Analysis of Moral Luck Views of Aristotle and Epictetus
Aristotle, the founder of western science, and Epictetus, one of the
greatest stoicists, both has their theories for the issue of "Moral
Luck". To have a basic idea about the topic, I believe we should
describe it from a non-philosophical point of view. After doing that
we can compare both Aristotle's and Epictetus' points of views and
distinguish between them with examples from "Into Thin Air"(ITA),
written by Jon Krakauer.
Moral Luck, if described from general perspective, consists of the
actions that happen by luck and result in moral ends. What I mean by
moral ends is the situations that have something to do with moral or
ethical values. Overall, moral luck deals with all the issues
concerned with assertion of praise and blame, deliberation of
responsibility, and things that are not in our control such as place
of birth, our parents, our nationality and so on. Although they both
have this structure in common, both Aristotle and Epictetus have
different arguments about moral luck.
Both Aristotle and Epictetus have a single point in common. They both
have the idea of luck. Aristotle describes this as things that are not
in our control and Epictetus describes this as things that are not up
The distinction between them is simple. Something that is not in our
control can be up to us. However, something that is up to us must be
in our control. "One climber's actions can affect the welfare of the
entire team. The consequences of a poorly tied knot, a stumble, a
dislodged rock, or some other careless deed are as likely to be felt
by the perpetrator's colleagues as the perpetratorâ€¦But trust in one's
partner is a luxury denied those who sign on as clients on a guided
ascent; one must put one's faith in the guide instead. (ITA, pg47)"
This example illustrates what I am trying to say. Things that are not
in our control are other people's actions, and things that are not up
to us are those actions' consequences.
Moreover, things can be in our control one minute and not the next. In
a car accident, steering the wheel might save you from the accident in
a specific time. After that time, no matter how much you steer the
wheel you can't escape the unavoidable truth. This, as a matter of
fact, concerns the issue of chance. However, since chance is related
to luck, we are concerned with this as well.
Let's concentrate on each philosopher more deeply now. First let's
take a look at some of the issues that Aristotle points out in his
book Nicomachean Ethics. He states that moral luck is concerned with
situations that are not in our control. Moreover, if someone is
virtuous he cannot escape from moral luck. However, you have to be
virtuous to get away from it. That is to say, only the virtuous man
has the greatest...