Aristotle’s Physics sets outs to determine the
different types of preliminary actions that cause events. The first type occurs
out of necessity; essentially, they must happen by nature. The second type
occurs because they are inclined to out of frequency or regularity, or what
Aristotle refers to as “for the most part”. These are the two most commonly
recognized causes of events, however Aristotle points out that we witness many
things that come to be with no apparent connection to the above two causes; we
do not see any occurrence by necessity of nature nor occurrence by routine
nature. Therefore, there must exist another cause to explain the occurrence of
those things that cannot be explained by necessity or regularity. Along with the
four essential causes involved in natural change, there are accidental causes:
luck and the automatic.

differs from these other causes of change in that it is for nothing, rather
than for something. In saying that luck is “for nothing”, we rather mean that
luck is not a direct cause of any purpose. If something comes to be out of
choice or frequency, that something cannot be said to be an outcome of luck.
However, this does not mean that luck is entirely unrelated to those events
which are objects of choice, but rather luck is a cause by virtue of
concurrence in connection with those that are “for something.” Any accidental
efficient cause, such as luck, never occurs without an essential
efficient cause, which is prior to it: that which is “for something.” Furthermore,
which is a cause by virtue of concurrence is indeterminate, since there are an
unlimited number of things that could coincide with the event of purpose. In
this way in which the outcomes are indeterminate, the cause (luck) is also
indeterminate. It is always inconstant because it is a two-fold occurrence: its
indeterminate causes may be good or bad, and therefore luck is always
unexpected. If it were constant or expected, we could not call it the outcome
of luck, as nothing which is the outcome of luck can be always or for the most

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            In defining
luck, Aristotle clearly distinguishes it from the automatic, which is similarly
an accidental cause. Luck occurs specifically among things in accord with
decision, or things capable of choice. Nothing done by an inanimate object, or
something incapable of rational activity, such as a child, can be the outcome
of luck. Luck is marked by the absence of purpose and such things already have
an absence of purpose, therefore luck could not be the unexpected in those
cases. The automatic is broader than luck, encompassing inanimate objects and
non-human animals. It can be said that luck comes under the umbrella of the
accidental. Everything which is an outcome of luck is an outcome of the
accidental, however the same is not true for vice versa. The difference is that in order
for an event to be lucky, a person must be aiming to accomplish something. If
in their pursuit, they succeed by means of a coincidental cause, then the event
is lucky.  Therefore, things which
come to be for something which is an object of purpose constitutes an outcome
of luck, whereas things which come to be for an external cause are automatic
outcomes. These outcomes need not be associated with agents of choice, but
rather they just happened.

            In this way, luck (and the
automatic) constitute causes for Aristotle in that both are sources from which
change originates, albeit unintentional change. Both luck and the accidental
occur for something, but they do so coincidentally. Luck is a cause in that it
is a fulfilment of an end goal, however it results from an event undertaken
with a different goal that had an entirely accidental relationship with what
happened. When a particular decision did not lead to a particular event, but
that event occurred anyway, we say that it was caused by luck. Therefore,
Aristotle argues that luck is a coincidental final cause. 


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