Aristotle’s reply is that one’s virtuous activity will be to some extent diminished or defective, if one lacks an adequate supply of other goods (1153b17–19). Someone who is friendless, childless, powerless, weak, and ugly will simply not be able to find many opportunities for virtuous activity over a long period of time, and what little he can accomplish will not be of great merit. To some extent, then, living well requires good fortune; happenstance can rob even the most excellent human beings of happiness. Nonetheless, Aristotle insists, the highest good, virtuous activity, is not something that comes to us by chance. Although we must be fortunate enough to have parents and fellow citizens who help us become virtuous, we ourselves share much of the responsibility for acquiring and exercising the virtues

You can probably see what I'm asking, whether "virtuous activity" is not in the least about good fortune, but an articulation of virtue alone. The Death of Ivan Ilyich suggests we can be profoundly wrong about what our good fortune grants us: is Tolstoy (or anyone else) suggesting we throw it out?

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    According to philosopher Zeno the Stoic founder happiness can only be achieved via individual virtuous moral activities ultimately out of the consistency of the said individual's soul, and happiness has nothing to do with other relative conditional valuable fitting actions ultimately towards self-preservation... Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 23:50
  • You have the veto power over your happiness, through your attitude, and the results of your chosen actions.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


What follows has been called "dad-ism" meaning wisdom your father should impart.

Happiness is clearly affected by both properties internal to the individual, and conditions in which that individual exists.

There is a classic example of how your emotional state is, to a great extent, due to your internal nature. Suppose you are walking down the street one nice day. And you see a very good friend at an open window of a building. And he recognizes you and immediately starts to shout horrible abuse at you, beyond anything he has ever come remotely close to before. Hurtful things that hurt you the more because your friend knows you very well and knows what will hurt you the most. You are, naturally, quite saddened and upset by this tirade.

Then suppose you notice that the building is a psychiatric institution, and that the open window actually has bars across it. Your friend has clearly been confined, and must have had some sort of incident. The physical situation has not changed, only your knowledge (state internal to you). Yet your emotional response will be extremely different. You will now be strongly concerned for the well being of your friend, and much less upset (though probably still somewhat upset) by the effect his words are having on you.

Happiness is strongly of this nature. External events and conditions can strongly affect how happy we are. It is easy to imagine events and conditions that will cause us to not be happy. However, preparation and attitude can have a strong effect on how badly these events make us feel. Similarly, in the other direction, it is easy to imagine things that will tend to make us happy. And preparation and attitude can improve those situations.

You have a car accident. Knowing what to do about a car accident can both allow you to reduce the harm and cause your anxiety to be reduced.

You see a flower. Knowing the type of flower could improve the experience of seeing it because you will know what details to look for.

Examples abound. A healthy person will be happy when good things happen and sad when bad things happen. A person with a good attitude and preparation can make the good better and the bad less bad.

  • Reminds me of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, line 1:33
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 2:02

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