Volume 19, 1994
Aristotle, Success, and Moral Luck
My point of departure is Bernard WiIliams’ “moral luck” thesis and its claim that luck and success are an integral part of ethics. Some scholars think AristotIe’s ethics lends support to a version of the moral luck thesis. My claim is the exact opposite: Aristotle gives a subtle and interesting argument for keeping luck and ethics distinct. Luck plays Iittle role since the moral worth of action Iies in the agent’s choice, proairesis, not merely in the quality of the act itself and even less the outcome or succcss of the action. Further, virtue and success are not equatable: although the courageous person must act with practical wisdom --- he must know who his enemy is and when to fight --- virtue does not require victory in battle.