Happy is the one who knows the causes of things

January 2, 2011 | Filed Under Maxims 

Felix qui potuit rerum cognóscere causas - Virgil, Georgics, Book II, line 490

Translation: Happy is the one who knows the causes of things.

Now, at first glance, this might seem like Virgil is advocating philosophical enlightenment or empirical science as the key to happiness. And dozens, maybe hundreds, of philosophers and learned individuals have made this assumption.

But go read Georgics and check out the context in which this line is written. It’s right smack dab in the middle of a poem about bee keeping.

I’d suggest that Virgil is telling us that the key to happiness is understanding how things happen so that we can do them for ourselves, or at least so that we can make sure that things are done well when other people do them.

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