Reflections on Aphorisms #109

Today was a little quiet. Got some work done, though not as much as I could probably have. Didn’t get much exercise. Got the car back from the auto shop with the new fixes done, which was a little bit of financial pain but I’m not going to starve any time soon.

Aphorism 149

For the credit of virtue we must admit that the greatest misfortunes of men are those into which they fall through their crimes. (183)

François de La Rochefoucauld


One of the things that I find interesting is the dramatic notion of the tragic hero and the way that we construct tragedy.

I think that tragedies are the most just of stories. While none of us would wish ill will on all tragic figures–even if we may find irredeemable faults in some–we generally can concede at the end of a tragedy that its central figure has brought themselves to destruction.

I believe that there’s something to be said for virtue, but it’s more of a big-picture thing. Virtue defends us from our own follies, and when practiced faithfully over a long period of time it leads us to better outcomes.

The problem with this is that we’re still subject to circumstance, though by practicing virtues we also practice industry, which permits a certain amount of resilience and even anti-fragility (to borrow a term from Taleb).

One of the limiting factors here is that ultimately a whim of another person or circumstances truly beyond our control can derail our lives. We’ve all heard stories of people killed as a result of accidents or who become sick through no fault in their way of living.

However, one of the mitigating factors in this is that the vagaries of fate can strike both the virtuous and the dissolute. Everyone can have undeserved loss fall upon them.

That the virtuous are not immune to the cruelties of a fallen world is part of the human condition that I don’t believe we’ll ever have a comforting answer for, but it is something that does not in and of itself justify a condemnation of virtue or the universe.


Do all I can to practice virtue.

Never equate misfortune with failure; one is unavoidable, the other is a fault.

Avoid bitterness; the things outside my control will not be improved by my distaste for them.

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