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Nicomachean Ethics   


It will also on this view be very generally shared; for all who are
not maimed as regards their potentiality for virtue may win it by a
certain kind of study and care. But if it is better to be happy thus
than by chance, it is reasonable that the facts should be so, since
everything that depends on the action of nature is by nature as good
as it can be, and similarly everything that depends on art or any
rational cause, and especially if it depends on the best of all
causes. To entrust to chance what is greatest and most noble would be
a very defective arrangement.
The answer to the question we are asking is plain also from the
definition of happiness; for it has been said to be a virtuous
activity of soul, of a certain kind. Of the remaining goods, some must
necessarily pre-exist as conditions of happiness, and others are
naturally co-operative and useful as instruments. And this will be
found to agree with what we said at the outset; for we stated the end
of political science to be the best end, and political science spends
most of its pains on making the citizens to be of a certain character,
viz. good and capable of noble acts.
It is natural, then, that we call neither ox nor horse nor any other
of the animals happy; for none of them is capable of sharing in such
activity. For this reason also a boy is not happy; for he is not yet
capable of such acts, owing to his age; and boys who are called happy
are being congratulated by reason of the hopes we have for them. For
there is required, as we said, not only complete virtue but also a
complete life, since many changes occur in life, and all manner of
chances, and the most prosperous may fall into great misfortunes in
old age, as is told of Priam in the Trojan Cycle; and one who has
experienced such chances and has ended wretchedly no one calls happy.
10
Must no one at all, then, be called happy while he lives; must we, as
Solon says, see the end? Even if we are to lay down this doctrine, is
it also the case that a man is happy when he is dead? Or is not this
quite absurd, especially for us who say that happiness is an activity?
But if we do not call the dead man happy, and if Solon does not mean
this, but that one can then safely call a man blessed as being at last
beyond evils and misfortunes, this also affords matter for discussion;
for both evil and good are thought to exist for a dead man, as much as
for one who is alive but not aware of them; e.g. honours and
dishonours and the good or bad fortunes of children and in general of
descendants. And this also presents a problem; for though a man has
lived happily up to old age and has had a death worthy of his life,
many reverses may befall his descendants- some of them may be good and
attain the life they deserve, while with others the opposite may be
the case; and clearly too the degrees of relationship between them and
their ancestors may vary indefinitely. It would be odd, then, if the
dead man were to share in these changes and become at one time happy,
at another wretched; while it would also be odd if the fortunes of the
descendants did not for some time have some effect on the happiness of
their ancestors.
But we must return to our first difficulty; for perhaps by a
consideration of it our present problem might be solved. Now if we
must see the end and only then call a man happy, not as being happy
but as having been so before, surely this is a paradox, that when he
is happy the attribute that belongs to him is not to be truly
predicated of him because we do not wish to call living men happy, on
account of the changes that may befall them, and because we have
assumed happiness to be something permanent and by no means easily
changed, while a single man may suffer many turns of fortune's wheel.
For clearly if we were to keep pace with his fortunes, we should often
call the same man happy and again wretched, making the happy man out
to be chameleon and insecurely based. Or is this keeping pace with his
fortunes quite wrong? Success or failure in life does not depend on
these, but human life, as we said, needs these as mere additions,
while virtuous activities or their opposites are what constitute

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