization Love and Congeniality of Excellences
Intrinsic Justice and Division of Labor in Consequent Sociality
Unscholarly Epilogue

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About the author (1976)

David L. Norton is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Delaware and author of the highly regarded "Personal Destinies: A Philosophy of Ethical Individualism".

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