Fortune, Friends and Death
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics Book 1 chapter 11
This is a rendition of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics for contemporary readers. Brief, understandable pieces with a short practice to integrate the wisdom into your life. No philosophical background necessary.
In this piece Aristotle discusses how other people’s blessedness can augment or diminish our good life.
That the fortunes of a person’s friends and descendants contribute nothing to a person’s happiness is excessively opposed to the way most people think.
A person’s fortunes and misfortunes vary in their gravity with regards to his life, some heavier and some lighter. Compare winning a pet goat in a raffle to having intelligent, courageous and noble children. These same variations exist with those fortunes that concern one’s friends.
What happens to your friends is a part of your blessedness to some extent. We are affected by our surroundings.
But once we are dead- if anything at all gets through to the dead, it is something faint and small. And if it is more than this, it at any rate would not make the happy be unhappy, or the reverse.
It’s not enough to read. You must clothe these ideas in your concrete reality. The following practice will bring some of this wisdom into your life.
Be serious about living well.
Which friend's good fortune has had the greatest impact on you?
Which friend's bad fortune has had the greatest impact on you?
Do your answers to these questions change how you want to involve yourself with your friends’ fortunes?