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Nicomachean Ethics   


happiness or the reverse.
The question we have now discussed confirms our definition. For no
function of man has so much permanence as virtuous activities (these
are thought to be more durable even than knowledge of the sciences),
and of these themselves the most valuable are more durable because
those who are happy spend their life most readily and most
continuously in these; for this seems to be the reason why we do not
forget them. The attribute in question, then, will belong to the happy
man, and he will be happy throughout his life; for always, or by
preference to everything else, he will be engaged in virtuous action
and contemplation, and he will bear the chances of life most nobly and
altogether decorously, if he is 'truly good' and 'foursquare beyond
reproach'.
Now many events happen by chance, and events differing in importance;
small pieces of good fortune or of its opposite clearly do not weigh
down the scales of life one way or the other, but a multitude of great
events if they turn out well will make life happier (for not only are
they themselves such as to add beauty to life, but the way a man deals
with them may be noble and good), while if they turn out ill they
crush and maim happiness; for they both bring pain with them and
hinder many activities. Yet even in these nobility shines through,
when a man bears with resignation many great misfortunes, not through
insensibility to pain but through nobility and greatness of soul.
If activities are, as we said, what gives life its character, no happy
man can become miserable; for he will never do the acts that are
hateful and mean. For the man who is truly good and wise, we think,
bears all the chances life becomingly and always makes the best of
circumstances, as a good general makes the best military use of the
army at his command and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of
the hides that are given him; and so with all other craftsmen. And if
this is the case, the happy man can never become miserable; though he
will not reach blessedness, if he meet with fortunes like those of
Priam.
Nor, again, is he many-coloured and changeable; for neither will he be
moved from his happy state easily or by any ordinary misadventures,
but only by many great ones, nor, if he has had many great
misadventures, will he recover his happiness in a short time, but if
at all, only in a long and complete one in which he has attained many
splendid successes.
When then should we not say that he is happy who is active in
accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with
external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete
life? Or must we add 'and who is destined to live thus and die as
befits his life'? Certainly the future is obscure to us, while
happiness, we claim, is an end and something in every way final. If
so, we shall call happy those among living men in whom these
conditions are, and are to be, fulfilled- but happy men. So much for
these questions.
11
That the fortunes of descendants and of all a man's friends should not
affect his happiness at all seems a very unfriendly doctrine, and one
opposed to the opinions men hold; but since the events that happen are
numerous and admit of all sorts of difference, and some come more near
to us and others less so, it seems a long- nay, an infinite- task to
discuss each in detail; a general outline will perhaps suffice. If,
then, as some of a man's own misadventures have a certain weight and
influence on life while others are, as it were, lighter, so too there
are differences among the misadventures of our friends taken as a
whole, and it makes a difference whether the various suffering befall
the living or the dead (much more even than whether lawless and
terrible deeds are presupposed in a tragedy or done on the stage),
this difference also must be taken into account; or rather, perhaps,
the fact that doubt is felt whether the dead share in any good or
evil. For it seems, from these considerations, that even if anything

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