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It is this that gives rise to the question whether happiness is a thing that can be learnt, or acquired by training, or cultivated in some other manner, or whether it is bestowed by some divine dispensation or even by fortune. [2] (1) Now if anything that men have is a gift of the gods, it is reasonable to suppose that happiness is divinely given—indeed of all man's possessions it is most likely to be so, inasmuch as it is the best of them all. [3] This subject however may perhaps more properly belong to another branch of study.1 Still, even if happiness is not sent us from heaven, but is won by virtue and by some kind of study or practice, it seems to be one of the most divine things that exist. For the prize and end of virtue must clearly be supremely good—it must be something divine and blissful. [4] (2) And also on our view it will admit of being widely diffused, since it can be attained through some process of study or effort by all persons whose capacity for virtue has not been stunted or maimed. [5] (3) Again, if it is better to be happy as a result of one's own exertions than by the gift of fortune, it is reasonable to suppose that this is how happiness is won; inasmuch as in the world of nature things have a natural tendency to be ordered in the best possible way, [6] and the same is true of the products of art, and of causation of any kind, and especially the highest.2 Whereas that the greatest and noblest of all things should be left to fortune would be too contrary to the fitness of things. [7]

Light is also thrown on the question by our definition of happiness, which said that it is a certain kind of activity of the soul; whereas the remaining good things3 are either merely indispensable conditions of happiness, or are of the nature of auxiliary means, and useful instrumentally. [8] This conclusion4 moreover agrees with what we laid down at the outset; for we stated that the Supreme Good was the end of political science, but the principal care of this science is to produce a certain character in the citizens, namely to make them virtuous, and capable of performing noble actions. [9]

We have good reasons therefore for not speaking of an ox or horse or any other animal as being happy, because none of these is able to participate in noble activities. [10] For this cause also children cannot be happy, for they are not old enough to be capable of noble acts; when children are spoken of as happy, it is in compliment to their promise for the future. Happiness, as we said, requires both complete goodness and a complete lifetime. [11] For many reverses and vicissitudes of all sorts occur in the course of life, and it is possible that the most prosperous man may encounter great disasters in his declining years, as the story is told of Priam in the epics; but no one calls a man happy who meets with misfortunes like Priam's, and comes to a miserable end.

1 i.e., theology, but Aristotle does not reopen the question in the Metaphysics or elsewhere.

2 i.e., the intelligence of man.

3 Cf. 8.15, 16, and 8.2 note.

4 Viz., that happiness depends on us and not on fortune, the answer implied by the foregoing arguments to the question raised in 9.1.

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