David L. Norton

American philosopher
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David Lloyd Norton (March 27, 1930July 24, 1995) was an American philosopher, who taught at the University of Delaware for 29 years. In 1976 Princeton University Press published his book Personal Destinies: A Philosophy of Ethical Individualism, which received wide notice.


  • Autonomy is not "total self-sufficiency" but "the entitlement of each interactive entity to determine for itself what its contributions to others will be and, likewise, to determine for itself what use it will make of the self-determined contributions of other entities.
    • Imagination, Understanding, and the Virtue of Liberality, ch. 4

Personal Destinies: A Philosophy of Ethical Individualism (1976)

  • We are apprehensive that an ear turned to our inwardness will detect at most only meaningless murmurings, that a resort to the inner self will be a dizzying tumble into a bottomless pit. Fearing this, we anchor ourselves upon external things, we cast our lot with the fortunes of objects and events that appear to be untainted by the disease of selfhood.
    • p. 4
  • There are most certainly two distinguishable kinds of truths, “truths of reason” (that two plus two equals four) and “truths of fact” (that the sky appears blue). By his resort to his daimon Socrates added the class of “truths of self,” personal truths.
    • p. 7
  • Concerning the truth at hand he (Socrates) was saying, yes, surely, it is a truth a reason or a truth of fact, but before I offer it I must discover whether it is a personal truth and a part of myself, for otherwise I must leave its enunciation to others.
    • pp. 7-8
  • To speak a truth that belongs to another is untruth, for speaking belongs to living, hence to speak another’s truth is to live a life that is not one’s own.
    • p. 8
  • The great enemy of integrity is not falsehood as such but … the attractiveness of foreign truths, truths that belong to others.
    • p. 9
  • What is commonly called liberality is the condition of being open, available to all truths. But this is precisely eclecticism, confusion, the absence of integrity.
    • p. 9
  • Because truths of different kinds exhibit the characteristics of incommensurability (their difference is such that they cannot be measured by a single standard or reduced to members of one series) and incompossibility (their difference is such that they cannot co-exist within the same system), such openness introduces both multiplicity and contradiction, and the creature in question stands “divided against himself.”
    • pp. 9-10
  • Imitation is replication of particulars, emulation is adoption of an exemplified universal or principle.
    • p. 12
  • According to self-actualization ethics, it is every person’s primary responsibility first to discover the daimon within him and thereafter to live in accordance with it.
    • p. 16
  • For eudaimonism, an ethics of prohibition is a contradiction in terms.
    • p. 30
  • An undifferentiated absolute is normatively impotent because it can offer no principle for the apportionment of responsibility.
    • p. 66
  • Loyalty to life, according to Nietzsche, begins in the resolve to seek life’s principle within itself and not in something outside it—not, for example, in a God or supernature that, by being conceived as all that life is not—infinite, eternal, changeless, perfect goodness, perfect plenitude—stands as antithetical to life.
    • p. 80
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