Limitations of Luck / Appeals to Action

October 28, 2015

What determines a good life? A puzzle runs haywire throughout my mind constantly. At least thirty seconds of every day I am greeted with the question of whether happiness, success, whatever we individually render good, is available by some sort of effort or whether it is derived from luck.

For those who have worked hard, the latter response to the puzzle leaves a sour taste on ones mouth, for as Aristotle notes, "to turn what is greatest and best over to luck would strike a false note". We reject the luck stance because it would naturally be at odds with a life worth living. What efforts would we make were everything to be limited by the luck we have little control over? To understand why action and effort is crucial to the good life we shall examine the man who revels in suicide following catastrophe. In cases such as this, incidents like the catastrophe he experienced, come about through chance, an event we do not voluntarily choose, were we to be affected and suffer from such events in a prolonged term, or for an infinite time as the luck-theorist would suggest, it would be impossible for any  man to choose living over not living.

It follows from such an example, that the thing that makes life worth living is voluntary action, our choices are what render our lives worthwhile. We only need to turn to imprisonment in order to identify how much we value our freedom of choice; through breaking laws we deprive the person of that natural expression, their condition to act and choose makes a distinct difference to their quality of life. Not only does it make life pointless, life seems cut off and meaningless. Without choice our lives are what happens to us independent of our own agency, as opposed to what we do and the decisions we make. Such a life formulated so strongly on luck would render all our actions irrelevant to the outcomes and ends we hope to achieve as they'd presumably already be formulated.

Whilst I am not a fan of the luck theory noted, I do not wish to say that we should render luck as useless, but instead acknowledge we're all venerable to the hands of misfortune and catastrophe. With this being said, we must also not place too much importance on her ability to dislodge us and pollute our intentions of good activity. In order to resist such damage it is vital to consider action as crucial to the good life. Action should be rendered central to human value, as it is not only inevitable that we will sometimes be met with circumstance, but it is also a learning process necessary to comprehend the beauty, fragility and risk of our freedom of choice following adverse events.

"But human excellence grows like a vine tree, fed by the green dew, raised up, among wise men and just, to the liquid sky"

"If it is true that a lot about us is messy, needy, uncontrolled, rooted in the dirt and standing helplessly in the rain it is also true that there is something about us that is 'pure and purely active, something that we could think of as divine, immortal, intelligible, unitary, ever self-consistent and invariable'."

Aristotle ed. by Roger Crisp, Nicomachean Ethics, (Cambridge University Press 2000)
Martha Nussbaum,The Fragility of Goodness, (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
Bernard Williams, Moral Luck, (Cambridge University Press 1981)
Plato, Ph, 8ob

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