Book 01
Chapter 09
What a person needs in order to be happy.

Speaking of fortune, we have to ask how people gain happiness: does it come from learning, or habits, or some other sort of training, or does it come from divine providence, or does it even come from chance? Well, if the gods do give anything to men, we should think that what is given by the gods is the best of things, which we have already seen to be happiness. But this type of question about gods and what they do or do not do is better to be continued someplace else. However, even if happiness is not god-sent but comes from something else, it still seems to be among the most god-like of things: for that which is the prize and end of virtue seems to be the best thing in the world, something god-like and blessed.

If happiness is something that can be worked for and got, then it will be possible for most anyone to get it. We think that would make it be as it should be. Why? Because things can only be as good as what they depend on. (Everything that depends on what nature does is as good as nature makes it be. Likewise, things that depend on the skill of the artist are as good as the artist makes it be.) To leave up to chance the most great and noble of things would mean it could only be as great and noble as chance allows (which is likely not much), and it would be hard to believe that living the good life is really more about having good luck than doing good deeds.

Now, if we think about it we already have the answer based on how we defined happiness. We said that happiness is one of the goods which is of the soul. That leaves many goods still remaining. Well, if they really are goods then they must be good for something, must they not? Some of the goods will be things one must have before they can aim for happiness. For instance, a sick man will have a hard time doing virtuous deeds, and if we saw one trying to, what would we say? Man, first get your health back and then try this thing. Other goods will be useful as things which allow us to carry out our virtuous acts. For instance, Achilles receives from the gods the shield of Hephaestos to help make possible his deeds of valor against the Trojans.

And what we have just said agrees with what we said about Politics in the beginning. I mean, we said that it is mostly about how to make the citizens be people that have a good character and are able to do what is noble when that is called for. We also said that Politics is about the good of man. The good of man is happiness and happiness is got by living virtuously. So we see they all go together, if Politics does things to help make its citizen live virtuous lives then it is at the same time looking after their good and making it possible for them to be happy.

Also, it makes sense that we do not call horses or oxen or other animals happy. Animals cannot live virtuously and do noble deeds like men can. And this is the same reason why we do not say that children are living the good life. They do not make happen anything of note, because they are too young to do so. When we do congratulate them, it is because we have high hopes for what they will do, not as having already done great things.

For happiness, we say, a person must not only have complete virtue but a good and full life to match. For in life there are many ups and downs, and many things that no one would have predicted. It may be that someone which we might think is happy because they are now doing well, will at some time meet with great disasters. (Think here of Priam, who we have heard about in the tales of the Trojan War, this was a king who ruled over a great city and had many fine sons, but in his old age he watched his many sons die in battle and was himself slain when his city was sacked.) Those who are built up by the chances of fortune, only to be torn right back down again and meet a miserable end -- such people no one would call happy.


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