Jacques Maritain on an American Illusion

It is generally believed that success is a thing good in itself, and which it is, from an ethical point of view, mandatory to strive for.

In this American concept of success there is no greediness or egoism. It is, it seems to me, rather an oversimplified idea that “to succeed” is to bear fruit, and therefore to give proof of the fact that psychologically and morally you are not a failure.

This is a very old illusion, already denounced by Socrates: mistaking external success, which depends on a great many ingredients extraneous to ethical life — good connections, cleverness, good luck, ruthlessness, and so forth — for genuine “success” in the metaphysical sense, that is, for the genuinely human happy issue which is internal, and consists in having, as Socrates said, a “good and beautiful soul.”

—Jacques Maritain, Reflections on America

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