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Classical Ethics, Lesson 11. Book I, Chapter 11

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Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (bust)
Aristotle (384-322 BC)

That the good or bad fortune, however, of descendants, and of all friends, should contribute nothing (to the happy man,) appears to be a thing very unfriendly, and contrary to the opinions of mankind. But since many things happen, and which possess an all-various difference, and some of them pertain to us in a greater, but others in a less degree, to discuss them severally appears to be a long and an infinite undertaking. It will, therefore, perhaps be sufficient to speak of them universally, and to adumbrate what they are. As of the calamitous circumstances then which happen to the happy man, some have a certain weight, and are of importance in life, this is likewise the case with respect to all his friends. It makes a difference, however, whether each of the calamities happens to the living or the dead, and the difference is much greater than whether the illegal and dreadful deeds which are the subject of tragedy, have been formerly perpetrated, or are perpetrated now. In this way, therefore, the difference may also be collected. Perhaps, however, it ought rather to be doubted concerning the dead, whether they partake of any good or ill. For it appears from these things, that though something should arrive to them, whatever it may be, whether good, or the contrary, it is something debile and small, either in its own nature, or to them. But if it should possess a certain power, yet it cannot be so great, or of such a kind, as to make those happy who are not so, or to deprive those of blessedness who are. The prosperity, prosperity, therefore, and in a similar manner the adversity of friends, appears to contribute something to the dead, yet with respect to them, they are of so little consequence, as neither to make those that are. happy unhappy, nor effect any thing else of the like kind.


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