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LESSON 1: The Division of Potency into Active and Passive. The Nature of Incapacity and Privation
LESSON 2 Rational and Irrational Potencies
LESSON 3 Rejection of the View That a Thing Has Potency Only When It Is Acting. Rejection of the View That All Things Are Possible
LESSON 4 The Relative Priority of Actuality and Potency. The Reduction of Natural Potencies to Actuality
LESSON 5 Actuality and Its Various Meanings
LESSON 6 Matter Is Potential When Ultimately Disposed for Actuality. The Use of the Term Matter in an Extended Sense
LESSON 7 The Conceptual and Temporal Priority of Actuality to Potency and Vice Versa
LESSON 8 Priority of Actuality to Potency in Substance
LESSON 9 The Substantial Priority of Actuality in Incorruptible Things
LESSON 10 The Relative Excellence of Actuality and Potency
LESSON 11 The Reference of Truth and Falsity to Actuality. The Exclusion of Falsity from Simple and Eternal Things


The Division of Potency into Active and Passive. The Nature of Incapacity and Privation
ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 1: 1045b 27-1046a 35
[1045] [27] 742. We have dealt then with the primary kind of being and the one to
, which all the other categories of being are referred, namely, substance.
( [30] , For it is in reference to the concept of substance that the other
: categories are called beings, i.e., quantity, quality, and others which
, ): are spoken of in this way; for all involve the concept of substance, as
, we have stated in our first discussions (562). And since being is used
, [35] in one sense of quiddity or quantity or quality, and in another sense of
, potency and actuality and activity, let us now establish the truth about
, : [1046] potency and actuality. And first let us consider potency in the most
[1] proper sense of the term, although not the one most useful for our
. present purpose; for potency and actuality are found in more things
than those which are referred merely to motion. But when we have
spoken about this sense of potency we shall, in our discussions about
actuality, also explain the other senses of potency.

, 743. That the terms potency and can are used in many senses we have
. [5] made evident elsewhere (467). And all of those senses of potency
, : which are equivocal may be dismissed; for some senses of potency [or
( power] are merely figurative, as in geometry. And we say that things
, are possible or impossible because they either are or are not in some
), , [10] particular way. But all those potencies belonging to the same species
, , are principles and are referred to one primary kind of potency, which
. , is the principle of change in some other thing inasmuch as it is other.
: For one kind is a potency for being acted upon, which is in the patient
and is the principle of its being passively moved by another inasmuch
[15] . as it is other; and another kind of potency is the state of insusceptibility
. to change for the worse and to corruption by some other thing
[] , inasmuch as it is other, i.e., by a principle of change. And the
. intelligible character of the primary kind of potency is found in all of
these terms. Again, these potencies are said to be potencies either just
for acting or for being acted upon, or for acting or being acted upon
well, so that in these latter kinds of potencies the notes of the prior kind
are somehow present.

[20] 744. It is evident, then, that in one sense the potency for acting and for
( being acted upon are one; for a thing is potential both because it itself
), . ( has the potency for being acted upon, and because something else can
, , , be acted upon by it. And in another sense these potencies are different;
: [25] for the one is in the patient, since it is because it has a principle, and
, ), , because matter is a principle, that the patient is acted upon and changed
, by something else. For what is oily is capable of being burnt, and what
: , : is yielding in some way is capable of being broken (and the supposit
. is capable of being expressed); and the same is true in other cases.
And another kind of potency is in the agent, as the potency to heat and
the potency to build-the former in the thing capable of heating, and the
latter in the person capable of building. Hence, inasmuch as a thing is
by nature a unity, it cannot be acted upon by itself; for it is one thing
and not also something else.

[30] 745. And incapacity or impossibility is the privation contrary to such

, potency, so that every potency and incapacity belong to the same
. : subject and refer to the same attribute. And there are various kinds of
, , , , privation; for there is one kind of privation when a thing does not have
. , [35] , some attribute which it is naturally disposed to have, either in general,
. or when it is naturally disposed to have it. And this is so either in a
particular way, for example, completely, or even in any way at all. And
in some cases if things are naturally disposed to have some attribute
and do not have it as a result of force, we say that they are deprived of

Different kinds of potency

Postquam determinavit philosophus de ente secundum quod dividitur per 1768. Having established the truth about being as divided into the ten
decem praedicamenta, hic intendit determinare de ente secundum quod categories, the Philosophers aim here is to establish the truth about
dividitur per potentiam et actum. Et dividitur in duas partes. In prima being as divided into potency and actuality. This is divided into two
continuat se ad praecedentia, et manifestat suam intentionem in hoc libro. parts. In the first he links up this discussion with the foregoing one, and
In secunda prosequitur quod intendit, ibi, quod quidem igitur. explains what he intends to do in this book. In the second (1773) he
carries out his announced plan.

Dicit ergo primo, quod in praemissis dictum est de ente primo, ad quod He accordingly points out, first, that he has already discussed above the
omnia alia praedicamenta entis referuntur, scilicet de substantia. Et quod primary kind of being to which all the other categories of being are
ad substantiam omnia alia referantur sicut ad ens primum, manifestat, referred, namely, substance. And he explains that all the other
quia omnia alia entia, scilicet qualitas, quantitas et huiusmodi dicuntur categories are referred to substance as the primary kind of being,
secundum rationem substantiae. Dicitur enim quantitas ex hoc quod est because all other beings quantity, quality, and the likeinvolve the
mensura substantiae, et qualitas ex hoc quod est quaedam dispositio concept of substance. For being is said of quantity because it is the
substantiae; similiter in aliis. Et hoc patet ex hoc, quod omnia accidentia measure of substance; and of quality because it is a certain disposition
habent rationem substantiae, quia in definitione cuiuslibet accidentis of substance; and the same thing applies in the case of the other
oportet ponere proprium subiectum, sicut in definitione simi ponitur categories. This is evident from the fact that all accidents involve the
nasus. Et hoc declaratum est in praemissis, scilicet in principio septimi. concept of substance, since in the definition of any accident it is
necessary to include its proper subject; for example, in the definition of
snub it is necessary to include nose. This was made clear at the
beginning of Book VII (1347).

Sed quia ens dividitur uno modo secundum quod dicitur quid, scilicet 1769. But being is variously divided. (1) One division is based on its
substantia, aut quantitas, aut qualitas, quod est dividere ens per decem designation as whatness (i.e., substance), quantity or quality, which is
praedicamenta: its division into the ten categories.

alio modo secundum quod dividitur per potentiam et actum vel (2) Another is its division into potency and actuality or activity, from
operationem, a qua derivatum est nomen actus, ut postea dicetur; oportet which the word actuality [or act] is derived, as is explained later on
nunc determinare de potentia et actu. (1805). And for this reason it is now necessary to deal with potency and
Et primo de potentia quae maxime dicitur proprie, non tamen utile est ad 1770. It is first necessary to speak of potency in its most proper sense,
praesentem intentionem. Potentia enim et actus, ut plurimum, dicuntur in although not the one which is most useful for our present purpose. For
his quae sunt in motu, quia motus est actus entis in potentia. Sed potency and actuality are referred in most cases to things in motion,
principalis intentio huius doctrinae non est de potentia et actu secundum because motion is the actuality of a being in potency. But the principal
quod sunt in rebus mobilibus solum, sed secundum quod sequuntur ens aim of this branch of science is to consider potency and actuality, not
commune. Unde et in rebus immobilibus invenitur potentia et actus, sicut insofar as they are found in mobile beings, but insofar as they
in rebus intellectualibus. accompany being in general. Hence potency and actuality are also found
in immobile beings, for example, in intellectual ones.

Sed cum dixerimus de potentia, quae est in rebus mobilibus, et de actu, 1771. And when we shall have spoken about the potency found in
ei correspondente, ostendere poterimus et de potentia et actu secundum mobile things, and about its corresponding actuality, we will also be
quod sunt in rebus intelligibilibus, quae pertinent ad substantias able to explain potency and actuality insofar as they are found in the
separatas, de quibus postea agetur. Et hic est ordo conveniens, cum intelligible things classed as separate substances, which are treated later
sensibilia quae sunt in motu sint nobis magis manifesta. Et ideo per ea on (1867). This order is a fitting one, since sensible things, which are in
devenimus in cognitionem substantiarum rerum immobilium. motion, are more evident to us, and therefore by means of them we may
attain a knowledge of the substances of immobile things.

Ex quo etiam apparet sensus alterius literae quae sic habet, et quidem 1772.From this consideration the meaning of another text also becomes
potentia quae dicitur proprie, non solum utilis est ad quod volumus nunc: evident, which says, And potency in the proper sense is not the only
quia licet potentia quae est in rebus mobilibus maxime proprie dicatur, one which is useful for our present purpose; because even though the
non tamen hoc solum dicitur potentia, ut dictum est. Et utilis est ad potency which is present in mobile things is potency in its most proper
praesentem intentionem, non quasi de ea principaliter intendatur, sed sense, this is still not the only sense in which potency is used, as was
quia per eam in alias potentias devenimus. explained (1770-71). And it is useful for our present purpose, not as
though it were the principal object of our investigation, but because we
may attain a knoweldge of the other kinds of potency from it.

1773. That the terms (743).

Deinde cum dicit quod quidem determinat de potentia et actu; et dividitur Then he deals with potency and actuality; and this is divided into three
in partes tres. In prima determinat de potentia. In secunda de actu, ibi, parts. In the first he discusses potency; and in the second (1823),
quoniam autem de potentia secundum motum. In tertia de comparatione actuality; and in the third (1844), the relationship of actuality to
actus ad potentiam, ibi, quoniam autem ipsum prius determinatum est. potency.

Prima dividitur in duas partes. In prima determinavit de potentia The first is divided into two parts. In the first of these he discusses
secundum se. Secundo per comparationem ad ea in quibus est, ibi, potency itself. In the second (1787) he discusses potency in relation to
quoniam autem haec quidem in inanimatis. the things in which it is found.

Prima in duas. In prima determinat de potentia. In secunda de impotentia, The first is divided into two parts. In the first he deals with potency; and
ibi, et impotentia et impossibile. in the second (1784), with incapacity.

Circa primum duo facit. Primo ostendit quot modis dicitur potentia. In regard to the first he does two things. First, he explains the different
Secundo manifestat quamdam veritatem ex praemissis circa potentiam, senses of potency. Second (1781), he makes evident a truth about
ibi, palam igitur quia est quidem, ut una. potency from the things previously laid down.

Dicit ergo primo, quod determinatum est in aliis, scilicet quinto huius, He accordingly says, first, that it has been shown elsewhere, i.e., in
quod multipliciter dicitur potentia et posse. Sed ista multiplicitas Book V of this work (954) that the words potency and can have a
quantum ad quosdam modos est multiplicitas aequivocationis, sed multiplicity of meanings. But in some cases this multiplicity is a
quantum ad quosdam analogiae. multiplicity of equivocation, and in others it is a multiplicity of analogy.

Quaedam enim dicuntur possibilia vel impossibilia, eo quod habent For (1) some things are said to be capable or incapable because they
aliquod principium in seipsis; et hoc secundum quosdam modos, have some principle (+) within themselves, and this refers to those
secundum quos omnes dicuntur potentiae non aequivoce, sed analogice. senses in which all potencies are said to be such not equivocally but
Aliqua vero dicuntur possibilia vel potentia, non propter aliquod analogously. (2) But other things are not said to be capable or able
principium quod in seipsis habeant; et in illis dicitur potentia aequivoce. because of some principle which they have (~) within themselves; and
in their case the term potency is used equivocally.

Dicit ergo quod de modis potentiae illi praetermittendi sunt ad praesens, 1774. Therefore, with regard to those senses in which the term potency
secundum quod potentia dicitur aequivoce. In quibusdam enim dicitur is used equivocally, he says that these must be dismissed for the
potentia non propter aliquod principium habitum, sed propter present. For the term potency is referred to some things, not because of
similitudinem quamdam, sicut in geometricis. Dicitur enim potentia some principle which they have, but in a figurative sense, (1) as is done
alicuius lineae esse quadratum eius; et dicitur quod linea potest in suum in geometry; for the square of a line is called its power (potentia), and
quadratum. Et simili modo potest dici in numeris, quod ternarius potest a line is said to be capable of becoming its square. (2) And similarly in
in novenarium quod est quadratum eius, eo quod ex ductu eius in seipsum the case of numbers it can be said that the number three is capable of
facit novenarium. Ter enim tria novem faciunt. Ex linea etiam, quae est becoming the number nine, which is its square; because when the
radix quadrati, ducta in seipsam fit quadratum. Et similiter est in numeris. number three is multiplied by itself the number nine results, for three
Unde radix quadrati habet aliquam similitudinem cum materia, ex qua fit times three makes nine; and when a line, which is the root of a square,
res. Et propter hoc per quamdam similitudinem dicitur potens in is multiplied by itself, a square results. And the same thing applies in
quadratum, sicut dicitur materia potens in rem. the case of numbers. Hence the root of a square bears some likeness to
the matter from which a thing is made; and for this reason the root is
said to be capable of becoming its square as matter is capable of
becoming a thing.

Similiter in logicis dicimus aliqua esse possibilia et impossibilia, non 1775. And (3) similarly in the considerations of logic we say that some
propter aliquam potentiam, sed eo quod aliquo modo sunt aut non sunt. things are possible or impossible, not because of some potency, but
Possibilia enim dicuntur, quorum opposita contingit esse vera. because they either are or are not in some way; for those things are
Impossibilia vero, quorum opposita non contingit esse vera. Et haec called possible whose opposites can be true, whereas those are called
diversitas est propter habitudinem praedicati ad subiectum, quod impossible whose opposites cannot be true. This difference depends on
quandoque est repugnans subiecto, sicut in impossibilibus; quandoque the relationship of predicate to subject, because sometimes the predicate
vero non, sicut in possibilibus. is repugnant to the subject, as in the case of impossible things, and
sometimes it is not, as in the case of possible things.

His ergo modis praetermissis, considerandum est de potentiis, quae 1776. Passing over these senses of potency, then, we must consider
reducuntur ad unam speciem, quia quaelibet earum est principium those potencies which are reduced to one species, because each of these
quoddam, et omnes potentiae sic dictae reducuntur ad aliquod principium is a principle. And all potencies spoken of in this sense are reduced to
ex quo omnes aliae dicuntur. Et hoc est principium activum, quod est some principle from which all the others derive their meaning; and this
principium transmutationis in alio inquantum est aliud. Et hoc dicit, quia is an active principle, which is the source of change in some other thing
possibile est quod principium activum simul sit in ipso mobili vel passo, inasmuch as it is other. He says this because it is possible for an active
sicut cum aliquid movet seipsum; non tamen secundum idem est movens principle to be at the same time in the mobile or patient, as when
et motum, agens et patiens. Et ideo dicitur quod principium quod dicitur something moves itself; although it is not mover and moved, or agent
potentia activa, est principium transmutationis in alio inquantum est and patient, in the same respect. Hence the principle designated as
aliud; quia etsi contingat principium activum esse in eodem cum passo, active potency is said to be a principle of change in some other thing
non tamen secundum quod est idem, sed secundum quod est aliud. inasmuch as it is other; because, even though an active principle can
be found in the same thing as a passive principle, this still does not
happen insofar as it is the same, but insofar as it is other.

Et quod ad illud principium quod dicitur potentia activa, reducantur aliae 1777. That the other potencies are reduced to this principle which is
potentiae, manifestum est. Nam alio modo dicitur potentia passiva, quae called active potency is evident; for in one sense passive potency means
est principium quod aliquid moveatur ab alio, inquantum est aliud. Et hoc the principle by which one thing is moved by some other thing
dicit, quia etsi idem patiatur a seipso, non tamen secundum idem, sed inasmuch as it is other. He says this because, even if the same thing
secundum aliud. Haec autem potentia reducitur ad primam potentiam might be acted upon by itself, this still does not happen insofar as it is
activam, quia passio ab agente causatur. Et propter hoc etiam potentia the same, but insofar as it is other. Now this potency is reduced to a first
passiva reducitur ad activam. active potency, because when anything undergoes change this is caused
by an agent. And for this reason passive potency is also reduced to
active potency.

Alio modo dicitur potentia quidam habitus impassibilitatis eius quae est 1778. In another sense potency means a certain state of insusceptibility
in deterius, idest dispositio quaedam ex qua aliquid habet quod non possit (or impossibility) to change for the worse, i.e., a disposition whereby
pati transmutationem in deterius, et hoc est quod non possit pati a thing is such that it cannot undergo change for the worse; i.e., that it
corruptionem ab alio inquantum est aliud, scilicet a principio cannot undergo corruption as a result of some other thing inasmuch as
transmutationis quod est principium activum. it is other, namely, by a principle of change which is an active

Manifestum est autem quod uterque istorum modorum dicitur per 1779. Now it is evident that both of these senses of potency imply
comparationem alicuius existentis in nobis ad passionem. In quorum uno something within us which is referred to the undergoing of a change.
dicitur potentia propter principium ex quo aliquis potest non pati; in alio For (1) in the one sense the term designates a principle by reason of
autem propter principium ex quo quis potest pati. which someone cannot be acted upon; and (2) in the other sense it
designates a principle by reason of which someone can be acted upon.

Unde, cum passio ab actione dependeat, oportet quod in definitione Hence, since the state of being acted upon depends on action, the
utriusque illorum modorum ponatur definitio potentiae primae, scilicet definition of the primary kind of potency, namely, active potency,
activae. Et ita istae duae reducuntur ad primam, scilicet ad potentiam must be given in the definition of both senses of potency. Thus these
activam sicut ad priorem. two senses of potency are reduced to the first, namely, to active potency,
as to something prior.
Iterum alio modo dicuntur potentiae non solum per ordinem ad facere et 1780. Again, in another sense potencies are spoken of not only in
pati, sed per ordinem ad hoc quod est bene in utroque; sicut dicimus relation to acting and being acted upon but in relation to what is done
aliquem potentem ambulare, non quod possit ambulare quoquo modo, well in each case. For example, we say that someone is capable of
sed eo quod possit bene ambulare. Et e converso dicimus esse de walking, not because he can walk in any way at all, but because he can
claudicante, quod non possit ambulare. Similiter dicimus ligna walk well; and in an opposite sense we say of one who limps that he
combustibilia eo quod comburi possint de facili. Ligna vero viridia, quae cannot walk. Similarly, we say that wood is capable of being burned
non de facili comburuntur, dicimus incombustibilia. Unde manifestum because it can be burned easily; but we say that green wood is incapable
est quod in definitione harum potentiarum, quae dicuntur respectu bene of being burned because it cannot be burned easily. Hence it is clear that
agere vel pati, includuntur rationes primarum potentiarum, quae in the definitions of those potencies which are described as potencies
dicebantur simpliciter agere et pati: sicut in bene agere includitur agere; for acting and being acted upon well, there are included the concepts of
et pati, in eo quod est bene pati. those primary potencies which were described as potencies for acting
and being acted upon without qualification; for example, to act is
included in to act and to be acted upon is included in to be acted upon

Unde manifestum est, quod omnes isti modi potentiarum reducuntur ad Hence it is obvious that all of these senses of potency are reduced to
unum primum, scilicet ad potentiam activam. Et inde patet quod haec one primary sense, namely, to active potency; and therefore it is also
multiplicitas non est secundum aequivocationem, sed secundum evident that this multiplicity is not the multiplicity of equivocation but
analogiam. of analogy.

1781. It is evident, then (744).

Deinde cum dicit palam igitur ex praedictis quamdam veritatem circa From what has been said he now indicates something that is true about
praedictas potentias manifestat; et dicit, quod potentia faciendi et patiendi the foregoing potencies. He says that in one sense the potency for acting
est quodammodo una potentia, et quodammodo non. Una quidem est, si and that for being acted upon are one, and in another sense they are not.
consideretur ordo unius ad aliam; una enim dicitur per respectum ad (1) They are one potency if the relationship of the one to the other is
alteram. Potest enim dici aliquid habens potentiam patiendi, quia ipsum considered; for one is spoken of in reference to the other. For a thing
habet per se potentiam ut patiatur, vel eo quod habet potentiam ut aliud can be said to have a potency for being acted upon, either because it has
patiatur ab ipso. Et hoc secundo modo potentia activa est idem cum of itself a potency by which it may be acted upon, or because it has a
passiva: ex eo enim quod aliquid habet potentiam activam, habet potency by which something else may be acted upon by it. And in this
potentiam ut patiatur aliud ab ipso. second sense active potency is the same as passive potency; for by
reason of the fact that a thing has active potency it has a power by which
something else may be acted upon by it.

Si autem considerentur hae duae potentiae, activa scilicet et passiva, 1782. (2) However, if these two potenciesactive and passiveare
secundum subiectum, in quibus sunt, sic est alia potentia activa et alia taken in reference to the subject in which they are found, then in this
passiva. Potentia enim passiva est in patiente, quia patiens patitur propter sense active and passive potency are different; for passive potency
aliquod principium in ipso existens, et huiusmodi est materia. Potentia exists in a patient, since a patient is acted upon by reason of some
autem passiva nihil aliud est quam principium patiendi ab alio. Sicut principle existing within itself; and matter is of this sort. Now passive
comburi quoddam pati est; et principium materiale propter quod aliquid potency is nothing but the principle by which one thing is acted upon
est aptum combustioni, est pingue vel crassum. Unde ipsa potentia est in by another; for example, to be burned is to undergo a change, and the
combustibili quasi passiva. Et similiter illud quod sic cedit tangenti ut material principle by reason of which a thing is capable of being burned
impressionem quamdam recipiat, sicut cera vel aliquid huiusmodi, is the oily or the fat. Hence the potency itself is present as a passive
inquantum tale est frangibile. Vel suppositum, idest masculinum, est principle in the thing capable of being burned. And similarly what
subiectum proprium huius passionis, quae est eunuchizari. Et similiter est yields to the thing touching it so that it receives an impression from it,
in aliis, quae patiuntur, secundum quod in eis est principium quoddam as wax or something of this sort, is capable of doing so inasmuch as it
patiendi, quod dicitur potentia passiva. Potentia vero activa est in agente, is impressionable. And the supposit, i.e., the male, is the proper
ut calor in calefactivo, et ars aedificativa in aedificante. subject of the modification resulting in an eunuch. The same is true of
other things which are acted upon insofar as they have within
themselves a principle for being acted upon, which is called passive
potency. But active potency is in the agent, as heat in the thing which
heats and the art of building in the builder.

Et quia potentia activa et passiva in diversis sunt, manifestum est quod 1783. And since active potency and passive potency are present in
nihil patitur a seipso, inquantum aliquid est aptum natum agere vel pati. different things, it is obvious that nothing is acted upon by itself
Per accidens autem aliquid pati contingit a seipso; sicut medicus sanat inasmuch as it is naturally disposed to act or to be acted upon. However,
seipsum, non ut medicum, sed sicut infirmum. Ideo autem non patitur it is possible for something to be acted upon by itself accidentally, as a
aliquid a seipso, quia per se loquendo, alicui uni et eidem inest unum physician heals himself not inasmuch as he is a physician but inasmuch
dictorum principiorum et non aliud. Cui enim inest principium agendi, as he is ill. But in this case a thing is not acted upon by itself, because,
non inest principium patiendi, nisi secundum accidens, ut dictum est. properly speaking, one of the aforesaid principles is present in one and
the same thing, and not the other. For the principle of being acted upon
is not present in the one having the principle of action except
accidentally, as has been said (1782).
1784. And incapacity (745).

Deinde cum dicit et impotentia determinat de impotentia; dicens, quod Here he establishes the truth about incapacity, saying that incapacity
impotentia, quia est contraria dictae potentiae, et impossibile, quod (which is the contrary of the above-mentioned potency or capacity) or
dicitur secundum huiusmodi impotentiam, est privatio praedictae impossibility (which is referred to incapacity of this sort) is the
potentiae. privation of the potency in question.

Hoc autem dicit ad differentiam impossibilis, quod significat aliquem However, he says this to distinguish it from the impossible which
modum falsitatis, quod non dicitur secundum aliquam impotentiam sicut signifies some mode of falsity, which is not referred to any incapacity,
nec possibile secundum aliquam potentiam. Quia enim privatio et habitus just as the possible is also not referred to any potency. For since
sunt eiusdem et secundum idem, necesse est quod potentia et impotentia privation and possession belong to the same subject and refer to the
sint eiusdem et secundum idem. same attribute, potency and incapacity must belong to the same subject
and refer to the same attribute.

Et ideo quot modis dicitur potentia, tot modis dicitur impotentia sibi Hence there are as many senses of incapacity as there are of potency, to
opposita. which it is opposed.

Sed sciendum est quod privatio dicitur multipliciter. Uno enim modo 1785. But it must be noted that the term privation is used in many
quicquid non habet aliquid, potest dici esse privatum; sicut si dicamus senses. For in one sense whatever does not have some attribute can be
lapidem privatum visu, eo quod non habet visum. Alio modo dicitur said to be deprived of it, as when we say that a stone is deprived of sight
privatum solum quod est aptum natum habere, et non habet. Et hoc because it does not have sight; and in another sense a thing is said to be
dupliciter. Uno modo universaliter quando non habet; sicut si dicatur deprived only of what it can have and does not have. And this may
canis privatus visu, quando non habet visum. Alio modo si non habet, happen in two ways: in one way when the thing does not have it at all,
quando aptus natus est habere. Unde canis ante nonum diem non dicitur as a dog is said to be deprived of sight when it does not have it; and, in
privatus visu. Et iterum hoc diversificatur. Nam uno modo dicitur another way, if it does not have it when it is naturally disposed to have
privatum eo quod non habet aliquo modo determinato, scilicet perfecte it. Hence a dog is not said to be deprived of sight before the ninth day.
et bene; sicut cum vocamus caecum eum qui non bene videt. Alio modo This sense of privation is again divided. For in one sense a thing is said
quando non habet omnino; sicut dicimus privatum visu, qui omnino to be deprived of some attribute because it does not have it in a
visum non habet. Quandoque vero in ratione privationis includitur particular way, namely, completely and well; as when we say that
violentia. Unde quaedam dicimus privari, quando per violentiam someone who does not see well is blind. And in another sense a thing is
amiserunt ea quae nata sunt habere. said to be deprived of some attribute when it does not have it in any way
at all; for example, we say that a person is deprived of sight who does
not have sight at all. But sometimes force is included in the notion of
privation, and then we say that some things are deprived of certain
attributes when those which they are naturally disposed to have are
removed by force.


Rational and Irrational Potencies

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 2:1046a 36-1046b 28

, 746. And since some such principles are present in non-living things,
, [1046] and others in living things and in the soul, and in the soul having
[1] reason, it is evident that some potencies will be devoid of reason and
: : others will be rational. And for this reason all the arts and productive
. sciences are potencies; for they are principles of change in some other
thing inasmuch as it is other.

[5] , 747. And all those potencies which are rational are open to contrary
, determinations, and those which are irrational are each determined to
. one thing; for example, what is hot is capable of heating, whereas the
medical art is concerned with both sickness and health.

, 748. And the reason of this is that science is a conception [or rational
, , plan], and the same conception explains both a thing and its privation,
[10] , though not in the same way. And in one sense it is a conception of both,
, and in another it applies rather to the existent thing. Hence it is
: necessary that such sciences should deal with contraries, but with one
: directly and with the other indirectly; for the conception applies to one
: [15] , essentially, but to the other in a kind of accidental way, because it
. explains the contrary by negation and removal. For the contrary is the
primary privation, and this is the removal of the other term.

, 749. Moreover, since contraries do not exist in the same subject, and
, , since a science is a potency in a being which possesses a rational plan,
and the soul has a principle of motion, it follows that, while what is
, [20] . , healthful produces only health, and what is capable of heating produces
, : only heat, and what is capable of cooling produces only cold, one who
: has a science may be occupied with both contraries. For reason extends
: to both but not in the same manner, and it exists in a soul which
, . possesses a principle of motion Hence the soul will initiate both by the
same principle by joining both to the same rational plan. And for this
reason those things whose potency is rational produce effects contrary
to those whose potency is irrational; for one principle of contrary
determinations is contained in the rational plan.

[25] 750. It is also evident that a potency for doing something well involves
, : the potency of merely doing something or undergoing some change.
, But the latter does not always involve the former; for he who does a
. thing well must do it, but he who does something need not do it well.


Subjects of potency

Postquam philosophus ostendit quot modis dicitur potentia, hic 1786. Having explained the different senses in which the term potency
determinat de potentia per comparationem ad ea quibus inest; et dividitur is used, here the Philosopher establishes the truth about potency in
in duas partes. In prima ostendit differentiam potentiarum adinvicem relation to the things in which it is found. This is divided into two parts.
secundum diversitatem eorum in quibus sunt. In secunda ostendit In the first (1786) he shows how these potencies differ from each other
quomodo potentia et actus sint simul vel non sint in substantia, ibi, sunt on the basis of a difference in their subjects. In the second (1795) he
autem quidam. shows how potency and actuality are simultaneous or not in a substance.

Circa primum tria facit. Primo ostendit differentiam potentiarum In regard to the first he does three things. First, he shows how potencies
secundum ea in quibus sunt; dicens, quod cum potentiae sint principia differ on the basis of a difference in their subjects. He says that, since
quaedam agendi et patiendi, horum principiorum quaedam sunt in potencies are principles both for acting and being acted upon, some of
inanimatis, et quaedam in animatis. Et, quia animata componuntur ex these principles are in non-living things and some in living ones. And
corpore et anima, principium autem agendi et patiendi, quae sunt in since living things are composed of body and soul, and the principles
corpore animatorum, non differunt ab his quae sunt in animatis, ideo for acting and being acted upon which are present in the body of living
addit, et in anima. Quia videlicet principia agendi quae sunt in anima, things do not differ from those in non-living ones, he therefore adds
manifeste differunt ab his quae sunt in rebus inanimatis. and in the soul, because the principles of action which are present in
the soul clearly differ from those present in non-living things.

Et iterum animae plures sunt: quarum multae non multum differunt in 1787. Again, there are several kinds of souls, and many of these do not
agendo et patiendo a rebus inanimatis, quae instinctu naturae operantur. differ to any great extent both in acting and in being acted upon from
Nam partes animae nutritivae et sensitivae, impulsu naturae operantur. non-living things which act by natural instinct; for the parts of the
Sola autem pars animae rationalis est domina sui actus: in quo differt a nutritive and sentient soul act by natural impulse. Now only the
rebus inanimatis. Et ideo postquam dixit differentiam in anima, addit, et rational part of the soul has dominion over its acts, and it is in this
in anima rationem habente. Quia scilicet illa principia animatorum a respect that it differs from non-living things. Therefore, having pointed
principiis inanimatorum specialiter differunt, quae sunt in parte animae out the difference between souls, he adds and in the soul having
rationalis. Unde patet quod potentiarum animae, aliae sunt irrationales, reason, because those principles of living things which are found in the
aliae vero cum ratione. rational part of the soul differ specifically from those of non-living
things. Hence it is evident that some powers of the soul are irrational
and others rational.

Et quae sunt cum ratione exponit, cum subdit, quod omnes artes factivae, 1788. He explains what he means by those which are rational, when he
ut fabrilis et aedificativa et ceterae huiusmodi, quarum actiones in adds that (1) all the productive arts, as the building and constructive
materiam exteriorem transeunt, et omnes scientiae, quae scilicet non arts and the like, whose actions pass over into (+) external matter, and
habent operationem in exteriorem materiam transeuntem, sicut sunt (2) all sciences which do not perform actions that pass over into (~)
scientiae morales et logicae, omnes inquam huiusmodi artes, potentiae external matter, as the moral and logical sciencesall arts of this kind,
quaedam sunt. Quod exinde concluditur, quia sunt principia I say, are powers. And this is concluded from the fact that they are
permutationis in aliud inquantum aliud est; quod est definitio potentiae principles of change in some other thing inasmuch as it is other. This is
activae, ut ex praedictis patet. the definition of active power, as is clear from what was said above.

1789. And all those (747).

Secundo ibi, et quae quidem assignat differentiam inter praedictas Second, he gives the difference between the above-mentioned
potentias; dicens, quod potentiae rationales eaedem se habent ad potencies. He says that the same rational potencies are (+) open to
contraria; sicut ars medica quae est quaedam potentia, ut dictum est, se contrary determinations as the art of medicine, which is a potency, as
habet ad infirmitatem et sanitatem faciendam. has been explained (1404-7), can produce both health and sickness.

Potentiae autem irrationales non se habent ad opposita, sed una est ad But irrational potencies are not (~) open to contrary determinations, but
unum effectum tantum, per se loquendo. Sicut calidum solis calefacit per properly speaking each is determined to one thing; for example, the heat
se, etsi per accidens possit esse causa frigiditatis, inquantum aperiendo of the sun has as its proper effect to heat, although it can be the cause of
poros exhalare facit interius calidum; vel consumendo materiam humoris coldness inasmuch as by opening the pores it causes the loss of internal
calidi, ipsum calidum destruit, et per consequens infrigidat. heat; or by absorbing the matter of a hot humor it destroys the heat and
thereby cools.

1790. And the reason (748).

Deinde cum dicit causa autem assignat philosophus causam praedictae Then the Philosopher gives the reason for the aforesaid difference, and
differentiae; quae talis est. Nam scientia, quae est potentia rationalis, est it is as follows: a science, which is a rational potency, is a conception of
quaedam ratio rei scitae in anima. Eadem autem ratio rem manifestat et the thing known existing in the mind. Now the same conception explains
eius privationem, licet non similiter; quia primo manifestat eam rem both the thing and its privation, although not in the same way, because
existentem, per posterius autem eius privationem. Sicut per rationem it first makes known the existing thing and subsequently its privation;
visus per se cognoscitur ipsa visiva potentia, ex consequenti vero for example, the power of sight itself is known properly by means of the
caecitas; quae nihil aliud est, quam ipsa carentia visus in eo quod natum notion of sight, and then blindness is known, which is nothing but the
est habere visum. Unde necessarium est, si scientia est quaedam ratio rei very lack of sight in a thing naturally disposed to have it. Hence, if
scitae in anima, quod eadem sit scientia contrariorum. Unius quidem per science is a conception of the thing known existing in the mind, the same
prius et secundum se, alterius vero per posterius. Sicut medicina per prius science must deal with contrarieswith one primarily and properly, and
est cognoscitiva et factiva sanitatis, per posterius autem infirmitatis; quia with the other secondarily; for example, the art of medicine is cognitive
et hoc, ut iam dictum est, est de ratione rei scitae in anima, quae est unius and productive primarily of health and secondarily of sickness, because,
oppositorum secundum se, et alterius secundum accidens. as has been pointed out, this art has to do with the conception of the
thing known in the mind, and this conception is of one of the contraries
directly and of the other indirectly.

Et, quia quod philosophus supra de privatione dixerat, postmodum ad 1791. And since the remarks which the Philosopher had made above
contrarium transtulit, ostendit quod eadem ratio est de contrario et about privation he afterwards transferred to contraries, he shows that
privatione. Sicut enim per negationem et ablationem manifestatur the same conception applies to a contrary and to a privation; for just as
privatio, ut puta ablatio visus manifestat caecitatem; ita per negationem a privation is explained by negation and removal (for example, the
et ablationem manifestatur contrarium: quia privatio, quae nihil aliud est removal of sight explains blindness), in a similar fashion a contrary is
quam ablatio alterius, est quoddam primum principium inter contraria. explained by negation and removal; because privation, which is merely
the removal of some attribute, is a sort of first principle among

Omnium enim contrariorum unum est sicut perfectum, alterum vero sicut For in the case of all contraries one stands as something perfect and the
imperfectum, et privatio alterius. Nigrum enim est privatio albi, et other as something imperfect and the privation of the former; black, for
frigidum est privatio calidi. Sic igitur patet, quod eadem scientia se habet example, is the privation of white, and cold is the privation of heat. Thus
ad contraria. it is evident that the same science extends to contraries.

1792. Moreover, since (749).

Hoc autem manifestat consequenter, cum dicit quoniam autem accedit He next develops this point, and he begins to give the reason for the
ergo ad assignandum causam praedictae differentiae. Manifestum est aforesaid difference. For it is clear that natural things act by reason of
enim quod res naturales operantur per formas sibi inhaerentes. Non the forms present in them. But contrary forms cannot exist in the same
autem possunt eidem inesse formae contrariae. Unde impossibile est subject. Therefore it is impossible for the same natural thing to produce
quod eadem res naturalis faciat contraria. contrary effects.

Sed scientia est quaedam potentia actionis, et motus principium, ex eo But science is a potency for acting and a principle of motion, because a
quod aliquis habet rationem rei faciendae, et hoc principium motus est person has an idea of the thing to be made and this principle of motion
in anima. Et quia ita est, sequitur quod res naturales faciant unum tantum; is in the mind. And since this is so it follows that natural things produce
only one effect; for example, what is healthful produces only health, and
sicut salubre facit solum sanitatem, et calefactivum facit solum what is capable of heating produces only heat, and what is capable of
caliditatem, et infrigidativum facit solum frigiditatem. cooling produces only cold.

Sed ille qui agit per scientiam operatur utrumque oppositorum, quia But one who acts by science may be occupied with both contraries,
eadem ratio est utriusque in anima, quia habet principium talis motus, because the conception of both contained in the soul is the same; for the
licet non similiter, sicut dictum est. soul possesses the principle of such motion, although not in the same
way, as has been explained.

Et ideo, sicut actio naturalis procedit ad effectum, quasi copulata ad 1793. Therefore, just as a natural activity proceeds to bring about its
formam, quae est principium actionis cuius similitudo relinquitur in effect as though it were united to its form, which is the principle of
effectu, ita anima movet per suam operationem ad ambo opposita ab action whose likeness remains in the effect, in a similar fashion the soul
eodem principio, idest a ratione quae est una duorum oppositorum, by its activity proceeds to bring about both opposites by the same
copulans ad ipsum principium utrumque motum, et ad ipsum principium principle, i.e., by the conception which is one for the two opposites,
utrumque terminans, inquantum similitudo illius principii in utroque uniting both motions to this principle and causing both to terminate in it
oppositorum in esse productorum salvatur. inasmuch as the likeness of this principle is verified in both of the
opposites brought into being.

Manifestum est igitur quod potentiae rationales contrarium faciunt Therefore it is evident that rational powers produce an effect opposite to
potentiis irrationalibus; quia potentia rationalis facit opposita, non autem irrational powers, because a rational power produces contrary effects,
potentia irrationalis, sed unum tantum. Et hoc ideo est, quia unum whereas an irrational power produces only one effect. The reason is that
principium oppositorum continetur in ratione scientiali, ut dictum est. a single principle of contrary effects is contained in the conception
belonging to a science, as has been explained.

1794. It is also evident (750).

Deinde cum dicit palam autem ponit comparationem quorumdam He explains the relationship of some of the senses of potency mentioned
modorum potentiae superius sub eis positorum. Dictum est supra quod above to those which come under them. For it was stated above that a
aliquid dicitur habere potentiam activam vel passivam, quandoque thing is said to have active or passive potency, sometimes only because
quidem ex hoc solum quod potest agere vel pati, quandoque vero ex hoc it can act or be acted upon, and sometimes because it can act or be acted
quod potest bene agere vel pati. Dicit ergo quod ad potentiam bene upon well. Therefore he says that the potency for acting or being acted
upon well involves the potency for acting or being acted upon, but not
faciendi vel patiendi sequitur potentia faciendi, sed non e converso. the reverse. For it follows that someone acts if he acts well, but the
Sequitur enim, si aliquis benefacit, quod faciat, sed non e converso. opposite of this is not true.


Rejection of the View That a Thing Has Potency Only When It Is Acting. Rejection of the View That All Things Are Possible

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapters 3 & 4: 1046b 29-1047b 30

, , [30] 751. There are some, such as the members of the Megaric school,
, , [31] who say that a thing has a potency for acting only when it is acting,
, and that when it is not acting it does not have this potency; for
: . example, one who is not building does not have the power of
building, but only one who is building when he is building; and it is
the same in other cases.

. 752. It is not difficult to see the absurd consequences of this position.

( [35] For it is evident, according to this view, that a man will not be a
), . builder if he is not building, because to be a builder is to be able to
build. The same is true in the case of the other arts. Therefore, if it is
, [1047] [1] ( impossible to have such arts unless one has at some time learnt and
: , acquired them, and if it is impossible not to have them unless one has
), , , at some time lost them (either through forgetfulness or through some
; change or through the passage of time; for this cannot occur as a
result of the object being destroyed, since it always exists), when one
will have ceased to use an art he will not have it; and yet he will be
able to build forthwith, thus somehow getting it back again.
: [5] 753. And the same thing will be true in the case of non-living things;
: for neither the cold nor the hot nor the sweet nor the bitter nor any
. sensible thing will exist in any way at all if they are not being sensed.
Hence they will have to maintain the theory that Protagoras did.

. 754. In fact nothing will have senses unless it is sensing or acting.

, , Therefore, if that is blind which does not have the power of sight,
[10] , . though it is designed by nature to have it, and when it is designed by
nature to have it, and so long as it exists, the same persons will be
blind many times during the day; and deaf as well.

, 755. Further, if what is deprived of a potency is incapable, it will be

: impossible for that to come into being which has not yet been
( ), generated; but he who says that what cannot possibly be generated
. [15] either is or will be, is in error; for this is what impossible or incapable
: : means. Hence these theories do away with both motion and
. generation; for what is standing will always stand, and what is sitting
will always sit, because if it is sitting it will not get up, since it is
impossible for anything to get up which has no possibility of doing

, 756. Therefore, if it is impossible to maintain this, it is evident that

( [20] potency and actuality are distinct. But these views make potency and
, ), actuality the same, and for this reason it is no small thing which they
, , seek to destroy. Hence it is possible for a thing to be capable of being
, and yet not be, and for a thing not to be and yet be capable of being.
. And it is similar in the case of the other categories; for example, a
thing may be capable of walking and yet not walk, and be capable of
not walking and yet walk.
[25] 757. Moreover, a thing has a potency if there is nothing impossible
, . , in its having the actuality of that of which it is said to have the
, , potency. I mean, for example, that if a thing is capable of sitting, and
: it turns out to be sitting, there will be nothing impossible in its having
, . a sitting position; and it is similar if it is capable of being moved or
of moving something, or of standing or causing a thing to stand, or
of being or coming to be, or of not being or not coming to be.

[30] , 758. And the word actuality, which is combined with entelechy, is
, : extended chiefly from motion to other things; for actuality seems to
, be identified mainly with motion. And for this reason they do not
, , assign motion to non-existent things, but they do assign the other
, [35] , categories. For example, non-existent things are considered the
. [1047] [1] : objects of intellect and desire but not to be in motion. And the reason
, . is that they would have to exist actually even though they did not
exist actually; for some non-existent things are potential. Yet they do
not exist, because they do not exist in complete actuality.

Chapter 4

, 759. Now if what has been called potential or possible is such

[5] , , because something follows from it, it is evident that it cannot be true
: to say that a thing is possible but will not be, because things which
cannot possibly be would then disappear. An example would be if
someone, thinking that nothing is impossible, were to affirm that it is
. [10] possible for the diagonal of a square to be commensurate, even
, though it is not commensurate; because nothing prevents a thing that
, : , is capable of being or of coming to be from not being or not coming
. : to be. But this conclusion necessarily follows from the things laid
, . down above. And if we suppose that which is not but is capable I of
being, to be or to have come into being, nothing would be impossible.
But in this case something impossible will occur; for it is impossible
that a diagonal be commensurate. For to be false and to be impossible
are not the same; for while it is false that you are now standing, it is
not impossible.

, [15] , 760. And at the same time it is evident that, if when A exists B must
: exist, then if A is possible B must be possible; for if it is not necessary
, . that B be possible, there is nothing to prevent its not being possible.
. , , Therefore, let A be possible. And if A is possible, then when A is
: [20] . possible, if A is assumed to exist, nothing impossible follows, but B
. . [] , necessarily exists. But this was supposed to be impossible. Therefore,
. : let B be impossible. Then if B must be impossible, A must be so. But
. , , the first was supposed to be impossible; therefore so also is the
. second. Hence, if A is possible, B will be possible also, i.e., if they
[25] , are so related that, when A exists, B must exist. Therefore, if when A
: , and B are so related, B is not possible, then A and B will not be
. , related in the way supposed. On the other hand, if, when A is
, , possible, B must be possible, then if A exists, B must exist. For to
[30] , . say that B must be possible if A is possible, means that, if A exists
both when it exists and in the way in which it is possible for it to
exist, then B must also exist and exist in that way.


Objection 1: A thing has potency only when it is acting

Postquam philosophus comparavit superius potentias adinvicem, hic 1795. Having compared one kind of potency with another in the above
incipit ostendere quomodo potentia et actus se habent in eodem subiecto: discussion, here the Philosopher begins to explain how potency and
actuality are found in the same subject. This is divided into two parts.
et dividitur in duas partes. In prima excludit quorumdam falsas opiniones. In the first he rejects the false opinions of some men. In the second
In secunda determinat veritatem, ibi, omnibus autem potentiis. (1815) he establishes the truth (And since among).

Prima autem dividitur in duas. In prima excludit opinionem dicentium The first is divided into two parts. In the first part he rejects the opinion
nihil esse possibile, nisi quando est actu. In secunda excludit opinionem of those who said that a thing is possible or potential only when it is in
dicentium e converso omnia esse possibilia, licet non sint actu, ibi, si a state of actuality. In the second part (1810) he rejects the opinion of
autem est quod dictum est possibile. those who maintain the reverse of this: that all things are potential or
possible, even though they are not in a state of actuality (Now if

Circa primum duo facit. Primo excludit dictam positionem erroneam. In regard to the first he does two things. First, he rejects the erroneous
Secundo ostendit quid sit esse possibile, et quid sit esse actu, ibi, est opinion referred to. Second (1804), he explains what it is to be potential
autem possibile. or possible, and what it is to be actual (Moreover, a thing).

Circa primum tria facit. Primo ponit opinionem. Secundo destruit eam, In regard to the first he does three things. First, he gives this opinion.
ibi, quibus accidentia et cetera. Tertio concludit suam intentionem, ibi, si Second (1796), he destroys it (It is not difficult). Third (1803), he
ergo non contingit. draws his intended conclusion (Therefore, if it).

Dicit ergo primo, quod quidam dixerunt quod tunc solum est aliquid in He accordingly says, first, that some said that a thing is in a state of
potentia, quando est in actu; utputa quod ille qui non aedificat actu, non potency or capability only when it is acting; for example, a man who is
potest aedificare; sed tunc solum potest, quando actu aedificat. Et not actually building is incapable of building, but he is capable of
similiter dicunt de aliis. building only when he is actually building; and they speak in a similar
way about other things.

Et ratio huius positionis esse videtur, quia opinabantur quod omnia ex The reason for this position seems to be that they thought that all things
necessitate contingerent secundum aliquam commixtionem causarum. come about necessarily because of some connection between causes.

Et sic, si omnia ex necessitate eveniunt, sequitur quod ea quae non Thus if all things come about necessarily, it follows that those things
eveniunt, non possibile est esse. which do not, are impossible.
1796. It is not difficult (752).

Deinde cum dicit quibus accidentia ponit rationes contra praedictam Then he adduces arguments against the above opinion, and these reduce
positionem ducentes ad inconvenientia: quarum prima talis est. it to its absurd consequences. The first is as follows: to be building is
Aedificantem esse, est esse potentem aedificare. Si igitur nullus est to have the power or capability of building. Therefore, if no one has the
potens facere nisi quando facit, non est aliquis aedificator nisi quando power or capability of acting except when he is acting, no one is a
aedificat; et similiter est de aliis artibus. Nam omnes artes sunt potentiae builder except when he is building. And the same thing will be true of
quaedam, ut dictum est. Sequitur ergo quod nullus habeat artem aliquam, the other arts; for all arts are certain capabilities or potencies, as has
nisi quando secundum eam operatur. been pointed out (1786). It follows, then, that no one will have an art
except when he is exercising it.

Sed id ostenditur impossibile, suppositis duobus: quorum unum est, quod 1797. But this is shown to be impossible if two assumptions are made.
ille, qui prius non habuit aliquam artem, impossibile est quod eam habeat The first is this: if someone did not at first have an art, it would be
postmodum, nisi addiscat eam, vel eam aliquo modo accipiat, scilicet impossible for him to have it later unless he had learned it or acquired
inveniendo. it in some way, i.e., by discovery.

Aliud est, quod si quis habuit aliquam artem, impossibile est eum 1798. The second assumption is that if someone had an art it would be
postmodum non habere eamdem, nisi eam aliquo modo abiiciat, vel per impossible for him not to have the same art later unless he lost it in
oblivionem, aut per aliquam infirmitatem, aut per longitudinem temporis, some way, either through forgetfulness or through some illness or
quo aliquis scientia non utitur. Haec enim est causa oblivionis. Non through the passage of a long time during which the knowledge was not
autem potest esse quod aliquis amittat artem corrupta re, sicut quandoque exercised; for this is the cause of forgetfulness. Now it cannot be that
convenit quod vera cognitio amittitur mutata re; ut cum quis opinatur vere someone should lose an art as a result of the destruction of its object, as
Socratem sedere, eo surgente perit eius vera opinio: hoc autem non potest it sometimes happens that true knowledge is lost when a thing is
dici circa artem. Nam ars non est cognitio eius quod est, sed eius quod changed; for example, when someone makes a true judgment that
faciendum est. Et ita quamdiu durat materia, ex qua ars potest aliquid Socrates is sitting, his true judgment is destroyed when Socrates stands
facere, semper res artis est. Unde non potest ars amitti corrupta re nisi up. But this cannot be said about an art; for an art is not a knowledge of
modis praemissis. what exists, but of what is to be made; and so long as the matter from
which an art can produce something continues to exist, the object of
that art always exists. Hence an art cannot be lost when its object is
destroyed, except in the ways mentioned.
Ex his autem duobus propositis philosophus sic arguit. Si aliquis non 1799. Now from these two assumptions the Philosopher argues as
habet artem nisi quando ea utitur, tunc quando incipit uti, de novo habet follows: if a man does not have an art except when he is exercising it,
artem; ergo oportet vel quod discat eam, vel qualitercumque acquirat then when he begins to exercise it he has it anew. Therefore he must
eam. Et similiter quando desinit uti arte, sequitur quod arte careat; et ita either have learned it or acquired it in some other way. And similarly
amittet artem quam prius habebat, vel oblivione, vel passione, vel when he ceases to exercise an art it follows that he lacks that art, and
tempore. Quorum utrumque patet esse falsum. Non igitur verum est quod thus he loses the art which he previously had either through
solum tunc aliquis habeat potentiam quando operatur. forgetfulness or through some change or through the passage of time.
But both of these are clearly false; and therefore it is not true that
someone has a potency only when he is acting.

1800. And the same (753).

Deinde cum dicit et inanimata secundam rationem ponit, quae quidem Here he gives the second argument, which now has to do with the
procedit in irrationabilibus, quae sunt in rebus inanimatis, scilicet irrational principles present in non-living things, namely, hot and cold,
calidum et frigidum, dulce et amarum, et alia huiusmodi, quae sunt sweet and bitter, and other qualities of this kind, which are active
principia activa immutantia sensus, et ita sunt quaedam potentiae. Si principles changing the senses and thus are potencies. Now if potency
igitur potentia non inest alicui nisi quando agit, sequitur quod nihil est is present in a thing only when it is acting, it follows that nothing is hot
calidum vel frigidum, dulce vel amarum, et huiusmodi, nisi quando or cold, sweet or bitter, and so forth, except when it is being sensed
sentitur immutans sensum. Hoc autem patet esse falsum. Nam si hoc esset through a change in the senses. But this is clearly false; for if it were
verum, sequeretur quod opinio Protagorae esset vera, quae dicebat omnes true it would follow that Protagoras opinion would be true, since he
proprietates et naturas rerum consistere solum in sentiri et opinari. said that all the properties and natures of things have existence only in
being sensed and in being thought.

Ex quo consequebatur contradictoria simul esse vera, cum diversi circa And from this it would follow that contradictories would be true at the
idem contradictorie opinentur. Contra quam opinionem philosophus in same time, since different men have contradictory opinions about the
quarto superius disputavit. Falsum est igitur quod potentia non sit sine same thing. Now the Philosopher argued dialectically against this
actu. position above in Book IV (636). Therefore it is false that potency exists
only when there is activity.

Deinde cum dicit at vero tertiam rationem ponit, quae talis est. Sensus est 1801. Here he gives the third argument, which is as follows: sense is a
potentia quaedam. Si igitur potentia non est absque actu, sequetur quod kind of potency. Therefore, if potency exists only when there is activity,
aliquis non habeat sensum nisi quando sentit, utputa visum aut auditum. it follows that a man has sensory power only when he is sensing, for
Sed ille qui non habet visum, cum sit natus habere, est caecus; et qui non example, the power of sight or hearing. But one who does not have the
habet auditum est surdus. Sic igitur eadem die frequenter erit surdus et power of sight although he is naturally disposed to have it is blind; and
caecus; quod manifeste est falsum. Nam caecus non fit postea videns, one who does not have the power of hearing is deaf. Hence he will be
neque surdus audiens. blind and deaf many times on the same day. But this is clearly false, for
a blind man does not afterwards regain sight nor a deaf man hearing.

1802. Further, if what (755).

Deinde cum dicit amplius si quartam rationem ponit, quae talis est. Here he gives the fourth argument, which is as follows: it is impossible
Impossibile est agere quod caret potentia. Si igitur aliquis non habet for a thing to act which does not have the power to act. Therefore, if
potentiam nisi quando agit, sequetur quod quando aliquis non agit, one has a potency or power only when he is acting, it follows that when
impossibile sit ipsum agere. Sed quicumque dicit aliquid esse aut futurum he is not acting it is impossible for him to act. But whoever says that
esse quod impossibile est fieri, mentitur. Et hoc patet ex ipsa something incapable of happening either is or will be, is mistaken. This
significatione huius nominis, impossibile. Nam impossibile dicitur is evident from the meaning of the word impossible; for the impossible
falsum quod non potest contingere. Sequitur igitur quod id quod non est, is said to be false because it cannot happen. It follows, then, that
nullo modo possit fieri. Et ita ista potentia tollet motum et generationem; something which is not is incapable of coming to be in any way. And
quia stans semper stabit, et sedens semper sedebit. Si enim aliquis sedet, thus potency so understood will do away with motion and generation,
nunquam postea stabit; quia dum non stat, non habet potentiam standi. Et because one who is standing will always stand, and one who is sitting
ita non possibile est eum stare, et per consequens impossibile eum will always sit. For if anyone is sitting, he will never stand afterwards,
surgere. Et similiter quod non est album, impossibile erit esse album. Et because so long as he is not standing he does not have the power to
ita non poterit dealbari. Et similiter in omnibus aliis. stand. Hence it is impossible for him to stand, and consequently it is
impossible for him to get up. Similarly what is not white will be
incapable of being white, and thus could not be made white. The same
holds true in the case of all other things.

1803. Therefore, if (756).

Deinde cum dicit si ergo concludit suam intentionem, dicens, quod si He draws his intended conclusion, saying that, if the absurdities
praedicta inconvenientia non possunt concedi, manifestum est quod mentioned above cannot be admitted, it is obvious that potency and
potentia et actus diversa sunt. Sed illi, qui ponunt positionem praedictam, actuality are distinct. But those who hold the foregoing position make
faciunt potentiam et actum esse idem, in eo quod dicunt tunc solum potency and actuality the same insofar as they say that something has
aliquid esse in potentia, quando est actu. Ex quo patet quod non parvum potency only when it is in a state of actuality. And from this it is evident
quid a natura destruere intendunt. Tollunt enim motum et generationem, that they wish to remove from nature something of no little importance,
ut dictum est. Unde, cum hoc non possit sustineri, manifestum est quod for they eliminate motion and generation, as has been stated (1802).
aliquid est possibile esse quod tamen non est, quod aliquid est possibile Hence, since this cannot be admitted, it is obvious that something is
non esse, et tamen est. Et similiter in aliis categoriis, idest capable of being which yet is not, and that something is capable of not
praedicamentis; quia possibile est aliquem vadere et non vadit, et e being which yet is. And it is similar in the case of the other categories,
converso non vadere qui vadit. or predicaments, because it is possible from someone who is not
walking to walk, and conversely it is possible from someone who is
walking not to walk.

1804. Moreover, a thing (757).

Deinde cum dicit est autem ostendit quid sit esse in potentia, et quid esse Here he explains what it is to be potential and what it is to be actual.
in actu. Et primo quid sit esse in potentia, dicens, quod id dicitur esse in First, he explains what it is to be potential. He says that that is said to
potentia, quod si ponatur esse actu, nihil impossibile sequitur. Ut si be potential from which nothing impossible follows when it is assumed
dicatur, aliquem possibile est sedere, si ponatur ipsum sedere non accidit to be actual; for example, if one were to say that it is possible for
aliquod impossibile. Et similiter de moveri et movere, et de aliis someone to sit if nothing impossible follows when he is assumed to sit.
huiusmodi. And the same holds true of being moved and of moving something, and
other cases of this kind.

1805. And the word actuality (758).

Secundo ibi, venit autem ostendit quid sit esse in actu; et dicit, quod hoc Second, he explains what it is to be actual. He says that the word
nomen actus, quod ponitur ad significandum endelechiam et actuality is used to signify entelechy and perfection, namely, the form,
perfectionem, scilicet formam, et alia huiusmodi, sicut sunt quaecumque and other things of this kind, as any action at all, is derived properly
operationes, veniunt maxime ex motibus quantum ad originem vocabuli. from motion, so far as the origin of the word is concerned. For since
Cum enim nomina sint signa intelligibilium conceptionum, illis primo words are signs of intellectual conceptions, we first give names to those
imponimus nomina, quae primo intelligimus, licet sint posteriora things which we first understand, even though they may be subsequent
secundum ordinem naturae. Inter alios autem actus, maxime est nobis in the order of nature. Now of all acts which are perceived by us in a
sensible way, motion is the best known and most evident to us; and
notus et apparens motus, qui sensibiliter a nobis videtur. Et ideo ei primo therefore the word actuality was first referred to motion, and from
impositum fuit nomen actus, et a motu ad alia derivatum est. motion the word was extended to other things.

Et propter hoc moveri non attribuitur non existentibus; licet quaedam alia 1806. And for this reason motion is not attributed to (~) non-existent
praedicata non existentibus attribuantur. Dicimus enim non entia esse things, although certain of the other categories mentioned above are
intelligibilia vel opinabilia, aut etiam concupiscibilia, sed non dicimus ea attributed to non-existents; for we say that non-existent things are
esse mota. Quia, cum moveri significet esse actu, sequeretur quod non intelligible, or thinkable, or even desirable, but we do not say that they
entia actu essent actu; quod patet esse falsum. Etsi enim quaedam non are moved. For, since to be moved means to be actual, it follows that
entia sint in potentia, tamen ideo non dicuntur esse, quia non sunt in actu. things which do not exist actually would exist actually; but this is
obviously false. For even if some non-existent things are potential, they
are still not said to be, since they are not actual.

Objection 2: All things are possible.

1807. Now if what (759).

Deinde cum dicit si autem postquam philosophus destruxit opinionem Having destroyed the opinion of those who claim that nothing is
dicentium nihil esse possibile nisi quando est actu, hic destruit contrariam possible except when it is actual, the Philosopher now destroys the
opinionem dicentium omnia possibilia: et circa hoc duo facit. Primo opposite opinion of those who claim that all things are possible; and
destruit hanc positionem. Secundo determinat quamdam veritatem circa in regard to this he does two things. First, he destroys this opinion.
consequentiam possibilium, ibi, simul autem palam. Second (1810), he establishes a truth about the succession of possible

Dicit ergo primo, quod si verum est quod aliquid dicatur esse possibile He accordingly says, first, that if it is true that a thing is said to be
ex eo quod aliquid sequitur, secundum quod dictum est, quod possibile possible because something follows from it, inasmuch as the possible
est, quod si ponatur esse, non sequitur impossibile; manifestum est quod has been defined as that from which nothing impossible follows if it is
non contingit verum esse hoc quod dicunt quidam, quod unumquodque assumed to exist, it is evident that the statements of some thinkers that
possibile est, etiam si nunquam futurum sit. Ita quod per hanc positionem anything is possible even if it never will be, cannot be true, since as a
impossibilia tolluntur. Sicut si aliquis dicat diametrum quadrati result of this position impossible things will be eliminated. For
commensurari lateri esse possibile, sed tamen non commensurabitur, et example, if one were to say that the diagonal of a square can be
eodem modo dicatur de aliis impossibilibus, et non cogitet quod commensurate with a side, even though it is not commensurate with it
diametrum quadrati commensurari lateri est impossibile: dico quod (and one might speak in the same way about other impossible things),
ponentes hanc positionem, quantum ad aliquid dicunt verum, et quantum and not think that it is impossible for the diameter of a square to be
ad aliquid dicunt falsum. commensurate with a side, those who maintain this position, I say,
speak truly in one sense and in another they do not.

Sunt enim aliqua, de quibus nihil prohibebit dicere quod sunt possibilia 1808. For there are some things which nothing will prevent us from
esse aut fieri, cum tamen nunquam sint futura, nec unquam fiant; sed hoc designating as capable or possible of coming to be, even though they
non potest dici de omnibus. Sed secundum ea quae superius dicta sunt, et never will be or ever come to be; but this cannot be said of all things.
quae nunc oportet nos supponere, illa solum possibile est esse aut fieri, Yet according to the doctrine laid down above, and which we are now
licet non sint, quibus positis non sequitur aliquid impossibile. Posito to assume, only those things are capable of being or coming to be, even
autem quod diametrum commensuraretur, sequitur aliquid impossibile. though they are not, from which nothing impossible follows when they
Et ideo non potest dici quod diametrum commensurari, sit possibile. Est ate posited. However, when it is posited that the diagonal of a square is
enim non solum falsum, sed impossibile. commensurate, an impossible conclusion follows. Thus it cannot be
said that it is possible for the diagonal to be commensurate, for it is not
only false but impossible.

Quaedam vero sunt falsa tantum, sed non impossibilia, sicut Socratem 1809. Now some things are false only but not impossible, as that
sedere et stare. Non enim idem est falsum esse et esse impossibile; sicut Socrates sits or that he stands. For to be false and to be impossible are
te stare nunc est falsum, sed non impossibile. not the same; for example, it is false that you are now standing, but it is
not impossible.

Praedicta ergo positio quantum ad aliqua, vera est, quia quaedam sunt Therefore the foregoing opinion is true of some things, because some
possibilia, licet sint falsa. Non autem quantum ad omnia; quia quaedam are possible even though they are false. However, it is not true of all
sunt falsa et impossibilia. things, because some are both false and impossible.

1810. And at the same (760).

Deinde cum dicit simul autem quia dixerat quod possibile iudicatur And since he had said that a thing is judged possible because nothing
aliquid ex hoc, quod ex ipso non sequitur impossibile, ostendit qualiter impossible follows from it, he indicates the way in which there are
habeant se consequentia possibilia; dicens, quod ex definitione possibilis possible consequents. He says that not only is the position in question
superius posita non solum destruitur praemissa positio, sed etiam simul destroyed by the definition of the possible given above, but it is also
est manifestum quod si alicuius conditionalis antecedens est possibile, et evident at the same time that, if the antecedent of a conditional
consequens possibile erit. Ut si haec conditionalis sit vera, si est a est b, proposition is possible, the consequent will also be possible; for
necesse est si a sit possibile, quod b sit possibile. example, if this conditional proposition If when A is, B is, is true,
then if A is possible, B must be possible.

Sciendum tamen est ad huius intellectum, quod possibile dupliciter 1811. Now in order to understand this we must note that the word
dicitur. Uno modo secundum quod dividitur contra necesse; sicut dicimus possible is used in two senses: (1) It is used, first, in contradistinction
illa possibilia quae contingunt esse et non esse. Et sic accepto possibili, to the necessary, as when we call those things possible which are
non habet locum quod hic dicitur. Nihil enim prohibet quod antecedens capable either of being or not being. And when possible is taken in this
sit contingens esse et non esse, consequens tamen sit necessarium; sicut way, the foregoing remarks do not apply. For nothing prevents the
patet in hac conditionali, si Socrates ridet, est homo. antecedent from being capable of being or not being, even though the
consequent is necessary, as is clear in this conditional proposition, If
Socrates laughs, he is a man.

Alio vero modo possibile dicitur secundum quod est commune ad ea quae 1812. (2) The word possible is used in a second sense inasmuch as it is
sunt necessaria, et ad ea quae contingunt esse et non esse, prout possibile common both to those things which are necessary and to those which
contra impossibile dividitur. Et sic loquitur hic philosophus; dicens de are capable of being or not being, according as the possible is
possibili, quod necesse est consequens esse possibile, si antecedens fuit distinguished from the impossible. And the Philosopher is speaking of
possibile. the possible in this way here when he says that the consequent must be
possible if the antecedent was possible.

Detur enim haec conditionalis esse vera, si est a, est b, et detur 1813. For let it be assumed that this conditional proposition is true: If
antecedens, scilicet a, esse possibile. Aut igitur necesse est b esse A is, then B is; and let it be assumed that the antecedent, A, is possible.
possibile, aut non. Si est necesse, habetur propositum. Si non est necesse, Then it is necessary that B either be possible or not. Now if it is
nihil prohibet ponere oppositum, scilicet b non esse possibile. Sed haec necessary, then the assumption follows. But if it is not necessary,
non potest stare. Nam a ponitur esse possibile; et quando ponitur esse nothing prevents the opposite from being assumed, namely, that B is
possibile, simul ponitur quod nihil impossibile sequitur ex eo. Sic enim not possible. But this cannot stand; for A is assumed to be possible, and
superius definitum est possibile, ad quod nihil sequitur impossibile. Sed when it is assumed to be possible, it is at the same time assumed that
b sequitur ad a, ut positum est; et b ponebatur esse impossibile. Nam idem nothing impossible follows from it; for the possible was defined above
est esse impossibile, quod non esse possibile. Igitur a non erit possibile, as that from which nothing impossible follows. But B follows from A,
si sequitur ad ipsum b quod erat impossibile. Ponatur ergo b esse as was assumed, and B was assumed to be impossible; for to be
impossible is the same as not to be possible. Therefore A will not be
impossibile: et si est impossibile, et posito a, necesse est esse b, erit ergo possible if B, which was held to be impossible, follows from it.
impossibile et primum et secundum, scilicet a et b. Therefore let B be assumed to be impossible, and if it is impossible and
given A, B must exist, then both the first and the second, namely, A and
B will be impossible.

Ubi advertendum est quod bene sequitur, si consequens est impossibile, 1814. In which place it must be noted that the following proposition is
quod antecedens sit impossibile; non tamen e converso. Nihil enim correct: (+) if the consequent is impossible, the antecedent is
prohibet ex impossibili sequi aliquid necessarium, ut in hac conditionali: impossible; but (~) the reverse is not true. For nothing prevents
si homo est asinus, homo est animal. something necessary from being a consequence of the impossible, as in
this conditional proposition, If man is an ass, he is an animal.

Unde non sic intelligendum est quod philosophus dicit hic, si primum erat Therefore what the Philosopher says here must not be understood as
impossibile, idest antecedens, ergo et secundum erat impossibile, scilicet meaning that, if the first, i.e., the antecedent, were impossible, then the
consequens. Sed ita debet intelligi: si consequens est impossibile, second, i.e., the consequent, would also be impossible. But it must be
utrumque erit impossibile. understood to mean that, if the consequent is impossible, both will be

Sic ergo manifestum est quod si sic se habent, scilicet a et b, quod a Therefore it is obvious that, if A and B are so related that, when A is, B
existente, necesse est b esse, et necessario sequitur quod si a est possibile, must be, it necessarily follows that, if A is possible, B will be possible;
quod b erit possibile. Et si b non est possibile, a possibili existente, non and if B is not possible when A is possible, then A and B are not related
ita se habebunt a et b ut positum est, scilicet quod ad a sequitur b. Sed in the way supposed, namely, that B follows from A. But it is necessary
oportet quod a possibili existente, necesse est b possibile esse, si existente that when A is possible B must be possible, if when A exists it is
a, necesse est esse b. Cum enim dico: si est a, est b, hoc significatur quod necessary that B exist. Therefore when I say If A is, B is, this means
necesse sit b esse possibile si a possibile est; ita tamen quod quando et that B must be possible if A is possible, in the sense that it is possible
eodem modo sit possibile b esse, quando et quomodo est possibile a. Non for B to exist at the same time and in the way in which A is possible;
enim possibile est ut sit quocumque tempore et quocumque modo. for it is not possible that it should exist at any time and in any way.

The Relative Priority of Actuality and Potency. The Reduction of Natural Potencies to Actuality

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 5: 1047b 31-1048a 24

761. And since among all potencies some are innate, as the senses,
, , and some are acquired by practice, as the power of playing the flute,
, , and some by learning, as artistic powers, those which are acquired
, [35] . by practice and by the use of reason must be acquired by previous
exercise. But this is not necessary in the case of those which are not
such and which involve passivity.

[1048] [1] 762. Now that which is capable is capable of something at some time
, and in some way, and has all the other qualifications which must be
, included in the definition; and some things can cause motion
, [5] , according to a rational plan and their potencies are rational, whereas
other things are devoid of any rational plan and their potencies are
irrational. And the former potencies must exist in living things,
whereas the latter exist in both kinds of things.

, 763. And since this is so, then in the case of the latter potencies,
, , when the thing that is capable of acting and the one that is capable
: of being acted upon come close to each other, the one must act and
the other be acted upon; but in the case of the former potencies this
is not necessary.

, , 764. For the latter are all productive of one effect, whereas the
: [10] . former are productive of contrary effects. Hence they would produce
contrary effects at the same time, that is, if they were to act on a
proximate patient without something determining them. But this is
: 765. Therefore there must be some other thing which is the proper
. , cause of this, and by this I mean appetite or choice. For whatever a
: thing chiefly desires this it will do, when, insofar as it is potential, it
, , [15] is present and comes close to the thing which is capable of being
: []: acted upon. Hence every potency endowed with reason, when it
, desires something of which it has the potency and insofar as it has
it, must do this thing. And it has this potency when the thing capable
of being acted upon is present and is disposed in a definite way; but
if it is not, it will not be able to act.

( : 766. For it is unnecessary to add this qualification: when nothing

, external hinders it; for the agent has the potency insofar as it is a
, : [20] potency for acting. But this is not true of all things but only of those
): which are disposed in a definite way, in the case of which external
obstacles will be excluded; for they remove some of the
qualifications which are given in the definition of the capable or

, 767. And for this reason if such things wish or desire to do two things
: or contrary things at the same time, they will not do them; for they
, . [25] do not have the potency for doing both at the same time, nor is it
possible to do them at the same time, since it is those things which
they have the capacity of doing that they do.


How potency precedes or follows act

Postquam philosophus exclusit falsas opiniones circa potentiam et 1815. Having rejected the false opinions about potency and actuality the
actum, hic determinat veritatem; et circa hoc duo facit. Primo ostendit Philosopher now establishes the truth about them; and in regard to this
quomodo actus praecedat potentiam in subiecto. Secundo quomodo he does two things. First, he shows how actuality is prior to potency in
potentia praecedens actum, ad actum reducatur, ibi, quoniam autem the same subject; and second (1816), how potency, when it is prior to
possibile. actuality, is brought to a state of actuality.

Dicit ergo primo, quod cum potentiarum quaedam sint inditae his He accordingly says, first, that, since (1) some potencies are innate in
quorum sunt, sicut sensus animalibus; quaedam vero per consuetudinem the things of which they are the potencies, as the sensory powers in
acquirantur, sicut ars tibicinandi et aliae huiusmodi artes operativae; animals; and (2) some are acquired by practice, as the art of flute-
quaedam vero acquirantur per doctrinam sive disciplinam, sicut playing and other operative arts of this kind; and some are acquired by
medicina et aliae huiusmodi artes: dictarum potentiarum quaecumque teaching and learning, as medicine and other similar arts; all of the
per consuetudinem et rationem nobis insunt, necesse est primum agere abovementioned potencies which we have as a result of practice and the
et praeexercitari in eorum actibus antequam acquirantur; sicut use of reason must first be exercised and their acts repeated before they
tibicinando, aliquis fit tibicinator; et considerando medicinalia, aliquis are acquired. For example, one becomes a harpist by playing the harp,
fit medicus. and one becomes a physician by studying medical matters.

Sed aliae potentiae, quae non acquiruntur per consuetudinem, sed insunt But (1) other potencies which are not acquired by practice but which
a natura et sunt in patiendo, sicut patet de potentiis sensitivis, non belong to us by nature and are passive, as is evident in the case of
procedunt a suis actibus. Non enim aliquis videndo acquirit sensum sensory powers, are not a result of exercise; for one does not acquire the
visus; sed ex eo quod potentiam visivam habet, fit actu videns. sense of sight by seeing but actually sees because he has the power of

1816. Now that which (762).

Deinde cum dicit quoniam autem ostendit quomodo potentiae Here he shows how those potencies which are prior to actuality are
praecedentes actum reducuntur ad actum; et circa hoc duo facit. Primo brought to actuality; and in regard to this he does two things. First, he
enim ostendit quomodo in hoc differunt diversae potentiae adinvicem, shows how different potenciesrational and irrational potencies
scilicet rationales et irrationales. Secundo ostendit qualiter rationales differ from each other in this respect. Second (1820), he shows how
potentiae ad actum reducantur, ibi, necesse ergo. rational potencies are brought to a state of actuality (Therefore, there
Circa primum tria facit. Primo praemittit quaedam necessaria ad In regard to the first he does three things. First, he lays down certain
praedictam differentiam considerandam: quorum unum est, quod in conditions required for the study of the aforesaid differences, and (1)
ratione possibilis oportet multa considerare. Non enim dicitur possibile one of these is that it is necessary to consider several qualifications in
respectu cuiusque, sed respectu alicuius determinati. Unde oportet the definition of the capable or potential. For the capable does not refer
possibile, esse aliquid possibile, utputa ambulare vel sedere. Et similiter to just anything at all but to something definite. Hence the capable must
quod potest aliquid facere vel pati, non potest illud quocumque tempore be capable of something, such as to walk or to sit. And similarly what
facere aut pati; sicut arbor non potest fructificare nisi determinato can act or be acted upon cannot act or be acted upon at any time
tempore. whatever; for example, a tree can bear fruit only at some definite time.

Et ideo cum dicitur aliquid esse possibile, oportet determinare quando sit Therefore, when it is said that something is capable, it is necessary to
possibile. Et similiter oportet determinare quomodo sit possibile. Non determine when it is capable. And it is also necessary to determine in
enim possibile, quocumque modo potest agere aliquid vel pati; sicut what way it is capable, for that which is capable can neither act nor be
aliquis sic potest ambulare, scilicet tarde, non autem velociter. Et simile acted upon in every way; for example, one can walk in this way, namely,
est de aliis circumstantiis quae consueverunt determinari in slowly, but not rapidly. And the same thing is true of the other
definitionibus rerum; sicut quo instrumento, quo loco, et alia huiusmodi. qualifications which they are accustomed to give in the definitions of
things, for example, by what instrument, in what place, and the like.

Aliud quod praetermittit est, quod quaedam sunt possibilia secundum 1817. Another qualification which he lays down is that (a) some things
rationem, et potentiae horum possibilium sunt rationales. Quaedam vero are capable of something because of a rational plan, and the potencies
possibilia sunt irrationalia, et potentiae irrationales. Et quidem potentiae for these capabilities are rational. (b) But some capabilities are
rationales non possunt esse nisi in rebus animatis; sed potentiae irrational, and the potencies for these are irrational. Again, rational
irrationales possunt esse in ambobus, scilicet in rebus animatis et potencies can exist only in living things, whereas irrational potencies
inanimatis. Et non solum in plantis et brutis animalibus, quae ratione can exist in both, i.e., in both living and nonliving things. And they exist
carent, sed etiam in ipsis hominibus, in quibus inveniuntur quaedam not only in plants and in brute animals, which lack reason, but also in
principia actionum et passionum quae sunt sine ratione, ut potentia men themselves, in whom are found certain principles both of acting
nutritiva et augmentativa, et gravitas, et alia huiusmodi. and of being acted upon which are irrational; for example, the powers
of nutrition and growth, and weight, and other accidents of this kind.

1818. And since (763).

Secundo ibi, tales quidem ponit differentiam praedictarum potentiarum; (2) Second, he gives the difference between the potencies in question.
dicens, quod in potentiis irrationabilibus necesse est, quando passivum He says that in the case of irrational potencies when the thing capable
appropinquat activo, in illa dispositione qua passivum potest pati et of being acted upon comes close to the thing which is capable of acting,
activum potest agere, necesse est quod unum patiatur et alterum agat; ut then in accordance with that disposition whereby that able to be acted
patet quando combustibile applicatur igni. upon can be acted upon and that capable of acting can act, it is (+)
necessary that the one be acted upon and that the other act. This is clear,
for instance, when something combustible comes in contact with fire.

In potentiis vero rationalibus, non est necessarium: non enim necesse est But in the case of rational potencies this is not necessary; for no matter
aedificatorem aedificare quantumcumque sibi materia appropinquaret. how close some material may be brought to a builder, it is not (~)
necessary that he build something.

1819. For the latter (764).

Tertio ibi, hae quidem assignat causam praedictae differentiae; dicens, (3) Third, he gives the reason for the difference pointed out. (a) He says
quod potentiae irrationales ita se habent, quod una est factiva tantum that irrational potencies are such that each is productive of only one
unius; et ideo praesente passivo necesse est quod faciat illud unum cuius effect, and, therefore, when such a potency is brought close to something
est factiva. that is capable of being acted upon, it must produce the one effect which
it is capable of producing.

Sed una et eadem potentia rationalis est factiva contrariorum, ut superius (b) But one and the same rational potency is capable of producing
habitum est. Si igitur necessarium esset, quod praesente passivo faceret contrary effects, as was said above (1789-93). Therefore, if, when it is
illud cuius est factiva, sequeretur quod simul faceret contraria; quod est brought close to something capable of being acted upon, it would be
impossibile. Sicut si medicus induceret sanitatem et aegritudinem. necessary for it to bring about the effect which it is capable of producing,
it would follow that it would produce contrary effects at the same time;
but this is impossible. For example, it would follow that a physician
would induce both health and sickness.

1820. Therefore there must (765).

Deinde cum dicit necesse ergo ostendit quid requiratur ad hoc quod He then shows what is necessary in order for rational potencies to begin
potentiae rationales exeant in actum, ex quo non sufficit propinquitas to act, seeing that closeness to the thing capable of being acted upon is
passi. Et circa hoc tria facit. not sufficient. In regard to this he does three things.

Primo ostendit per quid potentia rationalis reducatur in actum: First, he reveals the principle by which a rational potency is made to act.
concludens ex dictis, quod cum potentia rationalis se habeat communiter He concludes from the above discussions that since a rational potency
ad duo contraria, et ita cum a causa communi non procedat effectus has a common relationship to two contrary effects, and since a definite
determinatus, nisi sit aliquid proprium quod causam communem ad hunc effect proceeds from a common cause only if there is some proper
effectum magis determinet quam ad illum, sequitur quod necesse est, principle which determines that common cause to produce one effect
praeter potentiam rationalem, quae est communis ad duo contraria, poni rather than the other, it follows that it is necessary to posit, in addition
aliquid, quod appropriet eam ad alterum faciendum ad hoc quod exeat in to the rational power which is common to two contrary effects,
actum. Hoc autem est appetitus aut prohaeresis, idest electio something else which particularizes it to one of them in order that it
quorumcumque, idest electio quae pertinet ad rationem. Quod enim may proceed to act. And this is appetite or choice, i.e., the choosing
aliquis considerat, hoc facit; ita tamen si existit in dispositione, qua est of one of the two, or the choice which involves reason; for it is what a
potens agere, et passivum adsit. Unde sicut potens potentia irrationali man intends that he does, although this occurs only if he is in that state
necessario agit, passivo appropinquante; ita omne potens secundum in which he is capable of acting and the patient is present. Hence, just
rationem, necesse est quod faciat quando desiderat illud cuius habet as an irrational potency which is capable of acting must act when its
potentiam, et eo modo quo habet. Habet autem potentiam faciendi cum passive object comes close to it, in a similar fashion every rational
passivum praesens fuerit, et ita se habeat quod possit pati; aliter facere potency must act (a) when it desires the object of which it has the
non posset. potency, and (b) in the way in which it has it. And it has the power of
acting when the patient is present and is so disposed that it can be acted
upon; otherwise it could not act.

1821. For it is unnecessary (766).

Secundo ibi, nullo namque respondet tacitae quaestioni. Posset enim Second, he answers an implied question. For since he had said that
aliquis quaerere, quare, cum dixerit quod omne potens secundum everything capable of acting as a result of a rational plan, when it desires
rationem quando desiderat, necessario agit passivo praesente, non addit, something of which it is the potency, acts of necessity on the patient
si nihil prohibet exterius. Sed ipse respondet, quod illud, scilicet nullo before it, someone could ask why he did not add this qualification,
exteriorum prohibente, non oportet addere. Dictum est enim quod namely, when nothing external hinders it; for it has been said that it
necesse est agere si habeat potentiam, quae est sufficiens ad faciendum. must act if it has sufficient power to act. But this does not occur in any
Sed hoc non est quolibet modo; sed quando illud quod habet potentiam, and every way, but only when the thing having the potency is disposed
aliquo modo se habet: et in hoc excluduntur ea quae exterius prohibent. in some particular way; and in this statement external obstacles are
Nam ea quae exterius prohibent, removent aliqua eorum quae posita sunt excluded. For the things which hinder it externally remove some of it
superius in determinatione communi possibilis; ut scilicet vel non sit desires, and assuming that some the qualifications laid down in the
possibile tunc, vel non possibile hoc modo, vel aliquid huiusmodi. common definition of the capable or possible, so that it is not capable at
this time or in this way or the like.

1822. And for this (767).

Tertio ibi, propter quod docet evitare inconveniens, quod primo Third, he instructs us to avoid the absurd conclusions which he first said
sequebatur, scilicet quod potentia rationalis simul faceret contraria. Non would follow, namely, that a rational potency would produce contrary
enim sequitur quod, si necesse est quod faciat potentia rationalis quod effects at the same time. For if it is necessary that a rational potency
desiderat, et dato quod aliqui simul velint secundum rationem, aut should do what it should wish either by reason or by sense appetite, and
cupiant secundum appetitum sensitivum, facere duo diversa aut granted that it should wish to do two different or contrary things at the
contraria, quod propter hoc faciant. Non enim sic habent potentiam same time, it does not follow for this reason that they will do them. For
contrariorum, quod simul contraria faciant; sed sic faciunt, sicut habent they do not have power over contrary effects in such a way that they
potentiam, ut dictum est. may do contrary things at the same time; but they act according to the
way in which they have a potency, as has been explained (1816-20).


Actuality and Its Various Meanings

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 6: 1048a 25-1048b 36

, 768. Since we have dealt with the kind of potency which is related to
. motion, let us now determine about actuality both what it is and what
, kind of thing it is. For in making our distinctions it will become
evident at the same time with regard to the potential not only that we
speak of the potential as that which is disposed by nature to move
, [30] , something else or be moved by something else, either in an
. unqualified sense or in some special way, but also that we use the word
in a different sense as well. And for this reason we will also come
upon these points in making our investigations.

769. Now actuality is the existence of a thing not in the sense in which
: we say that a thing exists potentially, as when we say that Mercury is
, , potentially in the wood, and a half in the whole, because it can be
, : [35] . separated from it, or as we say that one who is not theorizing is a man
of science if he is able to theorize; but in the sense in which each of
these exists actually.

, 770. What we mean becomes evident in particular cases by induction,

, and we should not look for the boundaries of every thing, but perceive
, [1048] [1] what is proportional; for it is as one who is building to one capable of
, , building, and as one who is awake to one who is asleep, and as one
, who sees to one whose eyes are closed but who has the power of sight,
. [5] and as that which is separated out of matter to matter, and as that which
. has been worked on to that which has not; and let actuality be defined
by one member of this division and potency by the other.

, 771. However, things are not all said to be actual in the same way, but
, : proportionally, as this is in that or to that; indeed, some are as motion
. to potency, and others as substance to some matter.

[10] , , 772. But the infinite and the void and all other such things are said to
<> , exist potentially and actually in a different sense from that which
. applies to many beings, for example, from that which sees or walks or
( , is visible. For these things can be verified, and verified without
): [15] qualification; for what is visible is so designated sometimes because
, . it is being seen and sometimes because it is capable of being seen. But
, the infinite does not exist potentially in the sense that it will ever have
. actual separate existence, but it exists potentially only in knowledge.
For since the process of division never comes to an end, this shows
that this actuality exists potentially, but not that it ever exists
separately. Therefore, regarding actuality, both what it is and what
kind of thing it is will be evident to us from these and similar

, [20] [],
, , ( ): <>
[] . < ,> < ,> , [25]
: , . , ,
, . <> , . ,
: [30] , . , ,
, , : , .
[35] , .


Kinds of act

Postquam determinavit de potentia, hic determinat de actu; et dividitur in 1823. Having drawn his conclusions about potency, Aristotle now
duas partes. In prima determinat quid est actus. In secunda, quando establishes the truth about actuality; and this is divided into two parts.
aliquid est in potentia ad actum, ibi, quando autem potentia. In the first he establishes what actuality is. In the second (1832) he
establishes what is true when something is in potency to actuality.

Et circa primum duo facit. Primo continuat se ad praecedentia; dicens, In regard to the first he does two things. First, he links this up with the
quod quia dictum est de potentia quae invenitur in rebus mobilibus, quae preceding discussion. He says that, since we have dealt with the kind of
scilicet est principium motus active et passive, oportet determinare quid potency which is found in mobile things, i.e., the kind which is an active
est actus, et qualiter se habeat ad potentiam: quia per hoc simul or passive principle of motion, we must now explain what actuality is
manifestum erit de potentia, cum diviserimus actum. Actus enim non and how it is related to potency; because when we will have
tantum invenitur in rebus mobilibus, sed etiam in rebus immobilibus. distinguished the kinds of actuality, the truth about potency will become
evident from this at the same time. For actuality is found not only in
mobile things but also in immobile ones.

Ex quo manifestum est, cum potentia dicatur ad actum, quod active 1824. And since potency is referred to actuality, it is evident from this
possibile vel potens, non solum dicatur quod est natum movere active, that capability or potency taken in reference to action is attributed not
vel moveri ab alio passive, aut simpliciter, secundum quod dicitur only (1) to something that is naturally disposed (+) to move something
potentia respectu actionis aut passionis communiter, aut modo quodam, else actively or be moved by something else passively, either in an
secundum quod potentia dicitur respectu eius quod est bene agere aut unqualified sense, inasmuch as potency is referred alike to acting and
bene pati; sed etiam dicetur possibile vel potens aliter secundum ordinem being acted upon, or in some special way, inasmuch as potency is
ad actum qui est sine motu. Licet enim nomen actus a motu originem referred to what is able to act or be acted upon well; but (2) capability
sumpserit, ut supra dictum est, non tamen solum motus dicitur actus; unde or potency is also referred to that actuality which is devoid of (~)
nec dicitur solum possibile in ordine ad motum. Et ideo oportet motion. For although the word actuality is derived from motion, as was
inquirendo de his tractare. explained above (1805), it is still not motion alone that is designated as
actuality. Hence, neither is potency referred only to motion. It is
therefore necessary to inquire about these things in our investigations.

1825. Now actuality (769).

Secundo ibi, est autem determinat de actu. Et primo ostendit quid sit Second, he establishes the truth about actuality. First, he shows what
actus. Secundo quomodo diversimode dicatur in diversis, ibi, dicuntur actuality is; and second (1828), how it is used in different senses in the
autem actu. case of different things (However, things).

Circa primum duo facit. Primo ostendit quid est actus; dicens, quod actus In regard to the first he does two things. First, he shows what actuality
est, quando res est, nec tamen ita est sicut quando est in potentia. Dicimus is. He says that a thing is actual when it exists but not in the way in
enim in ligno esse imaginem Mercurii potentia, et non actu, antequam which it exists when it is potential. (a) For we say that the image of
lignum sculpatur; sed si sculptum fuit, tunc dicitur esse in actu imago Mercury is in the wood potentially and not actually before the wood is
Mercurii in ligno. Et similiter in aliquo toto continuo pars eius. Pars enim, carved; but once it has been carved the image of Mercury is then said
puta medietas, est in potentia, inquantum possibile est ut pars illa to be in the wood actually. (b) And in the same way we say that any
auferatur a toto per divisionem totius; sed diviso toto, iam erit pars illa in part of a continuous whole is in that whole, because any part (for
actu. Et similiter sciens et non speculans, est potens considerare sine example, the middle one) is present potentially inasmuch as it is
consideratione; sed hoc scilicet speculari sive considerare, est esse in possible for it to be separated from the whole by dividing the whole;
actu. but after the whole has been divided, that part will now be present
actually. (c) The same thing is true of one who has a science and is not
speculating, for he is capable of speculating even though he is not
actually doing so; but to be speculating or contemplating is to be in a
state of actuality.

1826. What we mean (770).

Deinde cum dicit palam autem respondet quaestioni tacitae. Posset enim Here he answers an implied question; for someone could ask him to
aliquis quaerere ab eo, ut ostenderet quid sit actus per definitionem. Sed explain what actuality is by giving its definition. And he answers by
ipse respondet dicens, quod inducendo in singularibus per exempla saying that it is possible to show what we mean (i.e., by actuality) in
manifestari potest illud quod volumus dicere, scilicet quid est actus, et the case of singular things by proceeding inductively from examples,
non oportet cuiuslibet rei quaerere terminum, idest definitionem. Nam and we should not look for the boundaries of everything, i.e., the
prima simplicia definiri non possunt, cum non sit in definitionibus abire definition. For simple notions cannot be defined, since an infinite
in infinitum. Actus autem est de primis simplicibus; unde definiri non regress in definitions is impossible. But actuality is one of those first
potest. simple notions. Hence it cannot be defined.

Sed per proportionem aliquorum duorum adinvicem, potest videri quid 1827. And he says that we can see what actuality is by means of the
est actus. Ut si accipiamus proportionem aedificantis ad aedificabile, et proportion existing between two things. For example, we may take the
vigilantis ad dormientem, et eius qui videt ad eum qui habet clausos proportion of one who is building to one capable of building; and of
oculos cum habeat potentiam visivam, et eius quod segregatur a materia, one who is awake to one asleep; and of one who sees to one whose eyes
idest per operationem artis vel naturae formatur, et ita a materia informi are closed although he has the power of sight; and of that which is
segregatur; et similiter per separationem eius quod est praeparatum, ad separated out of matter, i.e., what is formed by means of the operation
illud quod non est praeparatum, sive quod est elaboratum ad id quod non of art or of nature, and thus is separated out of unformed matter, to what
est elaboratum. Sed quorumlibet sic differentium altera pars erit actus, et is not separated out of unformed matter. And similarly we may take the
altera potentia. proportion of what has been prepared to what has not been prepared, or
of what has been worked on to what has not been worked on. But in
each of these opposed pairs one member will be actual and the other

Et ita proportionaliter ex particularibus exemplis possumus venire ad And thus by proceeding from particular cases we can come to an
cognoscendum quid sit actus et potentia. understanding in a proportional way of what actuality and potency are.

1828. However, things (771).

Deinde cum dicit dicuntur autem ostendit, quod diversimode dicatur Then he shows that the term actuality is used in different senses; and he
actus. Et ponit duas diversitates: quarum prima est, quod actus dicitur vel gives two different senses in which it is used. (1) First, actuality means
actus, vel operatio. Ad hanc diversitatem actus insinuandam dicit primo, action, or operation. And with a view to introducing the different
quod non omnia dicimus similiter esse actu, sed hoc diversimode. Et haec senses of actuality he says, first, that we do not say that all things are
diversitas considerari potest per diversas proportiones. Potest enim sic actual in the same way but in different ones; and this difference can be
accipi proportio, ut dicamus, quod sicut hoc est in hoc, ita hoc in hoc. considered according to different proportions. For a proportion can be
Utputa visus sicut est in oculo, ita auditus in aure. Et per hunc modum taken as meaning that, just as one thing is in another, so a third is in a
proportionis accipitur comparatio substantiae, idest formae, ad materiam; fourth; for example, just as sight is in the eye, so hearing is in the ear.
nam forma in materia dicitur esse. And the relation of substance (i.e., of form) to matter is taken according
to this kind of proportion; for form is said to be in matter.

Alius modus proportionis est, ut dicamus quod sicut habet se hoc ad hoc, 1829. There is another meaning of proportion inasmuch as we say that,
ita hoc ad hoc; puta sicut se habet visus ad videndum, ita auditus ad just as this is related to that, so another thing is related to something
audiendum. Et per hunc modum proportionis accipitur comparatio motus else; for example, just as the power of sight is related to the act of
ad potentiam motivam, vel cuiuscumque operationis ad potentiam seeing, so too the power of hearing is related to the act of hearing. And
operativam. the relation of motion to motive power or of any operation to an
operative potency is taken according to this kind of proportion.

1830. But the infinite (772).

Secundo ibi aliter autem ponit aliam diversitatem actus; dicens, quod (2) Second, he gives the other sense in which the word actuality is used.
infinitum, et inane sive vacuum, et quaecumque huiusmodi sunt, aliter He says that the infinite and the empty or the void, and all things of this
dicuntur esse in potentia et actu, quam multa alia entia. Utputa videns, et kind, are said to exist potentially and actually in a different sense from
vadens, et visibile. Huiusmodi enim convenit aliquando simpliciter esse many other beings; for example, what sees and what walks and what is
vel in potentia tantum, vel in actu tantum; sicut visibile in actu tantum, visible. For it is fitting that things of this kind should sometimes exist
quando videtur, et in potentia tantum, quando potest videri et non videtur. in an unqualified sense either only potentially or only actually; for
example, the visible is only actual when it is seen, and it is only
potential when it is capable of being seen but is not actually being seen.

Sed infinitum non ita dicitur in potentia, ut quandoque sit separatum in 1831. But the infinite is not said to exist potentially in the sense that it
actu tantum. Sed actus et potentia distinguuntur ratione et cognitione in may sometimes have separate actual existence alone; but in the case of
infinito. Puta in infinito secundum divisionem dicitur esse actus cum the infinite, actuality and potentiality are distinguished only in thought
potentia simul, eo quod nunquam deficit potentia dividendi: quando enim and in knowledge. For example, in the case of the infinite in the sense
dividitur in actu, adhuc est ulterius divisibile in potentia. Nunquam autem of the infinitely divisible, actuality and potentiality are said to exist at
separatur actus a potentia, ut scilicet quandoque sit totum divisum in actu, the same time, because the capacity of the infinite for being divided
et non sit ulterius divisibile in potentia. never comes to an end; for when it is actually divided it is still
potentially further divisible. However, it is never actually separated
from potentiality in such a way that the whole is sometimes actually
divided and is incapable of any further division.

Et similiter est considerandum in vacuo. Possibile enim est locum And the same thing is true of the void; for it is possible for a place to be
evacuari ab hoc corpore, non ut sit totum vacuum: remanet enim plenus emptied of a particular body, but not so as to be a complete void, for it
alio corpore. Et sic semper in vacuo remanet potentia coniuncta actui. continues to be filled by another body; and thus in the void potentiality
always continues to be joined to actuality.

Et idem est in motu, et tempore, et huiusmodi aliis, quae non habent esse The same thing is true of motion and time and other things of this kind
perfectum. which do not have complete being.

Deinde in fine epilogat quod dixit. Et est planum in litera. Then at the end he makes a summary of what has been said. This is
evident in the text.

Matter Is Potential When Ultimately Disposed for Actuality. The Use of the Term Matter in an Extended Sense

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 7: 1048b 37-1049b 3

, 773. However, we must determine when each thing is in a state of

. , potency and when it is not; for a thing is not potential at just any time
: . [1049] [1] at all; for example, in the process of generation is earth. potentially a
; , , man? Or is it not, but rather when it has become seed? But perhaps
; even this is not true in an unqualified sense.

, 774. Therefore, in like manner, it is not everything which will be

, [5] . healed by the art of medicine or by chance, but there is something
, which is capable of being healed, and this is what is potentially
, healthy. And the intelligible expression of what comes to exist
, : actually after existing potentially as a result of intellect is that it is
: [10] something which when willed comes to be if no external impediment
, , hinders it. And in the other case, namely, in that of the thing which
: gets well by itself, health exists potentially when nothing within the
. , thing hinders it. The same is true of those things which are potentially
: ( [15] a house; for if there is nothing in these things, i.e., in the matter,
<> ), which prevents them from becoming a house, and if there is nothing
, : , which must be added or taken away or changed, this is potentially a
( ). house. The same is true of all other things which have an external
principle of generation. And in the case of those things which have
their principle of change within themselves, a thing will also be
potentially any of those things which it will be of itself if nothing
external hinders this. For example, seed is not yet such, because it
must be present in some other thing and be changed. But when it is
already such as a result of its own principle, it is now this thing
potentially; but in the other state it needs another principle; for
example, earth is not yet a statue potentially, but when changed it
becomes bronze.
775. Now it seems that the thing of which we are speaking is not a
, [20] , that but a thaten; for example, a chest is not wood but wooden; and
wood is not earth but earthen. And the same thing would be true if
. : earth were not something else but a thaten. And that other thing is
, always potentially (in an unqualified sense) the thing which follows
. [25] it, as a chest is not earth or earthen but wooden; for this is potentially
, : , a chest and the matter of a chest; and wood in an unqualified sense
, . is the matter of a chest in an unqualified sense; but this wood is the
, : matter of this chest. And if there is some first thing which is not said
to be thaten as regards something else, this is prime matter; for
example, if earth is of air, and air is not fire but of fire, then fire is
prime matter, and is a particular thing. For a universal and a subject
differ in this respect that a subject is a particular thing.

[30] , 776. For example, the subject of modifications is man, body and
( animal, whereas the modification is musical or white. And when
, music comes to a subject, the subject is not called music but musical;
, , and a man is not called whiteness but white; and he is not called
): walking or motion but what walks or is moved, like a thaten.

, : [35] 777. Therefore all those modifying attributes which are predicated in
, . this way have substance as their ultimate subject; whereas those
: which are not predicated in this way, but the predicate is a form or a
[1049] [1] . particular thing, have matter and material substance as their ultimate
, . subject. Therefore it is only fitting that the term thaten happens to
be predicated of matter and the modifying attributes; for both are
indeterminate. It has been stated, then, when a thing is said to exist
potentially, and when it is not.

Potency proximate to act

Postquam manifestavit philosophus quid est actus, hic intendit ostendere 1832. Having shown what actuality is, here the Philosopher intends to
quando et in quali dispositione existens aliquid dicatur esse in potentia ad show both when and in virtue of what sort of disposition a thing is said
actum. Et circa hoc duo facit. to be in a state of potency for actuality. In regard to this he does two

Primo dicit de quo est intentio, dicens, quod determinandum est quando First (1832), he states what he intends to do. He says that it is
aliquid est in potentia, et quando non. Non enim quandocumque, et necessary to determine when a thing is in potency and when it is not.
qualitercumque dispositum, aliquid potest dici esse in potentia, etiam ad For it is not at just any time and when disposed in just any way that a
id quod fit ex eo. Nunquam enim poterit dici, quod terra sit in potentia thing can be said to be in potentiality even to what comes from it; for
homo. Manifestum est enim quod non; sed magis tunc dicitur esse in it could never be said that earth is potentially a man, since obviously
potentia homo, quando ex praecedenti materia iam factum est sperma. Et it is not; but it is rather said to be potentially a man when the seed has
forte neque adhuc est in potentia homo, ut infra patebit. already been generated from a preceding matter. And perhaps it never
is potentially a man, as will be shown below.

1833. Therefore, in like manner (774).

Secundo ibi, quemadmodum igitur solvit propositam quaestionem. Et circa Second, he answers the question which was raised; and in regard to
hoc duo facit. Primo ostendit in quali dispositione materia existens, dicatur this he does two things. First, he explains the sort of disposition which
esse in potentia ad actum. Secundo quod a materia in tali dispositione matter must have in order to be said to be in potency to actuality.
denominatur solum id quod est in materia, ibi, videtur autem quod dicimus. Second (1839), he shows that it is only what is in matter that gets its
name from matter disposed in some particular way.

Circa primum, considerandum est, quod sicut septimo superius dixit, In regard to the first it must be understood, as he said above in Book
quarumdam artium effectus contingunt etiam sine arte. Domus enim non VII (1411), that the effects of certain arts may also come about without
fit sine arte, sed sanitas fit sine arte medicinae ex sola operatione naturae. art; for while a house is not produced without art, health may be
Et licet id quod fit a natura, non sit fortuitum neque casuale, eo quod natura produced without the art of medicine through the operation of nature
est causa agens per se, fortuna vero et casus est causa agens per accidens, alone. And even though what comes to be by nature may not be
tamen ex eo quod ille qui sanatur a natura, sanatur praeter intentionem fortuitous or a result of chance, since nature is an efficient cause in the
artis, dicitur sanari a fortuna. Nihil enim prohibet aliquid non esse proper sense, whereas fortune or chance is an efficient cause in an
fortuitum in se, quod tamen dicitur fortuitum per comparationem ad accidental sense, nevertheless, because the one who is healed by
aliquem, qui non considerat causam per se talis effectus. nature is healed without the application of any art, he is said to be
healed by chance. For nothing prevents an effect which is not
fortuitous in itself from being said to be fortuitous in relation to
someone who does not consider the proper cause of such an effect.

Dicit ergo, quod non quicumque vel in qualibet dispositione existens, 1834. Hence he says that it is not just anyone at all or anyone disposed
sanatur a medicina vel a fortuna; sed est aliquod possibile in determinata in any way at all who is healed by medicine or by chance; but it is
dispositione, quod sanetur vel a natura vel ab arte. Quibuslibet enim activis someone having the capability by reason of a definite disposition who
respondent determinata passiva. Illud autem possibile, quod unica actione is healed either by nature or by art; for to all active principles there
natura vel ars potest in actum sanitatis reducere, est sanum in potentia. correspond definite passive principles. And it is the thing having this
capability, which nature or art can bring to a state of actual health by
a single action, that is potentially healthy.

Et ut plenius cognoscatur, subiungit definitionem huius possibilis, et 1835. And in order that this kind of capability or potency may be more
quantum ad operationem artis, et quantum ad operationem naturae. Dicit fully known he adds its definition both with reference to the operation
ergo quod est possibile, quod ex potentia ente, ens fit actu ab intellectu, of art and to that of nature. (1) Hence he says that the capable or
sine arte. Terminus enim, idest definitio est quando statim cum vult artifex potential is what comes to exist actually from existing potentially as a
facit id esse actu, si nihil exterius prohibeat. Et tunc potentia dicitur esse result of intellect or art. For the intelligible expression, or
sanum, quia per unam operationem artis fit sanum. In illis autem, quae definition, of the capable is this: it is something which the artist
sanantur per naturam, dicitur esse aliquid in potentia sanum, quando non immediately brings to actuality when he wills it if no external
est aliquid prohibens sanitatem, quod debeat moveri vel transmutari prius impediment hinders it. And the patient is then said to be potentially
quam intrinseca virtus sanans effectum habeat in sanando. healthy, because he becomes healthy by a single action of art. (2)
However, in the case of those who are healed by nature, each is said
to be potentially healthy when there is nothing hindering health which
has to be removed or changed before the healing power within the
patient produces its effect in the act of healing.

Et sicut diximus de sanatione quae fit ab arte, ita potest dici de aliis quae 1836. Now what we have said about the act of healing, which is
per artem fiunt. Nam tunc materia est in potentia domus, quando nihil brought about by the art of healing, can also be said about the other
eorum quae sunt in materia, prohibet domum fieri statim una actione, nec activities produced by the other arts. For matter is potentially a house
est aliquid quod oporteat addi, vel auferri, vel mutari, antequam materia when none of the things present in the matter prevent the house from
formetur in domum. Sicut lutum oportet transmutari, antequam ex eo fiant being brought into being immediately by a single action, and when
lateres: ex arboribus autem oportet aliquid auferri per dolationem, et addi there is nothing that should be added or taken away or changed before
per compaginationem, ad hoc quod componatur domus. Unde lutum et the matter is formed into a house, as clay must be changed before
arbores non sunt potentia domus, sed lateres et ligna iam praeparata. bricks are made from it; and as something must be taken away from
trees by hewing them and something added by joining them so that a
house may be brought into being. Clay and trees, then, are not
potentially houses, but bricks and wood already prepared are.

Et similiter est in aliis; sive habeant principium perfectionis extra, sicut 1837. And the same holds true in the case of other things whether their
sunt artificialia; sive intra, sicut naturalia. Et tunc semper sunt in potentia principle of perfection is outside of them, as in the case of artificial
ad actum, quando nullo exterius prohibente, per proprium principium things, or within them, as in the case of natural things. And they are
activum possunt reduci in actum. always in potency to actuality when they can be brought to actuality
by their proper efficient principle without any external thing hindering

Tale autem nondum est sperma. Oportet enim quod mediantibus However, seed is not such, for an animal must be produced from it
permutationibus multis ex eo fiat animal. Sed quando iam per proprium through many changes; but when by its proper active principle, i.e.,
principium activum potest fieri tale, scilicet actu existens, tunc iam est in something in a state of actuality, it can already become such, it is then
potentia. already in potency.

Sed illa, quae oportet transmutari antequam sint statim reducibilia in 1838. But those things which have to be changed before they are
actum, indigent alio principio activo, scilicet praeparante materiam, quod immediately capable of being brought to actuality require a different
interdum est aliud a perficiente, quod inducit ultimam formam. Sicut patet efficient principle, namely, the one preparing the matter, which is
quod terra nondum est in potentia statua; non enim una actione nec uno sometimes different from the one finishing it off, which induces the
agente reducitur in actum; sed prius per naturam transmutatur, et fit aes, et final form. For example, it is obvious that earth is not yet potentially a
postea per artem fit statua. statue, for it is not brought to actuality by a single action or by a single
agent; but first it is changed by nature and becomes bronze, and
afterwards it becomes a statue by art.

1839. Now it seems (775).

Deinde cum dicit videtur autem ostendit, quod a tali materia, quae est in Here he shows that a compound derives its name from such matter
potentia ad actum, denominatur mixtum. Et circa hoc tria facit. which is in potency to actuality; and in regard to this he does three

Primo ostendit qualiter mixtum a materia denominatur; dicens quod id First, he shows how a compound derives its name from matter, saying
quod fit a materia, non dicitur hoc, sed ecininum, quod Latine non dicitur, that what is produced from matter is not called a that but a that-en
sed per consuetudinem Graecum est denominativum ad significandum (ecininum). This expression is not used in the Latin but it is used
illud, quod est ex altero tamquam ex materia: ac si dicatur: materia non according to the custom of the Greeks to designate what comes from
praedicatur in abstracto de eo quod est ex materia, sed denominative. Sicut something else as from matter, as if to say that matter is not predicated
arca non est lignum, sed lignea, et lignum non est terra, sed terreum. Et abstractly of what comes from it, but derivatively, as a chest is not
iterum, si terra habeat aliam materiam priorem, terra non erit illud, sed wood but wooden; and as wood is not earth but earthen. And, again, if
ecininum, idest non praedicatur de terra in abstracto, sed denominative. earth should have another matter prior to it, earth would not be that
matter but that-en, i.e., it will not be predicated of earth abstractly
but derivatively.

Ita tamen fiat talis praedicatio, quod semper id quod est in potentia 1840. Yet such predication is made, because what is potential in a
secundum modum determinatum, praedicatur de eo, quod est immediate definite way is always predicated of the thing which immediately
posterius. Ut terra, quae non potest dici potentia arca, non praedicatur de comes after it. For example, earth, which cannot be said to be
arca, nec in abstracto nec denominative. Arca enim neque est terra, neque potentially a chest, is not predicated of a chest either abstractly or
terrea, sed lignea. Lignum enim est in potentia arca et materia arcae. derivatively; for a chest is neither earth nor earthen but wooden,
Universaliter est quidem lignum arcae, particulariter vero hoc lignum because wood is potentially a chest and the matter of a chest. Wood in
huius arcae. general is the matter of a chest in general, and this particular wood is
the matter of this particular chest.

Si vero est aliquid primum, quod non dicitur de alio ecininum, idest quod 1841. But if there is some first thing which is not referred to something
non habet aliquid quod de eo quidem denominative praedicetur modo else as a that-en, i.e., something which does not have something else
praedicto, hoc erit materia prima. Sicut si aer est materia terrae, ut quidam predicated of it derivatively in the above way, this will be first matter.
dixerunt, aer praedicabitur de terra denominative, ut dicatur terra est aerea. For example, if air is the matter of earth, as some have said (86), air
Et similiter dicetur aer igneus et non ignis, si ignis est materia eius. Ignis will be predicated derivatively of earth, so that earth will be said to be
autem, si non denominatur ab aliqua priori materia, erit materia prima, of air (or airy). And similarly air will be said to be of fire and not fire,
secundum positionem Heracliti. Sed hic oportet adiungere: si sit aliquid if fire is its matter. But if fire does not get its name from any prior
existens, ad differentiam universalis; nam universale praedicatur etiam de matter, it will be first matter according to the position of Heraclitus
aliis, et alia non praedicantur de eo; nec tamen est materia, cum non sit (87). But here it is necessary to add if it is something subsistent in
aliquid subsistens. Universale enim et subiectum differunt per hoc, quod order to distinguish it from a universal; for a universal is predicated of
subiectum est hoc aliquid, non autem universale. other things but other things are not predicated of ityet it is not
matter, since it is not something subsistent. For a universal and a
subject differ in that a subject is a particular thing whereas a universal
is not.

1842. For example (776).

Secundo ibi, ut puta ponit similitudinem praedicationis denominativae: Second, he gives an example of derivative predication, saying that just
dicens, quod sicut id quod subiicitur passionibus, ut homo, corpus et as the subject of modifications, for example, man, body, or animal, has
animal, recipit denominativam praedicationem passionum: sic, id quod est modifications predicated of it derivatively, in a similar fashion matter
ex materia, recipit denominativam praedicationem materiae. Nam passio is predicated derivatively of that which comes from matter. Now the
est musicum et album. Dicitur autem subiectum, cui advenit musica, non modification is musical and white; but the subject to which music
esse musica in abstracto, sed musicum denominatione: et homo non dicitur accrues is not called music in the abstract, but is called musical
albedo, sed album. Neque etiam homo dicitur ambulatio aut motus derivatively; and man is not called whiteness but white. Nor again is
abstractive, sed ambulans aut motum, ut ecininum, idest denominatum. man called walking or motion in the abstract, but what walks or is
moved as a that-en, i.e., what gets a name [from something else].

1843. Therefore all (777).

Tertio ibi, quaecumque quidem ponit comparationem utriusque Third, he compares both methods of giving names to things. He says
denominationis: et dicit, quod quaecumque sic praedicantur denominative, that all those names which are predicated derivatively in this way, as
sicut ista accidentia, ultimum, quod sustentat ea, est substantia: sed the accidents mentioned, have substance as the ultimate subject which
quaecumque non praedicantur sic denominative, sed id quod praedicatur sustains them; but in all those cases in which the predicate is not
denominative, est quaedam species, et hoc aliquid, ut lignum aut terra, derivative but is a form or a particular thing, such as wood or earth, in
ultimum in talibus praedicationibus quod sustentat alia, est materia et such predications the ultimate subject sustaining the rest is matter or
substantia materialis. Et convenienter accidit dici ecininum, idest material substance. And it is only fitting that the term that-en
denominative secundum materiam et passiones, idest accidentia, quae happens to be predicated derivatively of matter and the modifying
ambo sunt indeterminata. Nam et accidens determinatur et definitur per attributes, i.e., accidents, both of which are indeterminate. For an
accident is both made determinate and defined by means of its subject,
subiectum, et materia per id ad quod est in potentia. Ultimo epilogat quod and matter by means of that to which it is in potency. Lastly he
dictum est, et est manifestum. summarizes his remarks, and this part is evident.


The Conceptual and Temporal Priority of Actuality to Potency and Vice Versa

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 8: 1049b 4-1050a 3

, [5] 778. Since we have established the different senses in which the term
. prior is employed (457), it is evident that actuality is prior to potency.
, And by potency I mean not only that definite kind which is said to be
. [: a principle of change in another thing inasmuch as it is other, but in
] : , [10] general every principle of motion or rest. For nature also belongs to
. the same thing, since it is in the same genus as potency; for it is a
: , . principle of motion, although not in another thing but in something
inasmuch as it is the same. Therefore actuality is prior to all such
potency both in intelligibility and in substance; and in time it is prior
in one sense, and in another it is not.

, ( 779. It is evident, then, that actuality is prior to potency in

, intelligibility; for what is potential in a primary sense is potential
, [15] , because it is possible for it to become actual. I mean, for example,
: , that it is what is capable of building that can build, and what is capable
): of theorizing that can theorize, and what is capable of being seen that
can be seen. And the same reasoning also applies in the case of other
things; and therefore it is necessary that the conception or knowledge
of the one should precede that of the other.
: , 780. And actuality is prior to potency in time in the sense that an
. [20] actuality which is specifically but not numerically the same as a
potency is prior to it. I mean that the matter and & seed and the thing
, capable of seeing, which are a man and grain and seeing potentially
, : but not yet actually, are prior in time to this man and to grain and to
: the act of seeing which exist actually. But prior to these are other
[25] , actually existing things from which these have been produced; for
, , what is actual is always produced from something potential by means
: . of something which is actual. Thus man comes from man and
, musician from musician; for there is always some primary mover, and
. a mover is already something actual. And in our previous discussions
(598; 611) concerning substance it was stated that everything which
comes to be is produced from something, and this is specifically the
same as itself.

[30] 781. And for this reason it seems to be impossible that anyone should
: be a builder who has not built something, or that anyone should be a
, . harpist who has not played the harp. And the same holds true of all
others who are learning; for one who is learning to play the harp
learns to play it by playing it. And the same holds true in other cases.

782. From this arose the sophistical argument that one who does not
: . have a science will be doing the thing which is the object of this
science; for one who is learning a science does not have it.

[35] 783. But since some part of what is coming to be has come to be, and
( ) in general some part of what is being moved has been moved (as
[1050] [1] . became evident in our discussions on motion), perhaps one who is
learning a science must have some part of that science. Hence it is
also clear from this that actuality is prior to potency both in the
process of generation and in time.


Priority of act in time

Postquam determinavit philosophus de potentia et actu, hic comparat ea 1844. Having established the truth about potency and actuality, the
adinvicem: et dividitur in tres partes. In prima comparat ea adinvicem Philosopher now compares one with the other; and this is divided into
secundum prius et posterius. In secunda secundum bene et male, ibi, two parts. In the first part he compares them from the viewpoint of
quod autem melior et honorabilior. In tertia secundum cognitionem veri priority and posteriority; in the second (1883), in terms of being better
et falsi, ibi, inveniuntur autem et diagrammata. or worse; and in the third (1888), in reference to knowledge of the true
and the false.

Circa primum duo facit. Primo proponit quod intendit: dicens, quod cum In regard to the first he does two things. First, he explains his aim, saying
supra determinatum sit in quinto quot modis prius dicitur, manifestum that, since it has been established above, in Book V (936), that the term
est quod actus est prior potentia diversis modis. Loquimur autem nunc prior is used in different senses, it is evident that actuality is prior to
de potentia non solum secundum quod est principium motus in alio, potency in different ways. And we are now speaking of potency not only
secundum quod est aliud, ut supra definita est potentia activa; sed inasmuch as it is a principle of motion in some other thing as other, as
universaliter de omni principio, sive sit principium motivum, sive active potency was defined above (1776), but universally of every
immobilitatis et quietis, aut operationis absque motu existentis, principle, whether it be a principle that causes motion or a principle of
cuiusmodi est intelligere, quia et natura ad idem pertinere videtur quod immobility or rest or a principle of action devoid of motion (e.g.,
potentia. understanding), because nature also seems to belong to the same thing
as potency.

Est enim natura in eodem genere cum potentia ipsa, quia utrumque est 1845. For nature is in the same genus as potency itself because each is
principium motus, licet natura non sit principium motus in alio, sed in eo a principle of motion, although nature is not a principle of motion in
in quo est, inquantum huiusmodi, ut manifestatur in secundo some other thing but in the thing in which it is present as such, as is
physicorum. Et tamen natura non solum est principium motus, sed etiam
quietis. Et propter hoc potentia intelligenda est non solum principium made clear in Book Il of the Physics. However, nature is a principle not
motus, sed etiam principium immobilitatis. only of motion but also of immobility.

Omni ergo tali potentia, actus prior est, et ratione, et substantia, et etiam Hence actuality is prior to all such potency both in intelligibility and in
tempore quodammodo, alio vero modo non. substance. And in one sense it is also prior in time, and in another it is

1846. It is evident (779).

Deinde cum dicit ratione quidem secundo ostendit propositum. Et primo, Second he proves his thesis. First, he shows that actuality is prior to
quod actus est prior potentia ratione. Secundo ostendit quomodo est prior potency in intelligibility. Second (1847), he shows how it is prior in
tempore, et quomodo non, ibi, tempore vero prius. Tertio ostendit quod time, and how it is not. Third (1856), he shows how it is prior in
est prior secundum substantiam, ibi, at vero et substantia prius quidem. substance.

Primum sic probatur. Id per quod oportet alterum definiri, est prius eo The first is proved as follows: anything that must be used in defining
ratione; sicut animal prius homine, et subiectum accidente. Sed potentia something else is prior to it in intelligibility, as animal is prior to man
non potest definiri nisi per actum. Nam prima ratio possibilis in hoc and subject to accident. But potency or capability can only be defined
consistit, quod convenit ipsum agere vel esse in actu; sicut aedificator by means of actuality, because the first characteristic of the capable
dicitur qui potest aedificare, et speculator qui potest speculari, et visibile consists in the possibility of its acting or being actual. For example, a
dicitur aliquid quod potest videri, et sic est in aliis. Ergo est necessarium, builder is defined as one who can build, and a theorist as one who can
quod ratio actus praecedat rationem potentiae, et notitia actus notitiam theorize, and the visible as what can be seen; and the same is true in
potentiae. Et propter hoc superius Aristoteles manifestavit potentiam other cases. The concept of actuality must therefore be prior to the
definiendo per actum; actum autem non potuit per aliquod aliud definire, concept of potency, and the knowledge of actuality prior to the
sed solum inductive manifestavit. knowledge of potency. Hence Aristotle explained above what potency
is by defining it in reference to actuality, but he could not define
actuality by means of something else but only made it known

1847. And actuality (780).

Deinde cum dicit tempore vero ostendit quomodo sit actus potentia prior Then he shows how actuality is prior to potency in time, and how it is
tempore, et quomodo non: et circa hoc duo facit. Primo manifestat hoc not. In regard to this he does two things. First, he makes this clear in the
in potentiis passivis. Secundo in potentiis activis quibusdam, ibi, case of passive potencies; and second (1850), in the case of certain
quapropter videtur impossibile. active potencies.

Dicit ergo primo, quod actus est prior tempore potentia; ita tamen quod He accordingly says, (+) first, that actuality is prior to potency in time
idem specie, est prius agens, vel ens actu quam ens in potentia; sed idem in the sense that in the same species the agent, or what is actual, is prior
numero est prius tempore in potentia quam in actu. to what is potential; but (~) in numerically one and the same thing what
is potential is prior in time to what is actual.

Quod sic manifestatur. Si enim accipiamus hunc hominem qui est iam 1848. This is shown as follows: if we take this man who is now actually
actu homo, fuit prius secundum tempus materia, quae erat potentia homo. a man, prior to him in time there was a matter which was potentially a
Et similiter prius tempore fuit semen quod potentia est frumentum, quam man. And similarly seed, which is potentially grain, was prior in time to
frumentum actu, et visivum, idest habens potentiam videndi, quam what is actually grain. And the thing capable of seeing, i.e., having
videns in actu. Sed tamen quaedam existentia in actu fuerunt priora the power of sight, was prior in time to the thing actually seeing. And
secundum tempus in his existentibus in potentia, scilicet agentia, a prior in time to the things having potential being there were certain
quibus reducta sunt in actum. Semper enim oportet quod id quod est in things having actual being, namely, agents, by which the former have
potentia ens, sit actu ens ab agente, quod est actu ens. Unde homo in been brought to actuality. For what exists potentially must always be
potentia fit homo in actu ab homine generante, qui est in actu. Et similiter brought to actuality by an agent, which is an actual being. Hence what
musicum in potentia respicit musicum in actu, discendo a doctore qui est is potentially a man becomes actually a man as a result of the man who
musicus actu. Et ita semper eo quod est in potentia, est aliquid prius quod generates him, who is an actual being; and similarly one who is
movet, et movens est in actu. potentially musical becomes actually musical by learning from a teacher
who is actually musical. And thus in the case of anything potential there
is always some first thing which moves it, and this mover is actual.

Unde relinquitur, quod licet idem numero prius tempore sit in potentia It follows, then, that even though the same thing numerically exists
quam in actu, tamen aliquod ens in actu secundum idem specie, est etiam potentially prior in time to existing actually, there is still also some
prius tempore, quam ens in potentia. actual being of the same species which is prior in time to the one that
exists potentially.
Et quia posset aliquis dubitare de quibusdam quae dixerat, ideo subiungit 1849. And because someone could be perplexed about some of the
ea esse manifesta superius. Dictum est enim in superioribus de statements which he had made, he therefore adds that these have been
substantia, scilicet in septimo libro, quod omne quod fit, fit ex aliquo, explained above; for it was pointed out in the foregoing discussions
sicut ex materia, et ab aliquo, sicut ab agente. Et hoc etiam agens est about substancein Book VII (1383; 1417)that everything which
specie idem cum eo quod fit. Quod manifestum est in generationibus comes to be comes from something as matter, and by something as an
univocis. Sed in generationibus aequivocis oportet esse aliquam agent. And it was also stated above that this agent is specifically the
similitudinem generantis ad genitum, ut ibidem ostensum est. same as the thing which comes to be. This was made clear in the case
of univocal generations, but in the case of equivocal generations there
must also be some likeness between the generator and the thing
generated, as was shown elsewhere (1444-47).

1850. And for this reason (781).

Deinde cum dicit quapropter et ostendit ordinem actus et potentiae He explains the temporal sequence of actuality and potency in the case
secundum tempus in quibusdam potentiis activis: et circa hoc tria facit. of certain active potencies; and in regard to this he does three things.

Primo ostendit propositum. Dictum enim fuit supra, quod quaedam First, he explains what he intends to do. For it was said above (1815)
potentiae operativae sunt quas oportet accipere praeagentes sive that there are certain operative potencies whose very actions must be
praeexercitantes se in eorum actionibus. Sicut quae acquiruntur per understood to be performed or exercised beforehand, as those acquired
consuetudinem vel disciplinam. Et de his dicit hic quod etiam in eisdem by practice or instruction. And with regard to these he says here that in
secundum numerum, actus praecedit potentiam. Impossibile enim those things which are numerically the same, actuality is also prior
videtur quod aliquis fiat aedificator, qui non prius aedificaverit; aut quod to potency. For it seems impossible that anyone should become a builder
fiat citharaedus, qui non prius citharizaverit. who has not first built something; or that anyone should become a
harpist who has not first played the harp.

Hoc autem inducit concludens ex praemissis. Dictum est enim supra, 1851. He draws this conclusion from the points laid down above; for it
quod potentia musicum fit actu musicum a musico in actu, inquantum was said above (1848) that one who is potentially musical becomes
scilicet ab eo addiscit. Et similiter in aliis est actibus. Addiscere autem actually musical as a result of someone who is actually musical
non poterit artem huiusmodi, nisi exercitando se in actu eius. Nam aliquis meaning that he learns from him; and the same thing holds true of other
citharizando, addiscit citharizare. Et similiter est in aliis artibus. Unde actions. Now one could not learn an art of this kind unless he himself
performed the actions associated with it; for one learns to play the harp
manifestum est quod impossibile est haberi huiusmodi potentias, nisi by playing it. This is also true of the other arts. It has been shown, then,
prius insint actiones earum etiam in eodem secundum numerum. that it is impossible to have potencies of this sort unless their actions are
also first present in one and the same subject numerically.

1852. From this arose (782).

Secundo ibi unde sophisticus ponit quamdam sophisticam obiectionem Second, he raises a sophistical objection against the above view. He says
contra praedicta; dicens, quod quidam sophisticus elenchus factus est, that a sophistical argument arose, i.e., an apparently cogent syllogism
idest syllogismus apparens contradicens veritati, qui talis est. Discens which contradicts the truth, and it runs as follows: one who is learning
artem operatur actionem artis. Sed discens artem non habet artem. Ergo an art exercises the actions of that art. But one who is learning an art
qui non habet scientiam nec artem facit id cuius est scientia aut ars. Quod does not have that art. Hence one who does not have a science or an art
videtur contrarium veritati. is doing the thing which is the object of that science or art. This seems
to be contrary to the truth.

1853. But since some (783).

Tertio ibi, sed quia solvit dictam obiectionem, assignando quoddam quod Third, he answers this objection by stating a position which was
dictum est, et probatum in sexto physicorum. Ostensum est ibi quod discussed and proved in the Physics, Book VI; for there he proved that
omne moveri praecedit motum esse, propter divisionem motus. Oportet being moved is always prior to having been moved, because of the
enim quod quacumque parte motus data, cum divisibilis sit, aliquam division of motion. For whenever any part of a motion is given, since it
partem eius accipi, quae iam peracta est, dum pars motus data peragitur. is divisible, we must be able to pick out some part of it which has already
Et ideo quicquid movetur, iam quantum ad aliquid motum est. been completed, while the part of the motion given is going on.
Therefore whatever is being moved has already been partly moved.

Et eadem ratione quicquid fit, iam quantum ad aliquid factum est. Licet 1854. And by the same argument, whatever is coming to be has already
enim factio in substantia quantum ad introductionem formae partly come to be; for even though the process of producing a substance,
substantialis sit indivisibilis, tamen si accipiatur alteratio praecedens with reference to the introduction of the substantial form, is indivisible,
cuius terminus est generatio, divisibilis est, et totum potest dici factio. still if we take the preceding alteration whose terminus is generation,
Quia igitur quod fit quantum ad aliquid factum est, potest aliqualem the process is divisible, and the whole process can be called a
operationem habere quod fit eius ad quod terminatur factio; sicut quod production. Therefore, since what is coming to be has partly come to be,
calefit potest aliquo modo calefacere, licet non perfecte, sicut id quod then what is coming to be can possess to some degree the activity of the
iam factum est calidum. Et sic, cum discere sit fieri scientem, necesse est thing in which the production is terminated. For example, what is
quod discens quasi aliquid iam scientiae et artis habeat. Unde non est becoming hot can heat something to some degree, but not as perfectly
inconveniens si aliqualiter facit operationem artis. Non enim eam facit as something that has already become hot. Hence, since to learn is to
perfecte, sicut qui iam habet artem. become scientific, the one learning must already have, as it were, some
part of a science or an art. It is not absurd, then, if he should exercise
the action of an art to some degree; for he does not do it as perfectly as
one who already has the art.

Sed et in ipsa ratione, naturaliter praeinsunt quaedam semina et principia 1855. But in reason itself there are also naturally inherent certain seeds
scientiarum et virtutum, virtute quorum potest homo aliqualiter exire in or principles of the sciences and virtues, through which a man can pass
scientiae et virtutis actum, antequam habeat habitum scientiae et virtutis; to some degree into the activity of a science or a virtue before he has the
quo adepto, operatur perfecte, prius autem imperfecte. Ultimo epilogat habit of the science or the virtue; and when this has been acquired he
quod supra dictum est, ut patet in litera. acts perfectly, whereas at first he acted imperfectly. Lastly he
summarizes the above discussion, as is evident in the text.


Priority of Actuality to Potency in Substance

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 8: 1050a 4-1050b 6

, [5] 784. But actuality is also prior in substance; (1) because those things
( which are subsequent in generation are prior in form and substance;
: ), for example, man is prior to boy, and human being to seed; for the
one already has its form, but the other has not.

( 785. And (2) because everything which comes to be moves toward a

, ), , principle, namely, its goal [or end]. For that for the sake of which a
[10] . thing comes to be is a principle; and generation is for the sake of the
, goal. And actuality is the goal, and it is for the sake of this that
[12] : potency is acquired.
, :
, .

( 786. For animals do not see in order that they may have the power of
, sight, but they have the power of sight in order that they may see.

), , 787. And similarly men have the science of building in order that they
[10] . may build, and they have theoretical knowledge in order that they
, [12] may speculate; but they do not speculate in order that they may have
: theoretical knowledge, unless they are learning by practice. And these
, : latter do not speculate [in a perfect way], but either to some degree or
, . because they do not need to speculate.

[15] : 788. Further, matter is in potency up to the time at which it attains its
, . , form; but when it exists actually, it then possesses its form. And the
, same holds true in the case of other things, even of those whose goal
, . is motion. And for this reason, just as those who are teaching think
that they have reached their goal when they exhibit their student
performing, so it is with nature.

, [20] : 789. For if this were not so, Pausons Mercury would exist again,
, . , because it would not be more evident whether scientific knowledge is
, internal or external, as is the case with the figure of Mercury. For the
. activity is the goal, and the actuality is the activity. And for this reason
the term actuality is used in reference to activity and is extended to
( , 790. But while in the case of some things the ultimate effect is the use
[25] ), (as, for example, in the case of sight the ultimate effect is the act of
( ), seeing, and no other work besides this results from the power of
, sight), still from some potencies something else is produced; for
: , example, the art of building produces a house in addition to the act of
. [30] building. Yet in neither case is the act any less or any more the end of
, ( the potency; for the act of building is in the thing being built, and it
, comes into being and exists simultaneously with the house. Therefore
, ): in those cases in which the result is something other than the use, the
[35] , actuality is in the thing being produced; for example, the act of
( building is in the thing being built, and the act of weaving in the thing
, : [1050] [1] being woven. The same holds true in all other cases. And in general,
). motion is in the thing being moved. But in the case of those things in
which nothing else is produced besides the activity, the activity is
present in these, as the act of seeing is in the one seeing, and the act
of speculating in the one speculating, and life in the soul.
Accordingly, happiness is in the soul, for it is a kind of life.

. 791. It is evident, then, that substance or form is actuality. Hence it is

, clear according to this argument that actuality is prior to potency in
, [5] substance. And, as we have said (780), one actuality is always prior
. to another in time right back to that actuality which is always the first
principle of motion.


Priority of act substantially

Postquam philosophus ostendit quod actus est prior potentia, ratione, et 1856. Having shown that actuality is prior to potency in intelligibility
tempore quodammodo, hic ostendit, quod sit prior secundum and in one sense in time, the Philosopher now shows that it is prior in
substantiam: quod erat superius tertio propositum. substance. This was the third way given above (1845) in which actuality
is prior to potency.

Et dividitur in partes duas. In prima ostendit propositum rationibus This is divided into two parts. In the first part he proves his thesis by
sumptis ex his, quae quandoque sunt in potentia quandoque in actu. In arguments taken from things which are sometimes potential and
secunda vero per comparationem sempiternorum quae semper sunt actu sometimes actual. In the second part (1867) he proves his thesis by
ad mobilia quae quandoque sunt in potentia, quandoque in actu, ibi, at comparing eternal things, which are always actual, with mobile things,
vero magis proprie. which are sometimes actual and sometimes potential (But actuality).

Et quia esse prius secundum substantiam est esse prius perfectione, And since to be prior in substance is to be prior in perfection, and since
perfectio autem attribuitur duabus causis, scilicet formae et fini; ideo perfection is attributed to two things, namely, to the form and to the
duabus rationibus in parte prima utitur ad propositum ostendendum. goal [or end], therefore in the first part he uses two arguments to prove
Quarum prima sumitur ex parte formae. Secunda ex parte finis, quae his thesis. The first of these pertains to the form, and the second (1857)
ponitur ibi, et quia omne ad principium vadit. to the goal, given at the words, And because.

Dicit ergo primo, quod non solum actus est prior potentia et ratione et He accordingly says, first, that actuality is prior to potency not only in
tempore sed substantia, idest perfectione. Nomine enim substantiae intelligibility and in time but in substance, i.e., in perfection; for the
consuevit forma significari per quam aliquid est perfectum. Et hoc form by which something is perfected is customarily signified by the
quidem primum apparet tali ratione: quia ea quae sunt posteriora in term substance. This first part is made clear by this argument: those
generatione, sunt priora secundum substantiam et speciem, idest things which are subsequent in generation are prior in substance and
perfectione, quia generatio semper procedit ab imperfecto ad perfectum, form, i.e., in perfection, because the process of generation always goes
sicut vir est posterior generatione quam puer, nam ex puero fit vir, et from what is imperfect to what is perfect; for example, in the process of
homo posterius generatione quam sperma. Et hoc ideo quia vir et homo generation man is subsequent to boy, because man comes from boy; and
iam habent speciem perfectam, puer autem et sperma nondum. human being is subsequent to seed. The reason is that man and human
being already have a perfect form, whereas boy and seed do not yet have
such a form.
Cum igitur in eodem secundum numerum actus generatione et tempore Hence, since in numerically one and the same subject actuality is
sit posterior potentia, ut ex superioribus patet, sequitur quod actus sit subsequent to potency both in generation and in time, as is evident from
prior potentia substantia et ratione. the above, it follows that actuality is prior to potency in substance and
in intelligibility.

1857. And (2) because (785).

Deinde cum dicit et quia ostendit idem ratione sumpta a parte finis: et Here he proves the same point by an argument involving the goal of
circa hoc tria facit. Primo proponit rationem. Secundo manifestat activity. First, he sets forth the argument. Second (1858), he explains
quoddam in ratione suppositum, ibi, non enim ut visum habeant. Tertio one of the principles assumed in his argument (For animals). Third
determinat quoddam quod posset facere dubium circa praedicta, ibi, (1862), he settles an issue which could cause difficulty in the above
quoniam vero est horum. argument (But while).

Dicit ergo primo, quod omne quod fit vadens ad finem, vadit ad quoddam He accordingly says, first, that everything which comes to be when it
principium. Nam finis cuius causa fit aliquid, est quoddam principium. moves towards its goal moves towards a principle. For a goal, or that
Est enim prius in intentione agentis, quia eius causa fit generatio. Sed for the sake of which a thing comes to be, is a principle because it is the
actus est finis potentiae: ergo actus est prior potentia, et principium first thing intended by an agent, since it is that for the sake of which
quoddam eius. generation takes place. But actuality is the goal of potency, and
therefore actuality is prior to potency and is one of its principles.

1858. For animals (786).

Deinde cum dicit non enim ostendit quod supra posuerat, scilicet quod He now explains the position which he maintained above, namely, that
actus sit finis potentiae. Quod quidem primo manifestat in potentiis actuality is the goal of potency. He makes this clear, first, in the case of
activis naturalibus; dicens, quod animalia non vident ut habeant natural active potencies. He says (~) that animals do not see in order
potentiam visivam; sed magis habent potentiam visivam ut videant. Et that they may have the power of sight, but (+) they rather have the power
sic manifestum est quod potentia est propter actum, et non e converso. of sight in order that they may see. Thus it is clear that potency exists
for the sake of actuality and not vice versa.

1859. And similarly (787).

Secundo ibi, similiter autem manifestat idem in potentiis rationalibus; Second, he makes the same thing clear in the case of rational potencies.
dicens, quod ad hoc homines potentiam habent aedificandi ut aedificent; He says that men have the power of building in order that they may
ad hoc habent theoricam, scilicet scientiam speculativam, ut speculentur. build; and they have theoretical knowledge, or speculative science, in
Non autem speculantur ut habeant theoricam, nisi addiscentes, qui order that they may speculate. However, they do not speculate in order
meditantur ea quae sunt scientiae speculativae, ut acquirant eam. Et hi that they may have theoretical knowledge, unless they are learning and
non perfecte speculantur, sed quodammodo et imperfecte, ut supra meditating about those matters which belong to a speculative science in
dictum est; quia speculari non est propter aliquam indigentiam, sed order that they may acquire it. And these do not speculate perfectly but
scientia iam habita uti. Discentium autem speculatio est, quia indigent to some degree and imperfectly, as has been said above (1853-55),
acquirere scientiam. because speculation is not undertaken because of some need but for the
sake of using science already acquired. But there is speculation on the
part of those who are learning because the need to acquire science.

1860. Further, matter (788).

Tertio ibi, amplius autem manifestat idem in potentiis passivis; dicens, Third he makes the same point clear in the case of passive potencies.
quod materia est in potentia donec veniat ad formam vel speciem; sed He says that matter is in potency until it receives a form or specifying
tunc primo est in actu, quando habet speciem. Et ita est in omnibus aliis, principle, but then it is first in a state of actuality when it receives its
quae moventur propter finem. Unde, sicut docentes putant ad finem form. And this is what occurs in the case of all other things which are
pertingere, quando demonstrant discipulum, quem instruxerunt, moved for the sake of a goal. Hence, just as those who are teaching
operantem ea quae sunt artis; ita et natura pertingit ad finem, quando think they have attained their goal when they exhibit their pupil whom
consequitur actum. Et sic manifestum est quod actus est finis in motu they have instructed performing those activities which belong to his art,
naturali. in a similar fashion nature attains its goal when it attains actuality.
Hence it is made evident in the case of natural motion that actuality is
the goal of potency.

1861. For if this were not (789).

Quarto ibi, nam si non manifestat propositum deducendo ad Fourth, he proves his thesis by an argument from the untenable
inconveniens: dicens, quod si perfectio et finis non consisterent in actu, consequences. He says that if a things perfection and goal do not
tunc non videretur differentia inter aliquem sapientem, sicut fuit consist in actuality, there would then seem to be no difference between
Mercurius, et aliquem insipientem, sicut fuit Paxonas. Si enim perfectio someone wise, as Mercury was, and someone foolish, as Pauson was.
scientiae non esset in agendo, non esset Mercurius manifestatus in sua For if the perfection of science were not in the one acting, Mercury
scientia, si haberet scientiam interius, scilicet quantum ad interiorem would not have exhibited it in his own science, if he had internal
actum, aut exterius, quantum ad exteriorem actum, sicut nec Paxonas. scientific knowledge, i.e., in reference to its internal activity, or
Nam per actum scientiae manifestatur aliquis esse sciens, et non per external, i.e., in reference to its external activity, as neither would
potentiam. Operatio enim est finis scientiae. Operatio autem est actus Pauson. For it is by means of the actual use of scientific knowledge, and
quidam. not by means of the potency or power, that one is shown to have a
science; because activity is the goal of a science, and activity is a kind
of actuality.

Propter quod, nomen actus dicitur ab operatione, ut supra dictum est. Et And for this reason the term actuality is derived from activity, as has
inde derivatum est ad formam, quae dicitur endelechia sive perfectio. been stated above (1805); and from this it was extended to form, which
is called completeness or perfection.

1862. But while (790).

Deinde cum dicit quoniam vero manifestat quoddam quod poterat esse He explains a point which could cause a difficulty in the foregoing
dubium circa praedicta. Quia enim dixerat, quod opus est finis, posset argument. For since he had said that some product is the goal of
aliquis credere, quod hoc esset verum in omnibus. Sed ipse hoc removet, activity, one could think that this is true in all cases. But he denies this,
dicens, quod quarumdam activarum potentiarum ultimus finis est solus saying that the ultimate goal or end of some active potencies consists in
usus potentiae, et non aliquid operatum per actionem potentiae; sicut the mere use of those potencies, and not in something produced by their
ultimus finis potentiae visivae est visio, et praeter eam non fit a potentia activity; for example, the ultimate goal of the power of sight is the act
visiva aliquod opus operatum. In quibusdam vero potentiis activis fit of seeing, and there is no product resulting from the power of sight in
aliquod opus praeter actionem, ut ab arte aedificativa fit domus praeter addition to this activity. But in the case of some active potencies
ipsam aedificationem. something else is produced in addition to the activity; for example, the
art of building also produces a house in addition to the activity of

Tamen haec differentia non facit quod in aliquibus harum potentiarum 1863. However, this difference does not cause actuality to be the goal
minus sit actus finis potentiae, et in aliquibus magis; quia ipsa actio est of potency to a lesser degree in the case of some of these potencies and
in facto, ut aedificatio in eo quod aedificatur. Et aedificatio simul fit et to a greater degree in the case of others; for the activity is in the thing
produced, as the act of building in the thing being built; and it comes
habet esse cum domo. Unde, si domus aut aedificatum sit finis, non into being and exists simultaneously with the house. Hence if the house,
excluditur quin actus sit finis potentiae. or the thing built, is the goal, this does not exclude actuality from being
the goal of potency.

Talis autem differentia inter praedictas potentias est consideranda, quod 1864. Now it is necessary to consider such a difference among the
quando praeter actum ipsum potentiae, qui est actio, sit aliquod operatum, aforesaid potencies, because (1) when something else is produced
actio talium potentiarum est in facto, et actus facti, ut aedificatio in besides the actuality of these potencies, which is activity, the activity of
aedificato, et contextio in contexto, et universaliter motus in moto. such potencies is in the thing being produced and is their actuality,
just as the act of building is in the thing being built, and the act of
weaving in the thing being woven, and in general motion in the thing
being moved.

Et hoc ideo, quia quando per actionem potentiae constituitur aliquod And this is true, because when some product results from the activity of
operatum, illa actio perficit operatum, et non operantem. Unde est in a potency, the activity perfects the thing being produced and not the one
operato sicut actio et perfectio eius, non autem in operante. performing it. Hence it is in the thing being produced as an actuality
and perfection of it, but not in the one who is acting.

Sed, quando non est aliquod opus operatum praeter actionem potentiae, 1865. But (2) when nothing else is produced in addition to the activity
tunc actio existit in agente et ut perfectio eius, et non transit in aliquid of the potency, the actuality then exists in the agent as its perfection
exterius perficiendum; sicut visio est in vidente ut perfectio eius, et and does not pass over into something external in order to perfect it; for
speculatio in speculante, et vita in anima, ut per vitam intelligamus opera example, the act of seeing is in the one seeing as his perfection, and the
vitae. Unde manifestum est, quod etiam felicitas in tali operatione act of speculating is in the one speculating, and life is in the soul (if we
consistit, quae est in operante, non quae transit in rem exteriorem, cum understand by life vital activity). Hence it has been shown that
felicitas sit bonum felicis, et perfectio eius. Est enim aliqua vita felicis, happiness also consists in an activity of the kind which exists in the one
scilicet vita perfecta eius. Unde sicut vita est in vivente, ita felicitas in acting, and not of the kind which passes over into something external;
felice. Et sic patet quod felicitas non consistit nec in aedificando, nec in for happiness is a good of the one who is happy, namely, his perfect life.
aliqua huiusmodi actione, quae in exterius transeat, sed in intelligendo et Hence, just as life is in one who lives, in a similar fashion happiness is
volendo. in one who is happy. Thus it is evident that happiness does not consist
either in building or in any activity of the kind which passes over into
something external, but it consists in understanding and willing.
1866. It is evident (791).

Ultimo autem cum dicit quare manifestum redit ad concludendum Lastly he retraces his steps in order to draw the main conclusion which
principale propositum; dicens, quod manifestum est ex praedictis, quod he has in mind. He says that it has been shown from the above
substantia et forma et species est actus quidam. Et ex hoc manifestum est, discussion that a things substance or form or specifying principle is a
quod actus est prior quam potentia secundum substantiam et formam. Et kind of actuality; and from this it is evident that actuality is prior to
est prior tempore, ut supra dictum est, quia semper prius exigitur actus potency in substance or form. And it is prior in time, as has been stated
secundum quem generans aut movens aut faciens est actu, ante alterum above (1848), because the actuality whereby the generator or mover or
actum quo generatum vel factum est in actu, postquam fuit in potentia; maker is actual must always exist first before the other actuality by
which the thing generated or produced becomes actual after being

quousque veniatur ad primum movens, quod est in actu tantum. Id enim, And this goes on until one comes to the first mover, which is actuality
quod exit de potentia in actum, requirit actum praecedentem in agente, a alone; for whatever passes from potency to actuality requires a prior
quo reducitur in actum. actuality in the agent, which brings it to actuality.


The Substantial Priority of Actuality in Incorruptible Things

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 8: 1050b 6-1051a 3

: 792. But actuality is prior to potency in a more fundamental sense; for

, . eternal things are prior in substance to corruptible ones, and nothing
eternal is potential.

: : 793. The reason of this is that every potency is at the same time a
[10] , potency for opposite determinations. For what is incapable of existing
. does not exist in any way; and it is possible for everything that is
: . capable of existing not to exist actually. Therefore whatever is capable
: , of existing may either be or not be, and thus the same thing is capable
[15] , both of being and of not being. But what is capable of not being may
: . possibly not be; and what may possibly not be is corruptible: either
absolutely, or in the sense in which it is said to be possible for it not to
be, either according to place or to quantity or to quality. And the term
absolutely means in reference to substance.

( 794. Therefore nothing that is incorruptible in an absolute sense is

, ): : potential in an absolute sense. But there is nothing that hinders it from
being so in other respects, for example, in reference to quality or to
place. Therefore all incorruptible things are actual.

( : , 795. And none of those things which exist necessarily are potential. In
): fact such things are the first; for if they did not exist, nothing would

[20] , : , 796. Nor is eternal motion potential, if there be such a thing; and if
( anything is moved eternally, it is not moved potentially except in
), reference to whence and whither. And nothing prevents the matter of
this sort of thing from existing.

, 797. And for this reason the sun and the stars and the entire heaven are
, . : always active, and there is no need to fear, as the natural philosophers
[25] , do, that they may at some time stand still. Nor do they tire in their
, , activity; for in them there is no potency for opposite determinations,
: , , as there is in corruptible things, so that the continuity of their motion
. should be tiresome. For the cause of this is that their substance is matter
and potency and not actuality.
, . 798. Moreover, incorruptible things are imitated by those which are in
: [30] a state of change, such as fire and earth; for these latter things are
. always active, since they have motion in themselves and of themselves.

, , : 799. But all other potencies which have been defined are potencies for
, : opposite determinations; for what is capable of moving something else
. in this way is also capable of not moving it in this way, i.e., all those
things which act by reason. And irrational potencies will also be
potencies for opposite determinations by being absent or not.

[35] 800. If, then, there are any natures or substances such as those thinkers
, who in their theories proclaim the Ideas to be, there will be something
: [1051] [1] much more scientific than science itself, and something much more
, . mobile than motion itself; for the former will rather be the actualities
, . and the latter the potencies of these. Hence it is evident that actuality
is prior to potency and to every principle of change.


Act prior in incorruptible things

Superius probavit Aristoteles quod actus erat prior potentia, substantia, 1867. Aristotle proved above that actuality is prior to potency in
definitione, et perfectione, per rationes ex ipsis corruptibilibus sumptas. substance, definition and perfection, by arguments drawn from
Hic autem idem ostendit per comparationem sempiternorum ad corruptible things themselves; but here he proves the same point by
corruptibilia. comparing eternal things with corruptible ones.

Et dividitur ista pars in duas. In prima ostendit propositum. In secunda This part is divided into two members. In the first (1867) he proves his
ex proposito ostenso excludit quoddam a Platone dictum, ibi, si ergo thesis; and in the second (1882), by the thesis thus proved, he rejects a
aliquae sunt naturae. certain statement made by Plato (If, then).
Et circa primum duo facit. Primo ostendit propositum, et hoc tali ratione. In regard to the first he does two things. First, he proves his thesis. This
Sempiterna comparantur ad corruptibilia sicut actus ad potentiam. Nam he does by the following argument: eternal things are compared to
sempiterna, inquantum huiusmodi, non sunt in potentia; corruptibilia corruptible ones as actuality to potency; for eternal things as such are
vero, inquantum huiusmodi, in potentia sunt. Sed sempiterna sunt priora not in potency, whereas corruptible things as such are in potency. But
corruptibilibus substantia et perfectione: hoc enim manifestum est. Ergo eternal things are prior to corruptible ones in substance and perfection;
actus est potentia prior substantia et perfectione. Dicit autem, quod hac for this is evident (1856). Hence actuality is prior to potency both in
ratione magis proprie ostenditur propositum, quia non assumitur actus et substance and perfection. He says that his thesis is proved in a more
potentia in eodem, sed in diversis: quod facit probationem magis proper way by this argument, because actuality and potency are not
evidentem. considered in the same subject but in different ones, and this makes the
proof more evident.

1868. The reason (793).

Secundo ibi, ratio vero probat quod supposuerat; scilicet quod nullum Second, he proves one assumption which he made, namely, that nothing
sempiternum sit in potentia. Et circa hoc duo facit. Primo ponit rationem eternal is in potency; and in regard to this he does two things. First, he
ad ostendendum hoc; quae talis est. Omnis potentia simul est gives an argument to prove this, and it runs as follows: every potency
contradictionis. Dicit autem hoc non de potentia activa: iam enim supra is at one and the same time a potency for opposite determinations. Now
dictum est, quod potentiae irrationales non sunt ad opposita; sed loquitur he does not say this about active potency, for it has already been shown
hic de potentia passiva, secundum quam aliquid dicitur possibile esse et (1789) that irrational potencies are not potencies for opposite
non esse, vel simpliciter, vel secundum quid. determinations; but he is speaking here of passive potency, on the basis
of which a thing is said to be capable of being and not being either
absolutely or in a qualified sense.

Hoc autem quod posuerat manifestat per oppositum; quia ubi non est talis 1869. Now the claim which he made he proves by an argument to the
potentia, non contingit utraque pars contradictionis. Nam quod non est contrary; because where such potency does not exist, neither of the
possibile esse, nunquam in aliquo est. Si enim non est possibile esse, opposite determinations is possible; for what is incapable of being never
impossibile est esse, et necesse est non esse. Sed id quod possibile est exists in any way. For if a thing is incapable of being, it is impossible
esse, contingit non esse in actu. Manifestum est ergo, quod illud quod for it to be, and it is necessary for it not to be. But what is capable of
possibile est esse, contingit esse et non esse. Et sic potentia simul being may possibly not be actual. Hence it is evident that what is
contradictionis est, quia idem est in potentia ad esse et non esse. capable of being may either be or not be; and thus the potency is at one
and the same time a potency for opposite determinations, because the
same thing is in potency both to being and non-being.
Sed id quod potest non esse, contingit non esse. Haec enim duo 1870. But what is capable of not being may possibly not be, for these
aequipollent. Quod autem contingit non esse, est corruptibile, vel two statements are equivalent ones. Moreover, what may possibly not
simpliciter, vel secundum quid, prout dicitur contingere non esse. Sicut be is corruptible either absolutely or in a qualified sense inasmuch as it
si contingat aliquod corpus non esse in aliquo loco, illud est corruptibile is said to be possible for it not to be. For example, if it is possible for
secundum locum. Et similiter est de quanto et de quali. Sed simpliciter some body not to be in place, that body is corruptible as far as place is
est corruptibile, quod potest non esse secundum substantiam. Relinquitur concerned; and the same applies to quantity and quality. But that is
ergo, quod omne quod est in potentia, inquantum huiusmodi, corruptibile corruptible in an absolute sense which is capable of not existing
est. substantially. Therefore it follows that everything potential inasmuch as
it is potential is corruptible.

1871. Therefore nothing (794).

Secundo ibi, nihil ergo infert conclusionem ex positione praemissa Second, he draws from the foregoing the conclusion at which he aims;
intentam. Et circa hoc tria facit. Primo concludit propositum circa and in regard to this he does three things. First, he concludes to this
sempiterna; inferens ex praedictis, quod si omne, quod est in potentia, est thesis about eternal things, inferring from the observations made above
corruptibile, sequitur quod nullum incorruptibilium simpliciter, sit ens in that, if everything potential is corruptible, it follows that nothing which
potentia, ut accipiamus incorruptibile simpliciter et ens in potentia is incorruptible in an absolute sense is a potential being, provided that
simpliciter secundum substantiam. we understand incorruptible things in an absolute sense and potential
being (~) in an absolute sense in reference to substance.

Sed nihil prohibet, id quod est incorruptibile simpliciter, esse in potentia 1872. But nothing prevents something that is incorruptible in an
secundum quid, aut secundum quale, aut ubi. Ut luna est in potentia ut sit absolute sense from being potential (+) in a qualified sense, in reference
illustrata a sole, et sol est in potentia, cum est in oriente, quod sit in either to quality or to place. For example, the moon is in a state of
occidente. Patet ergo ex praedictis, quod omnia sempiterna, inquantum potency to being illuminated by the sun; and when the sun is in the east
huiusmodi, sunt in actu. it is in a state of potency with regard to being in the west. It is evident
from what has been said, then, that all eternal things as such are actual.

1873. And none (795).

Secundo ibi, nec eorum concludit idem de necessariis, quod concluserat Second, he comes to the same conclusion about necessary things as he
de sempiternis; quia etiam in ipsis rebus corruptibilibus sunt quaedam did about eternal things, because even in corruptible things there are
necessaria, ut hominem esse animal, omne totum esse maius sua parte. certain necessary aspects; for example, man is an animal, and every
Dicit ergo, quod neque aliquid eorum, quae sunt ex necessitate, in whole is greater than its part. Hence he says that nothing necessary is
potentia est. Quae enim necessaria sunt, semper sunt in actu, et non potential; for necessary things are always actual and incapable of being
possunt esse et non esse. Ea vero, quae sunt necessaria, sunt prima inter or not being. And those things which are necessary are the first of all
omnia, quia eis ablatis nihil remanet aliorum; utpote si tollerentur things, because if they ceased to exist, none of the others would exist;
essentialia praedicata, quae necessario praedicantur, non possent inesse for example, if essential predicates, which are referred to a subject
accidentalia praedicata, quae contingit inesse et non inesse. Et sic necessarily, were taken away, accidental predicates, which can be
relinquitur quod actus est prior potentia. present and not present in some subject, could not be present in any
subject. It follows, then, that actuality is prior to potency.

1874. Nor is (796).

Tertio ibi, neque utique concludit idem de motu sempiterno, quod Third, he comes to the same conclusion about eternal motion as he did
concluserat de substantiis sempiternis; et circa hoc tria facit. Primo ex about eternal substances; and in regard to this he does three things. First,
praedictis concludit propositum; dicens, quod si aliquis motus est from what has been said above he concludes to his thesis. He says that,
sempiternus, ille motus non est in potentia, nec id quod movetur est in if some motion is eternal, that motion is not potential; nor is anything
potentia ad motum, sed est in potentia unde quo idest ut ab hoc in id that is moved eternally in a state of potency to motion, but it is in a state
transeat. Cum enim motus sit actus existentis in potentia, oportet omne of potency to this or to that place, i.e., inasmuch as it goes from this
quod movetur esse in potentia ad terminum motus, non autem ad ipsum place to that place. For since motion is the actuality of something in
moveri, sed ad aliquod ubi, quo tendit per motum. potency, everything which is being moved must be in potency to the
goal of that motion, not however as regards motion itself, but as regards
some place to which it tends by its motion.

Et quia quod movetur oportet habere materiam, subiungit quod nihil 1875. And since what is being moved must have matter, he adds that
prohibet id quod movetur motu sempiterno habere materiam; quia licet nothing prevents a thing which is being moved by an eternal motion
non sit in potentia ad moveri simpliciter, est tamen in potentia ad hoc vel from having matter; because, even though it is not in potency to motion
ad illud ubi. in an absolute sense, it is nevertheless in potency to this or to that place.

1876. And for this (797).

Secundo ibi, propter quod concludit quoddam corollarium ex dictis. Quia Second, he draws a corollary from the above discussion. For since what
enim quod movetur motu sempiterno, non est in potentia ad ipsum is being moved by an eternal motion is not in potency to motion itself
moveri, motus autem caeli sempiternus est, secundum quod traditur in (and the motion of the heavens is eternal according to the discussion in
libro octavo physicorum: sequitur quod sol et astra et totum caelum Book VIII of the Physics), it follows that the sun and the moon and the
semper agant, quia semper moventur, et per motum suum agunt. stars and the entire heaven are always active, because they are always
being moved and are acting by means of their motion.

Nec est timendum, quod aliquando motus caeli stet, ut timuerunt quidam 1877. Nor is it to be feared that at some time the motion of the heavens
naturales, scilicet Empedocles, et sequaces eius, qui posuerunt, quod per may cease, as some of the natural philosophers feared it would,
litem et amicitiam mundus quandoque corrumpitur, et rursus reparatur. namely, Empedocles and his followers, who held that at times the world
Et ideo dicit non esse timendum, quia non sunt in potentia ad non movere. is destroyed by discord and is restored again by friendship. Hence he
says that this is not to be feared, because they are not potentially

Et propter hoc etiam non corruptibilia, in eo quod moventur, non 1878. And for this reason too incorruptible things insofar as they are
laborant. Non enim inest eis potentia contradictionis, scilicet ut being moved do not tire in their activity, because the potency for
moveantur et non moveantur, sicut est in corruptibilibus, quae haec opposite determinations is not found in them, namely, the ability to be
habent per motum, et ita per hunc modum continuus motus fit eis motus both moved and not moved, as is found in corruptible things, which
cum labore. Quod enim corruptibilia laborent in eo quod moventur, causa have these as a result of motion. And thus in this way continuous motion
est, quia sunt in potentia ad moveri et non moveri, et non habent hoc ex becomes laborious for them. For corruptible things labor insofar as they
natura substantiali sua quod semper moveantur. Unde videmus quod are moved; and the reason is that they are in a state of potency both for
tanto aliquis motus est laboriosior, quanto etiam natura rei est being moved and not being moved, and it is not proper to them by
propinquior ad non moveri. Sicut patet quod moveri sursum in reason of their substantial nature always to be undergoing motion.
animalibus laboriosum est. Hence we see that the more laborious any motion is, the nearer also does
the nature of the thing come to immobility; for example, in the case of
animals it is evident that motion in an upward direction is more

Quod autem hic dicitur de perpetuitate motus caeli, dicitur secundum 1879. Now what he says here about the continuity of celestial motion is
convenientiam naturae corporis caelestis, quam experti sumus. in keeping with the nature of a celestial body, which we know by
Sed hoc non praeiudicat divinae voluntati, a qua dependet motus caeli et But this is not prejudicial to the divine will, on which the motion and
esse eius. being of the heavens depend.

1880. Moreover, incorruptible things (798).

Tertio ibi, imitantur autem comparat corpora corruptibilia Third, he compares corruptible bodies with incorruptible ones from the
incorruptibilibus in agendo. Et primo quantum ad similitudinem; dicens, viewpoint of activity. First, he does this insofar as they are alike. He
quod corpora eorum, quorum esse est in transmutatione, imitantur says that the bodies of those things whose being involves change
corpora incorruptibilia in eo, quod semper agunt; sicut ignis, qui resemble incorruptible bodies insofar as they are always acting; for
secundum se semper calefacit, et terra quae secundum se semper facit example, fire, which of itself always produces heat, and earth, which of
operationes proprias et naturales. Et hoc ideo est, quia habent motum et itself always produces proper and natural activities. And this is true
operationem suam propriam secundum se, et in eis, inquantum scilicet because they have motion and their own proper activity of themselves
formae eorum sunt principia talium motuum et actionum. inasmuch, namely, as their forms are principles of such motions and

1881. But all the other (799).

Secundo ibi, potentiae vero ponit comparationem secundum Second, he compares them insofar as they are unlike. He says that in
dissimilitudinem; dicens, quod aliae potentiae rerum mobilium, de contrast with eternal things, which are always actual, the other potencies
quibus supra determinatum est, omnes sunt contradictionis, e contrario of mobile things, about which the truth has been established above, are
rebus sempiternis, quae semper sunt in actu. Sed diversimode: nam all potencies for opposite determinations. But this is verified in a
potentiae rationales sunt contradictionis, eo quod possunt movere sic vel different way; for (1) rational potencies are potencies capable of
non sic, sicut supra dictum est. Potentiae vero irrationales operantur uno opposite determinations because they can move in this way or not, as
modo; sed et ipsae sunt contradictionis per hoc, quod possunt adesse, et has been said above (1789); whereas (2) irrational potencies, though
non esse, sicut animal potest amittere potentiam visivam. acting in one way, are themselves also potencies of opposite
determinations in view of the fact that they can be present in a subject
or not; for example, an animal can lose its power of vision.

1882. If, then (800).

Deinde cum dicit si ergo ex praemissis excludit quoddam a Platone As a result of what has been said he rejects a doctrine of Plato. For Plato
positum. Ponebat enim Plato formas separatas, quas maxime esse claimed that there are certain separate Forms, which he held to have
dicebat: sicut si ponerem scientiam esse separatam, quam vocabat per se being in the highest degree; say, a separate science, which he called
scientiam: et dicebat quod hoc erat principalissimum in genere scibilium science-in-itself; and he said that this is foremost in the class of
et similiter per se motum in genere mobilium. Sed secundum praeostensa, knowable entities. And similarly he maintained that motion-in-itself is
aliquid erit primo in genere scibilium, quam per se scientia. Ostensum est foremost in the class of mobile things. But according to the points made
enim quod prior est actus perfectione quam potentia. Scientia enim ipsa clear above, something else besides science-in-itself will be first in the
est quaedam potentia. Unde consideratio quae est actus eius erit ea potior, class of knowable things; for it was shown that actuality is prior to
et sic de aliis huiusmodi. Ultimo epilogat quod dictum est, scilicet quod potency in perfection, and science itself is a kind of potency. Hence
actus est prior potentia, et omni principio motus. speculation, which is the activity of science, will be more perfect than
science is; and the same will apply in the case of other things of this
kind. Lastly he summarizes his discussion, saying that actuality is prior
to potency and to every principle of motion.


The Relative Excellence of Actuality and Potency

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 9: 1051a 4-1051a 33

[5] 801. Furthermore, that actuality is also better and more excellent and
, . , more honorable than good potency is evident from the following: all
, things which are spoken of as potential are alike capable of contrary
, : determinations; for example, what is said to be capable of being well
, , , is the same as what is capable of being ill, and simultaneously has both
[10] . capabilities; for it is the same potency that is capable of being well and
: , being ill, and of being at rest and in motion, and of building and
( ), demolishing, and of being built and being demolished. Therefore the
, capacity for contrary determinations belongs to the same thing at the
: [15] . same time; but it is impossible for contrary determinations to belong
to the same thing at the same time, for example, being well and ailing.
Hence one of these must be good; but the potency may be both alike
or neither; and therefore the actuality is better.

802. And also in the case of evil things the goal or actuality must be
: . worse than the potency; for it is the same potency that is capable of
both contraries.

: 803. It is clear, then, that evil does not exist apart from things; for evil
. is by its very nature subsequent to potency.

[20] 804. Hence in those things which exist from the very beginning and
( are eternal, there is neither evil nor wrong nor corruption; for
). corruption belongs to evil things.

: 805. And it is also by activity that geometrical constructions are

. , : discovered, because they are discovered by dividing. For if they had
. ; [25] already been divided, they would be evident; but they are now present
. , potentially. Why, for example, are the angles of a triangle equal to two
. ; right angles? Because the angles grouped around one point are equal
, , to two right angles. Hence, if the line next to the one side were
. [30] extended, the answer would be clear to anyone seeing the construction.
: : Again, why is an angle in a semicircle always a right angle? Because,
, ( if its three lines are equal, two of which form the base and the other
). rests upon the middle point of the base, the answer will be evident to
anyone who sees the construction and knows the former proposition.
Hence, it is evident that constructions which exist potentially are
discovered when they are brought to actuality; and the reason is that
the intellectual comprehension of a thing is an actuality. Hence the
potency proceeds from an actuality, and it is because people make
these constructions that they attain knowledge of them. For in a thing
numerically one and the same, actuality is subsequent in the order of


Act is better in good things

Postquam comparavit philosophus actum et potentiam secundum 1883. Having compared actuality and potency from the viewpoint of priority
prius et posterius, hic comparat ea secundum bonum et malum; et and posteriority, the Philosopher now compares them from the viewpoint of
circa hoc duo facit. good and evil; and in regard to this he does two things.

Primo dicit quod in bonis, actus est melior potentia. Quod quidem First, he says that in the case of good things actuality is better than potency;
manifestum est ex hoc, quod id quod est potentia, est idem in and this was made clear from the fact that the potential is the same as what
potentia existens ad contraria. Sicut quod potest convalescere, hoc is capable of contrary determinations; for example, what can be well can also
potest infirmari, et simul est in potentia ad utrumque. Et hoc ideo be ill and is in potency to both at the same time. The reason is that the potency
quia eadem est potentia utriusque, convalescendi et laborandi, et for both is the samefor being well and ailing, and for being at rest and in
quiescendi et movendi et aliorum huiusmodi oppositorum. Et ita motion, and for other opposites of this kind. Thus it is evident that a thing
patet quod aliquid simul potest contraria, licet contraria non possint can be in potency to contrary determinations, although contrary
simul esse actu. Contrariorum igitur utrumque seorsum, est hoc determinations cannot be actual at the same time. Therefore, taking each
quidem bonum, ut sanum, aliud vero malum, ut infirmum. Nam contrary pair separately, one is good, as health, and the other evil, as illness.
semper in contrariis unum est ut deficiens, quod ad malum pertinet. For in the case of contraries one of the two always has the character of
something defective, and this pertains to evil.

Sic igitur quod est bonum in actu, est tantum bonum. Sed potentia 1884. Therefore what is actually good is good alone. But the potency may be
se habet similiter ad utrumque, scilicet secundum quid; quod est related to both alike, i.e., in a qualified senseas being in potency. But it
esse in potentia. Habet autem neutrum simpliciter, quod est esse in is neither in an absolute senseas being actual. It follows, then, that actuality
actu. Relinquitur igitur quod actus est melior potentia; quia quod est is better than potency; because what is good in an absolute sense is better
than what is good in a qualified sense and is connected with evil.
simpliciter et pure bonum, est melius eo quod est secundum quid
bonum, et coniunctum malo.

1885. And also (802).

Secundo ibi, necesse autem ostendit quod e contrario in malis est Second, he shows on the other hand that in the case of evil things the actuality
actus peior potentia: et circa hoc tria facit. is worse than the potency; and in regard to this he does three things.

Primo ostendit propositum ex ratione supra inducta; quia id quod First, he proves his thesis by the argument introduced above; for what is evil
est simpliciter malum, et non secundum quid se habens ad malum, in an absolute sense and is not disposed to evil in a qualified sense is worse
est peius eo quod est secundum quid malum, et quod se habet ad than what is evil in a qualified sense and is disposed both to evil and to good.
malum et ad bonum. Unde, cum potentia ad malum nondum habeat Hence, since the potency for evil is not yet evil, except in a qualified sense
malum nisi secundum quid (et eadem est ad bonum, nam idem est (and the same potency is disposed to good, since it is the same potency which
potentia quod est ad contraria), relinquitur quod actus malus est is related to contrary determinations), it follows that actual evil is worse than
peior potentia ad malum. the potency for evil.

1886. It is clear, then (803).

Secundo ibi, palam ergo concludit ex dictis quod ipsum malum non Second, he concludes from what has been said that evil itself is not a nature
est quaedam natura praeter res alias, quae secundum naturam sunt distinct from other things which are good by nature; for evil itself is
bonae. Nam ipsum malum secundum naturam est posterius quam subsequent in nature to potency, because it is worse and is farther removed
potentia, quia est peius et magis elongatum a perfectione naturae. from perfection. Hence, since a potency cannot be something existing apart
Unde, cum potentia non possit esse alia praeter res, multo minus from a thing, much less can evil itself be something apart from a thing.
ipsum malum.

1887. Hence in those (804).

Tertio ibi, non ergo inducit aliam conclusionem. Si enim malum est Third, he draws another conclusion. For if evil is worse than potency, and
peius potentia, potentia autem non invenitur in rebus sempiternis, ut there is no potency in eternal things, as has been shown above (1867), then
supra ostensum est, non erit in eis aliquod malum, neque peccatum, in eternal things there will be neither evil nor wrong nor any other corruption;
neque alia corruptio. Nam corruptio quoddam malum est. Est hoc for corruption is a kind of evil. But this must be understood insofar as they
autem intelligendum inquantum sunt sempiterna et incorruptibilia. are eternal and incorruptible; for nothing prevents them from being corrupted
Nam secundum quid, nihil prohibet in eis esse corruptionem, ut as regards place or some other accident of this kind.
secundum ubi, aut secundum aliquid huiusmodi.

1888. And it is (805).

Deinde cum dicit inveniuntur autem postquam comparavit Having compared potency and actuality from the viewpoint of priority and
potentiam et actum secundum prius et posterius, et bonum et posteriority and from that of good and evil, be now compares them with
malum, hic comparat eadem secundum intelligentiam veri et falsi. reference to the understanding of the true and the false. In regard to this he
Et circa hoc duo facit. Primo comparat ipsa secundum intelligere. does two things. First (805:C 1888), he compares them with reference to the
Secundo vero secundum veritatem et falsitatem, ibi, quoniam vero act of understanding; and second (806:C 1895), with reference to the true and
ens. the false (Now the terms).

Dicit ergo primo, quod diagrammata, idest descriptiones geometriae He accordingly says, first (805), that geometrical constructions, i.e.,
inveniuntur, idest per inventionem cognoscuntur secundum geometrical descriptions, are discovered, i.e., made known by discovery in
dispositionem figurarum in actu. Geometrae enim inveniunt verum the actual drawing of the figures. For geometers discover the truth which they
quod quaerunt, dividendo lineas et superficies. Divisio autem seek by dividing lines and surfaces. And division brings into actual existence
reducit in actum quod erat in potentia. Nam partes continui sunt the things which exist potentially; for the parts of a continuous whole are in
potentia in toto ante divisionem. Si autem omnia essent divisa the whole potentially before division takes place. However, if all had been
secundum quod requirit inventio veritatis, manifestae essent divided to the extent necessary for discovering the truth, the conclusions
conclusiones quaesitae. Sed quia in prima protractione figurarum which are being sought would then be evident. But since divisions of this
sunt in potentia huiusmodi divisiones, ideo non statim fit kind exist potentially in the first drawing of geometrical figures, the truth
manifestum quod quaeritur. which is being sought does not therefore become evident immediately.

Hoc autem notificat per duo exempla: quorum primum est circa 1889. He explains this by means of two examples, and the first of these has
quaesitum: quare trigonum est duo recti, idest quare triangulus to do with the question, Why are the angles of a triangle equal to two right
habet tres angulos aequales duobus rectis? Quod quidem sic angles? i.e., why does a triangle have three angles equal to two right angles?
demonstratur. (Figura). This is demonstrated as follows.
Sit triangulus abc, et protrahatur basis, ac in continuum et directum. Let ABC be a triangle having its base AC extended continuously and in a
Haec igitur basis protracta faciet cum latere trianguli bc, angulum straight line. This extended base, then, together with the side BC of the
in puncto c: qui quidem angulus extra existens aequalis est duobus triangle form an angle at point C, and this external angle is equal to the two
angulis interioribus sibi oppositis, scilicet angulo abc, et angulo bac. interior angles opposite to it, i.e., angles ABC and BAC. Now it is evident
Manifestum est autem quod duo anguli consistentes circa punctum that the two angles at point C, one exterior to the triangle and the other
c, quorum unus est extra triangulum, et alter intra, sunt aequales interior, are equal to two right angles; for it has been shown that, when one
duobus rectis. Demonstratum enim est quod linea recta super aliam straight line falls upon another straight line, it makes two right angles or two
lineam cadens qualitercumque, faciet duos angulos rectos, aut angles equal to two right angles. Hence it follows that the interior angle at
aequales duobus rectis. Relinquitur ergo quod angulus interior in the point C together with the other two interior angles which are equal to the
puncto c, constitutum cum aliis duobus qui sunt aequales angulo exterior angle, i.e., all three angles, are equal to two right angles.
exteriori, omnes scilicet tres, sunt aequales duobus rectis.

Hoc est ergo quod philosophus dicit, quod probatur triangulum 1890. This, then, is what the Philosopher means when he says that it may be
habere duos rectos, quia duo anguli qui sunt circa unum punctum, demonstrated that a triangle has two right angles, because the two angles
puta circa punctum c, quorum unus est interior et alius exterior, sunt which meet at the point C, one of which is interior to the triangle and the
aequales duobus rectis. Et ideo quando producitur angulus qui fit other exterior, are equal to two right angles. Hence when an angle is
extra, producto uno latere trianguli, statim manifestum fit videnti constructed which falls outside of the triangle and is formed by one of its
dispositionem figurae, quod triangulus habet tres angulos aequales sides, it immediately becomes evident to one who sees the arrangement of
duobus rectis. the figure that a triangle has three angles equal to two right angles.

Secundum exemplum est circa hoc quaesitum: quare omnis angulus 1891. The second example has to do with the question, Why is every angle
quod est in semicirculo descriptus est rectus. Quod quidem in a semicircle a right angle? This is demonstrated as follows.
demonstratur sic. (Figura).
Sit semicirculus abc, et in puncto b, qualitercumque cadat Let ABC be a semicircle, and at any point B let there be an angle subtended
constituatur angulus: cui subtenditur basis ac quae est diameter by the base AC, which is the diameter of the circle. I say, then, that angle B
circuli. Dico ergo quod angulus b, est rectus. Cuius probatio est, is a right angle. This is proved as follows: since the line AC is the diameter
quia cum linea ac, sit diameter circuli, oportet quod transeat per of the circle, it must pass through the center. Hence it is divided in the middle
centrum. Dividatur ergo per medium in puncto d, et producatur linea at the point D, and this is done by the line DB. Therefore the line DB is equal
db. Sic igitur linea db, aequalis est lineae da, quia sunt protractae a to the line DA, because both are drawn from the center to the circumference.
centro usque ad circumferentiam; ergo in triangulo dba aequalis est In the triangle DBA, then, angle B and angle A are equal, because in every
angulus b, angulo a, quia omnis trianguli cuius duo latera sunt triangle having two equal sides the angles above the base are equal. Thus the
aequalia, anguli qui sunt supra bases, sunt aequales. Duo igitur two angles A and B are double the angle B alone. But the angle BDC, since
anguli, a et b, sunt duplum solius anguli b. Sed angulus bdc cum sit it is exterior to the triangle, is equal to the two separate angles A and B.
exterior, est aequalis duobus angulis a et b partialibus: ergo angulus Therefore angle BDC is double the angle B alone.
bdc est duplus anguli b partialis.

Et similiter probatur quod angulus c est aequalis angulo b trianguli 1892. And it is demonstrated in the same way that angle C is equal to angle
bdc; eo quod duo latera db et dc sunt aequalia cum sint protracta a B of the triangle BDC, because the two sides DB and DC are equal since they
centro ad circumferentiam, et angulus exterior, scilicet adb, est are drawn from the center to the circumference, and the exterior angle, ADB,
aequalis utrique: ergo est duplus anguli b partialis. Sic ergo duo is equal to both. Therefore it is double the angle B alone. Hence the two
anguli adb et bdc sunt duplum totius anguli abc. Sed duo anguli adb angles ADB and BDC are double the whole angle ABC. But the two angles
et bdc sunt aut recti aut aequales duobus rectis, quia linea db cadit ADB and BDC are either right angles or equal to two right angles, because
supra lineam ac: ergo angulus abc qui est in semicirculo, est rectus. the line DB falls on the line AC. Hence the angle ABC, which is in a
semicircle, is a right angle.
Et hoc est quod philosophus dicit, quod ideo demonstratur esse 1893. This is what the Philosopher means when he says that the angle in a
rectus ille qui est in semicirculo, quia tres lineae sunt aequales: semicircle may be shown to be a right angle, because the three lines are equal,
scilicet duae in quas dividitur basis, scilicet da et dc, et tertia quae namely, the two into which the base is divided, i.e., DA and DC, and the third
ex media istarum duarum protracta superstat utrique, scilicet bd. Et line, BD, which is drawn from the middle of these two lines and rests upon
hanc dispositionem videnti, statim manifestum est scienti principia these. And it is immediately evident to one who sees this construction, and
geometriae, quod omnis angulus in semicirculo est rectus. who knows the principles of geometry, that every angle in a semicircle is a
right angle.

Sic igitur concludit philosophus manifestum esse, quod quando 1894. Therefore the Philosopher concludes that it has been shown that, when
aliqua reducuntur de potentia in actum, tunc invenitur earum some things are brought from potency to actuality, their truth is then
veritas. Et huius causa est, quia intellectus actus est. Et ideo ea quae discovered. The reason for this is that understanding is an actuality, and
intelliguntur, oportet esse actu. Propter quod, ex actu cognoscitur therefore those things which are understood must be actual. And for this
potentia. Unde facientes aliquid actu cognoscunt, sicut patet in reason potency is known by actuality. Hence it is by making something actual
praedictis descriptionibus. Oportet enim quod in eodem secundum that men attain knowledge, as is evident in the constructions described above.
numerum, posterius secundum ordinem generationis et temporis sit For in numerically one and the same thing actuality must be subsequent to
actus quam potentia, ut supra expositum est. potency in generation and in time, as has been shown above.


The Reference of Truth and Falsity to Actuality. The Exclusion of Falsity from Simple and Eternal Things

ARISTOTLES TEXT Chapter 10: 1051a 34-1052a 11

[35] 806. Now the terms being and non-being are used in one sense with
, , reference to the categorical figures; and in another with reference to the
[1051] [1] [ ] , potentiality or actuality of these or their contraries; and in still another
sense they are referred most properly to truth and falsity.
, 807. And in things this consists in being combined or being separated.
Hence he who thinks that what is separated is separated, and that what is
, [5] combined is combined, is right; but he who thinks about things otherwise
, ; than as they are, is wrong. And it is necessary to consider what we mean
. when we say that truth and falsity exist or do not exist. For it is not
, because we are right in thinking that you are white that you are white,
. but it is because you are white that in saying this we speak the truth.

, [10] 808. Therefore, if some things are always combined and it is impossible
, , for them to be separated, and others are always separated and it is
, impossible for them to be combined, and others admit of both contraries,
: then being consists in being combined and being one, and non-being
, consists in not being combined and being many. Therefore with regard
[15] : to contingent things the same opinion or statement becomes true and
, false, and it is possible for it at one time to be true and at another to be
. false. But with regard to those things which are incapable of being
otherwise than as they are, an opinion is not sometimes true and
sometimes false, but one. is always true and the other always false.

809. However, with regard to things which are not composite, what is
; , , being and non-being, and what is truth and falsity? For such things are
[20] , <> not composite so as to exist when combined and not exist when
[21] : separated; for example, the proposition The wood is white, or the
. proposition The diagonal is incommensurable. Nor will truth and
, , falsity still be present in them in the same way as in other things. And
just as truth is not the same in these things, in a similar fashion neither is
being the same.

, 810. But truth or falsity is as follows: to come in contact with a thing and
( [25] ), to express it is truth (for expression is not the same as affirmation), and
( not to come in contact with a thing is ignorance. For it is impossible to
: , be deceived about a things quiddity, except in an accidental sense; and
: the same holds true in the case of incomposite things, for it is impossible
to be deceived about them.

, , 811. And they are all actual and not potential, for otherwise they would
, , [30] be generated and corrupted. But being itself is neither generated nor
: , corrupted; otherwise it would be generated out of something. Therefore,
: regarding all those things which are really quiddities and actualities, it is
, ): impossible to be deceived about them, but one must either know them or
not. But concerning them we may ask what they are, namely, whether
they are such and such or not.

, , 812. Now considering being in the sense of truth and non-being in the
, , , [35] , : sense of falsity, in the case of composite beings there is truth if the thing
, , , , : [1052] [1] is combined with the attribute attributed to it; in the case of simple beings
: , , the thing is just simply so. And if a thing is truly a being, it is so in some
, : particular way; but if it is not, it does not exist at all. Again, truth means
. to know these beings, and there is neither falsity nor deception about
them but only ignorance; but not ignorance such as blindness is, for
blindness is as if one did not have intellective power at all.

[5] 813. And concerning immobile things it is also evident that there is no
, . deception about them as regards time, if one assumes that they are
, immobile. For example, if one assumes that a triangle does not change,
( ), , he will not be of the opinion that at one time its angles are equal to two
, : right angles and that at another time they are not; for otherwise it would
[10] : , change. But he might assume that one thing has such and such a property
. and that another has not; for example, one might assume that no even
number is a prime number, or that some are and some are not. But this is
impossible as regards one single number; for one will not assume that
one thing is such and another is not; but whether he speaks truly or
falsely, a thing is always disposed in the same way.


Truth and falsehood

Hic comparat philosophus actum ad potentiam secundum veritatem et 1895. Here the Philosopher compares actuality to potency with
falsitatem. Et circa hoc tria facit. Primo ponit quod verum et falsum reference to truth and falsity; and in regard to this he does three things.
praecipue dicitur secundum actum. Secundo manifestat propositum, ibi, First, he claims that truth and falsity are chiefly referred to actuality.
hoc autem in rebus est componi aut dividi. Tertio concludit quoddam Second (1896), he explains what he aims to do (And in things). Third
corollarium, ibi, palam etiam et quia de immobilibus. (1917), he draws a corollary (And concerning).

Dicit ergo primo, quod cum ens et non ens ei oppositum dividantur He accordingly says, first, that, since being and non-being, which is its
dupliciter: uno modo secundum diversa praedicamenta, quae sunt opposite, are divided in two ways: first, into the different categories
substantia, quantitas, qualitas et cetera; alio modo secundum potentiam substance, quantity, quality and so forth; and second, into the potency
et actum, vel unius, vel alterius contrariorum, quia utrumque and actuality of one or the other of contraries (since either one of two
contrariorum contingit actu esse et potentia: hoc quod est in actu, maxime contraries may be actual or potential), it follows that true and false are
proprie dicitur aut verum aut falsum. most properly predicated of what is actual.

1896. And in things (807).

Deinde cum dicit hoc autem probat quod proposuerat. Et circa hoc tria He now proves his thesis; and in regard to this he does three things.
facit. Primo manifestat in substantiis continuis. Secundo in simplicibus, First, he makes this clear in the case of continuous substances; and
ibi, circa incomposita. Tertio colligit utrumque, ibi, esse vero ut verum. second (1901), in that of simple substances (However, with regard).
Third (1914), he summarizes both of these (Now considering).
Circa primum duo facit. Primo manifestat propositum; dicens, quod hoc, In regard to the first he does two things. First, he explains his thesis,
scilicet esse verum vel falsum in rebus, nihil est aliud quam componi et saying that in things this, i.e., being true or false, consists merely in
dividi. Unde qui putat dividi quod est divisum in rebus, verus est in sua being combined or being separated. Hence one who thinks that to be
opinione; ut qui putat hominem non esse asinum: et similiter qui putat separated which is separated in reality, has a true opinionfor
componi quod est compositum in rebus, ut qui putat hominem esse example, one who thinks that man is not an ass. And the same is true of
animal. Ille autem mentitur in opinando, qui e contrario habet res aliter one who thinks that to be combined which is combined in realityfor
in sua opinione, quam res sint in sua natura: ut qui putat hominem example, one who thinks that man is an animal. But, on the other hand,
asinum, aut non esse animal: quia quando aliquid est aut non est, tunc one who relates things in thought in a different way than they are in
dicitur verum vel falsum. their own proper nature has an erroneous opinionfor example, one
who thinks that man is an ass, or that he is not an animalbecause when
a thing is or is not, it is then said to be true or false.

Quod sic considerandum est. Non enim ideo tu es albus, quia nos vere 1897. This must be understood as follows: you are not white because
existimamus te esse album; sed e converso, ideo existimamus te album, we think truly that you are white; but conversely we think you are white
quia tu es albus. Unde manifestum est, quod dispositio rei est causa because you are white. Hence it has been shown that the way which a
veritatis in opinione et oratione. thing is disposed is the cause of truth both in thought and in speech.

Hoc autem addit ad manifestandum quod supra dixerat, quod verum et 1898. He adds this in order to clarify what he said above, namely, that
falsum est in rebus componi et dividi. Oportet enim veritatem et in things truth and falsity consist in being combined and being
falsitatem quae est in oratione vel opinione, reduci ad dispositionem rei separated. For the truth and falsity found in speech and in thought must
sicut ad causam. Cum autem intellectus compositionem format, accipit be traced to a things disposition as their cause. Now when the intellect
duo, quorum unum se habet ut formale respectu alterius: unde accipit id makes a combination, it receives two concepts, one of which is related
ut in alio existens, propter quod praedicata tenentur formaliter. to the other as a form; hence it takes one as being present in the other,
because predicates are taken formally.

Et ideo, si talis operatio intellectus ad rem debeat reduci sicut ad causam, Therefore, if such an operation of the intellect should be traced to a thing
oportet quod in compositis substantiis ipsa compositio formae ad as its cause, then in composite substances the combination of matter
materiam, aut eius quod se habet per modum formae et materiae, vel and form, or also the combination of subject and accident, must serve
etiam compositio accidentis ad subiectum, respondeat quasi as the foundation and cause of the truth in the combination which the
fundamentum et causa veritatis, compositioni, quam intellectus interius intellect makes in itself and expresses in words. For example, when I
format et exprimit voce. Sicut cum dico, Socrates est homo, veritas huius say, Socrates is a man, the truth of this enunciation is caused by
enunciationis causatur ex compositione formae humanae ad materiam combining the form humanity with the individual matter by means of
individualem, per quam Socrates est hic homo: et cum dico, homo est which Socrates is this man; and when I say, Man is white, the cause
albus, causa veritatis est compositio albedinis ad subiectum: et similiter of the truth of this enunciation is the combining of whiteness with the
est in aliis. Et idem patet in divisione. subject. It is similar in other cases. And the same thing is evident in the
case of separation.

1899. Therefore (808).

Secundo ibi, si igitur concludit ex dictis, quod si compositio et divisio rei Second, he concludes from what has been said that, if the combining
est causa veritatis et falsitatis in opinione et oratione, necesse est quod and separating of a thing is the cause of the truth and falsity in thought
secundum differentiam compositionis et divisionis eius quod est in rebus, and in speech, the difference between truth and falsity in thought and in
est differentia veritatis et falsitatis in opinione et oratione. In rebus autem speech must be based on the difference between the combining and
talis differentia invenitur circa compositionem et divisionem: quod separating of what exists in reality. Now in reality such difference is
quaedam semper componuntur, et impossibile est ea dividi; sicut animae found to involve combination and separation, because (1) some things
rationali coniungitur natura sensitiva semper, et impossibile est quod are always combined and it is impossible for them to be separated; for
dividatur ab ea, ita scilicet quod anima rationalis sit sine virtute sentiendi, example, sentient nature is always united to the rational soul, and it is
licet e converso posset esse anima sensitiva sine ratione. Quaedam vero impossible for the latter to be separated from the former in such a way
sunt divisa, et impossibile est ea componi, sicut nigrum albo, et formam that the rational soul may exist without the power of sensation, although
asini homini. Quaedam vero se habent ad contraria, quia possunt on the other hand a sentient soul can exist without reason. Again, (2)
componi et dividi, sicut homo albus, et etiam currens. some things are separated and it is impossible for them to be combined,
for example, black and white, and the form of an ass and that of a man.
Again, (3) some things are open to contraries, because they can be
combined and separated, as man and white and also running.

Esse autem, in quo consistit compositio intellectus, ut affirmatio, 1900. However, the being in which the intellects act of combining
compositionem quamdam et unionem indicat: non esse vero, quod consists, inasmuch as there is affirmation, indicates a certain
significat negatio, tollit compositionem, et designat pluralitatem et composition and union; whereas non-being, which negation signifies,
diversitatem. Unde manifestum est, quod in his, quae contingit componi does away with composition and union and indicates plurality and
et dividi, una et eadem oratio sit quandoque vera, quandoque falsa; sicut otherness. Hence it was shown that in the case of things which may be
haec oratio, Socrates sedet, est vera eo sedente, eadem autem falsa eo combined and separated one and the same statement is sometimes true
surgente. Et similiter est de opinione. and sometimes false; for example, the statement Socrates is sitting is
true when he is sitting; but the same statement is false when he gets up.
And the same holds true in the case of thought.
Sed in his quae non possunt aliter se habere, scilicet quae semper But with regard to those things which cannot be otherwise than they are,
componuntur vel dividuntur, non est possibile quod eadem opinio vel i.e., those which are always combined or separated, it is impossible
oratio quandoque sit vera, quandoque falsa; sed quae est vera, semper est for the same thought or statement to be sometimes true and sometimes
vera; et quae est falsa, semper est falsa. Sicut haec est vera, homo est false; but what is true is always true, and what is false is always false;
animal; haec autem falsa, homo est asinus. for example, the proposition Man is an animal is true, but the
proposition Man is an ass is false.

1901. However, with regard (809).

Deinde cum dicit circa incomposita ostendit quomodo in simplicibus He now explains how truth and falsity can be present in simple things;
possit esse verum et falsum. Et circa hoc tria facit. Primo ostendit non and in regard to this he does three things. First, he shows that truth is
similiter esse verum in simplicibus et in compositis; dicens, quod circa not present in the same way in simple things and in composite ones. He
incomposita et simplicia, cuiusmodi sunt substantiae immateriales, non says that in the case of things which are not composite but simple, such
est verum vel falsum per compositionem aut divisionem quae fit in rebus, as immaterial substances, truth or falsity is not present in them (~) as a
sed per hoc quod cognoscitur quod quid est, aut non cognoscitur. Cum result of any combination or separation which occurs in reality, but (+)
enim attingamus ad cognoscendum quod quid est alicuius simplicis, tunc arises because their quiddity is known or not known. For when we
intellectus videtur verus esse. Cum autem non attingimus ad acquire knowledge of the quiddity of any simple being, the intellect
cognoscendum quod quid est, sed aliquid aliud ei attribuit, tunc falsus seems to be true; and when we fail to acquire knowledge of its quiddity,
est. but attribute something else to it, the intellect is then false.

Non enim in simplicibus est compositio, ut possit dici quod quando 1902. For there is no composition in simple beings as a consequence of
componitur res, tunc intellectus componens sit verus; vel quando divisum which it could be said that, when the thing is combined, the intellect in
est in re, quod intellectus componit, tunc intellectus non sit verus. Vel making a combination is then true; or that, when that is separated in
aliter: non est in simplicibus compositio, ita quod cum dicitur de eo reality which the intellect combines, the intellect is then not true. Or to
affirmative quod sit, significetur eius compositio; et cum dicitur de eo express this in a different way, there is no composition in simple things
quod non sit negative, significetur eius divisio. Sicut in rebus compositis, by reason of which, when we express affirmatively that it is so, its
cum dicitur, quod lignum sit album, significatur eius compositio; aut cum composition is signified; and when we express negatively that it is not
dicitur, quod non sit lignum album, aut quod diametrum non sit so, its separation is signified; as, for example, in the case of composite
commensurabile, significatur eius divisio. things, when it is said that a piece of wood is white, its composition is
signified, or when it is said that it is not white, or that the diagonal is
not commensurable, its separation is signified.
Et sic patet quod verum et falsum non est similiter in simplicibus, sicut 1903. Thus it is evident that truth and falsity are not present in simple
in compositis. Neque hoc mirum est, quia etiam esse non est similiter in things in the same way as in composite things. Nor is this surprising,
utrisque. Sed esse compositorum surgit ex componentibus, non autem since being also is not the same in both; but the being of composite
esse simplicium. Verum autem consequitur ens; quia, sicut in secundo things results from their components, whereas that of simple things does
huius est habitum, eadem est dispositio rerum in esse et in veritate. not. Now truth follows being, because, as was said in Book II (298) of
this work, the structure of things in being and in truth is the same.

Unde quae non sunt similia in esse, non sunt similia in veritate. Hence those things which are not similar in being are not similar in

1904. But truth (810).

Secundo ibi, sed hoc ostendit qualiter sit verum et falsum in simplicibus; Second, he shows how truth and falsity are present in simple things. He
dicens, quod huiusmodi est verum et falsum in simplicibus, ut dicetur. says that in the case of simple things truth and falsity are such as will
Attingere enim mente ad ipsum simplex, ut scilicet apprehendatur quid be explained; for to come in contact with a simple thing through the
est, et dicere, idest significare voce ipsum simplex, hoc est verum, quod intellect, in such a way as to apprehend what it is and to express it,
est in simplicibus. Et, quia dicere quandoque sumitur pro praedicatione i.e., to signify this simple thing by a word, constitutes the truth present
affirmativa quae cum compositione fit, hunc intellectum removet; dicens, in simple things. And since sometimes the word to express is taken
quod non est idem affirmatio et dictio: quia affirmatio est per hoc, quod for affirmative predication, which involves composition, he rejects this
aliquid dicitur de aliquo, quod est cum compositione; dictio autem interpretation. He says that affirmation and expression are not the same,
simplex prolatio alicuius. because affirmation occurs when one thing is predicated of something
else, and this implies combination, whereas expression is the simple
utterance of something.

Sic ergo attingere et dicere, est verum; sed non attingere mente ipsa 1905. Therefore to come in contact with simple things through the
simplicia, est ea penitus ignorare. Quicumque enim non attingit ad quod intellect and to express them constitutes truth; but not to come in contact
quid est rei simplicis, penitus ignorat ipsam: non enim potest aliquid eius with them is not to know them at all. For whoever does not grasp the
scire, et aliquid ignorare, ex quo non est compositum. quiddity of a simple thing is completely ignorant of it; because one
cannot both know and not know something about it, since it is not
Videbatur autem, quod sicut dixerat, quod attingere simplicia est dicere 1906. Moreover, since he had said that to come in contact with simple
verum in eis, ita non attingere est falsum, aut decipi. Hoc autem non dixit, things is to express their truth, it would seem that not to come in
sed dixit quod non attingere est ignorare; contact with them is (~) to be false or in error. He did not say this,
however, but said that not to come in contact with them is (+) not to
know them.

et ideo subdit causam, quare non attingere non est decipi; dicens, quod Hence he gives the reason why not to come in contact with them is not
circa quod quid est non est decipi; nisi secundum accidens. Quod sic to be in error about them, saying that it is possible to be in error about
intelligendum est. their quiddity only accidentally; and this must be understood as follows.

Dictum est enim superius in septimo et in octavo, quod in substantiis 1907. It was said above in Book VII (1362) and in Book VIII (1710)
simplicibus idem est res, et quod quid est eius. Sic igitur cum substantia that in the case of simple substances the thing itself and its quiddity are
simplex sit ipsum quod quid est, idem iudicium est de cognitione one and the same. Hence, since a simple substance is its own quiddity,
substantiae simplicis, et de cognitione eius quod quid est. Sed circa quod the judgment about the knowledge of a simple substance and the
quid est non decipitur intellectus nisi per accidens: aut enim per judgment about the knowledge of its quiddity are one and the same. But
intellectum attingit aliquis quod quid est rei, et tunc vere cognoscit quid the intellect is deceived about a quiddity only accidentally; for either a
est res; aut non attingit, et tunc non apprehendit rem illam. Unde circa person comes in contact with a things quiddity through his intellect,
eam non verificatur neque decipitur. Propter quod dicit Aristoteles in and then he truly knows what that thing is; or he does not come in
tertio de anima, quod sicut sensus circa propria obiecta semper est verus, contact with it, and then he does not know what it is. Hence, with regard
ita intellectus circa quod quid est, quasi circa proprium obiectum. to such a thing the intellect is neither true nor false. This is why Aristotle
says in Book III of The Soul that, just as a sense is always true with
regard to its proper object, in a similar fashion the intellect is always
true with regard to its proper objectquiddity.

Et quod intellectus circa quod quid est non decipiatur, non solum est in And the fact that the intellect is not deceived about a things quiddity
simplicibus substantiis, sed etiam in compositis. applies not only in the case of simple substances but also in that of
composite ones.

Quomodo autem per accidens decipiatur aliquis circa quod quid est, 1908. Now it is necessary to consider how one may be accidentally
considerandum est. Non enim decipitur quis circa quod quid est, nisi deceived about a quiddity. For a person is deceived about a quiddity
componendo, aut dividendo. Quod quidem in substantiis compositis only as a result of combining or separating; and with regard to
contingit dupliciter. Uno modo per compositionem definitionis ad rem composite substances this may occur in two ways. (1) First, it may
definitam, aut divisionem. Ut si aliquis diceret: asinum esse animal occur by combining a definition with something defined or by
rationale mortale; aut: homo non est animal rationale mortale, utrobique separating them; for example, if someone were to say that an ass is a
falsum est. Alio modo secundum quod definitio constituitur ex partibus, mortal rational animal, or that a man is not a mortal rational animal,
quae non sunt invicem componibiles: ut si quis assignaret hanc both would be false. (2) Second, insofar as a definition is composed of
definitionem, homo est animal insensibile. Primo igitur modo definitio parts which are incompatible with each other; for example, if someone
dicitur esse falsa, quia non est huius. Secundo modo dicitur esse falsa per were to give this definitionman is a non-sensible animal. Thus a
se, ut supra in quinto docuit philosophus. definition is said to be false in the first way because it is not the
definition of this thing; and in the second way it is said to be false in
itself, as the Philosopher has instructed us above in Book V (1132).

In simplicibus vero substantiis non potest esse deceptio circa quod quid 1909. Now we can be deceived accidentally about the quiddity of
est per accidens nisi primo modo: non enim eorum quod quid est, est simple substances only in the first way; for their quiddity is not
compositum ex pluribus, circa quorum compositionem vel divisionem composed of many parts in the combining and separating of which
possit accidere falsum. falsity can arise.

1910. And they are (811).

Et omnes adaptat quod dixerat de substantiis simplicibus ad principale He adapts his remarks about simple substances to his main thesis, in
propositum: scilicet ad ostendendum quod verum magis est actu quam in which he shows that truth involves actuality rather than potency.
potentia. Ostenderat quidem hoc circa composita, pro eo quod verum est Indeed, he had shown this to be true in the case of composite substances
circa compositionem et divisionem, quae actum designant: in substantiis insofar as their truth embodies combination and separation, which
vero simplicibus ex eo quod non est in eis falsum, sed tantum verum. designate actuality. But he shows that this is true in the case of simple
Propter quod non sunt in potentia, sed in actu. substances from the fact that they do not contain falsity but only truth.
And for this reason they are not potential but actual.

Dicit ergo quod omnes substantiae simplices sunt actu entes, et nunquam 1911. He accordingly says that all simple substances are actual beings
entes in potentia: quia, si quandoque essent in actu, et quandoque in and are never potential ones; for if they were sometimes actual and
potentia, generarentur et corrumperentur: sed hoc non potest esse, ut sometimes potential, they would be generated and corrupted. But this
ostensum est: nam huiusmodi substantiae sunt formae tantum, unde cannot be the case, as has been shown above (1715), for substances of
etiam secundum se sunt entes; ens autem secundum seipsum non this kind are forms alone, and for this reason they are also beings of
generatur neque corrumpitur. Omne enim quod generatur ex aliquo themselves. Now what exists of itself is neither generated nor corrupted,
generatur: ens autem simpliciter inquantum ens, non potest ex aliquo for everything that is generated is generated from something. But being
generari. Non enim est aliquid extra ens, sed extra tale ens; utputa extra in an absolute sense cannot be generated from anything; for there is
hominem est aliquod ens. Unde hoc ens potest generari secundum quid, nothing apart from being but only apart from some particular being, just
sed ens simpliciter non. as there is some being apart from man. Hence this being can be
generated in a qualified sense, but being in an absolute sense cannot.

Id ergo, quod est ens secundum se, per hoc, quod ipsum est forma, ad Hence what is a being of itself, because it is a form, from which being
quam sequitur ens, non est generabile. Unde non est quandoque in naturally follows, cannot be generated; and for this reason it is not
potentia, quandoque in actu. sometimes potential and sometimes actual.

Et ideo, quia circa actum maxime consistit verum, quaecumque sunt talia, 1912. Therefore, since truth consists chiefly in actuality, it is unfitting
quae sunt solum in actu, et sunt id quod vere aliquid est, quia sunt that there should be error or falsity in all those things which are actual
quidditates et formae, circa ea non convenit decipi, aut esse falsum. Sed only and are what something truly is, since they are quiddities or forms;
oportet ut intelligantur si mente attingantur, vel penitus non intelligantur but they must either be understood if they are grasped by the intellect,
si mente non attingantur. or not be understood at all if they are not grasped by the intellect.

Sed quamvis in eis non contingat decipi secundum se, contingit tamen 1913. But even though it is impossible to be (~) deceived about these
cum quaeritur de eis quod quid est, scilicet si talia sunt aut non. Et sic things as regards their essence, this is nevertheless (+ possible when
contingit decipi in eis per accidens: utputa si quis quaerat de aliqua we ask what they are, i.e., whether they are of such and such a nature
substantia simplici utrum sit ignis, aut substantia corporea, vel non: quia, or not. Hence it is possible to be deceived about them accidentally, as
si attribuitur ei esse substantiam corpoream, erit falsitas per accidens someone might ask whether a simple substance is fire or a corporeal
propter compositionem. substance or not, because if it is held to be a corporeal substance, there
will be falsity accidentally as a result of combination.

1914. Now considering (812).

Deinde cum dicit esse vero colligit quod dixerat de vero et falso tam circa He summarizes the statements he has made about truth and falsity both
composita quam circa simplicia; dicens, quod hoc ipsum esse quod with reference to composite things and to simple ones. He says that this
significat veritatem, et non esse quod significat falsitatem (quia qui dicit, being which signifies truth and non-being which signifies falsity
homo est albus, significat hoc esse verum; qui dicit, non est albus, (because he who says that a man is white signifies this to be true; and
significat hoc esse falsum): hoc, inquam, esse et non esse, uno modo he who says that a man is not white signifies this to be false), being and
dicitur, scilicet in compositione, scilicet quod est verum si componitur in non-being in this sense, I say, are used (1) in one way in the case of the
re quod intellectus componit: falsum autem si non componitur in re quod composition of things. That is, there is truth if what the intellect
intellectus componit, intelligens aut denuncians. combines is combined in reality, but there is falsity if what the intellect
combines when it understands or forms a proposition is not combined
in reality.

Alio vero modo in rebus simplicibus verum est, si id quod est vere ens, 1915. (2) And truth exists in a different way in the case of simple things,
idest quod est ipsum quod quid est, idest substantia rei simplex, sic est if what is truly a being, i.e., the quiddity or substance of a simple thing,
sicut intelligitur: si vero non est ita sicut intelligitur, non est verum in is as it is understood to be; but if it is not as it is understood to be, no
intellectu. Et sic est verum intelligere ipsa, sed falsum non est ibi, neque truth exists in the intellect. Thus truth consists in understanding these
deceptio, ut expositum est, sed ignorantia. Quia si non attingit ad quod things; but concerning them there is neither falsity nor error in the
quid est, penitus ignorat rem illam. In compositis autem potest unum intellect, as has been explained (1912), but ignorance; for if one does
scire, et circa alias proprietates eius decipi. not grasp the quiddity of a thing, one does not know that thing in any
way at all. In the case of composite things, however, one can know one
of their properties and be deceived about the others.

Qualis autem ignorantia est, ostendit cum dicit, quod illa ignorantia non 1916. Furthermore, he shows what sort of ignorance this is when he says
est talis privatio sicut caecitas quae est privatio potentiae visivae. Unde that this ignorance is not a privation such as blindness, which is the
illa ignorantia similis caecitati esset, si aliquis non haberet vim privation of the power of sight. Hence that ignorance would be similar
intellectivam ad attingendum substantias simplices. to blindness if one did not have the intellective power of acquiring
knowledge of simple substances.

Ex quo patet quod secundum sententiam Aristotelis humanus intellectus And from this it is evident that according to the opinion of Aristotle the
potest pertingere ad intelligendum substantias simplices. Quod videtur human intellect can acquire an understanding of simple substances. This
sub dubio reliquisse in tertio de anima. is a point which he seems to have left unsolved in The Soul, Book III:3.

1917. And concerning (813).

Deinde cum dicit palam etiam inducit quoddam corollarium; dicens, Here he introduces a corollary. He says that it is evident from what has
quod ex dictis manifestum est, quod de immobilibus non est deceptio been said that there is no error about (~) immobile things as regards
secundum quando. In contingentibus vero contingit decipi secundum time. But in the case of (+) contingent things, which are not always so,
quando, in his scilicet quae non semper sunt: utputa, si Socrates est it is possible to be in error about them as regards time; for example, if
sessurus, et hoc aliquis putet, potest aliquis decipi in eo quod putet eum Socrates is going to sit down and someone were to judge this to be so,
sessurum quando non est sessurus; et similiter si putet eclipsim futuram he could be deceived insofar as he might judge that Socrates is going to
quando non est futura. Sed in rebus immobilibus et quae semper sunt, sit down when he is not. The same thing would be true if someone were
non potest contingere nisi uno modo: scilicet si quis putet ea esse mobilia, to think that an eclipse will occur when it will not. But in the case of
et non semper esse: tunc enim decipitur in eis, sed non secundum quando. immobile things and those which always are, the above can occur only
Et ideo dicit: si quis putet ea esse immobilia, non decipitur in eis in one way, i.e., if someone were to think that these things are mobile
secundum quando. and that they do not always exist; for he is then in error about them, but
he would not be in error as regards time. Hence he says that, if someone
thinks that they are immobile, he will not be deceived about them as
regards time.

Et hoc ideo dicit, quia si quis putat ea esse immobilia, non putabit ea 1918. He says this, then, because, if someone assumes that they are
quandoque esse et quandoque non esse, et sic non decipitur in eis immobile, he will not think that they sometimes are and sometimes are
secundum quando. Ut si quis putet triangulum non permutari, non not, and thus he is not deceived about them as regards time. For
opinabitur quod quandoque habeat duos rectos, quantum ad example, if someone thinks that a triangle is unchangeable, he will not
aequivalentiam, et quandoque non. Sic enim permutaretur et non be of the opinion that the sum of its angles will sometimes equal two
permutaretur. right angles and sometimes will not, for it would then be both
changeable and unchangeable.

Sed in rebus immobilibus convenit sub aliquo communi accipere aliquid, 1919. But in the case of immobile things it is possible to consider under
quod sic se habet, et aliquid quod non sic: puta sub triangulo aliquem one common aspect one thing that has such and such a property and
aequilaterum, et aliquem non. Et convenit dubitari de numero pari, utrum another that has not; for example, it is possible to understand that under
nullus sit primus, vel aliqui sint primi, aliqui non. Numerus primus triangle some triangles are equilateral and others are not. And it is
dicitur quem sola unitas mensurat. Unde inter numeros pares, solus possible to ask whether no even number is prime, or whether some are
binarius est primus, et nullus aliorum. and some are nota prime number being one which the unit alone
measures. Hence among even numbers only the number two is a prime
number, but none of the others.

Et circa unum numero in rebus immobilibus non convenit errare ac And regarding what is numerically one, in the case of immobile things
decipi, neque quantum ad hoc. Non enim in eodem numero potest aliquis it is impossible to be in error or to be deceived even in this [taking one
putare aliquem sic se habere, et aliquem non sic. Unum enim numero non thing that has and another that has not a certain property]. For in the
dividitur in multa. Unde oportebit, quod simpliciter dicat verum vel case of something numerically one it is impossible for anyone to think
falsum, cum illud unum numero semper similiter se habeat, nec sit in eo that one individual can be so and another not be so; for what is
accipere diversitatem, neque quantum ad tempus, neque quantum ad numerically one is not divided into many. Hence he will have to say
supposita. Ex quibus apparet, quod verum est magis circa actum. what is true or false in an unqualified sense, since what is numerically
Immobilia enim, inquantum huiusmodi, semper sunt actu. one always exists in the same way and is incapable of being diversified
either in point of time or of subjects. From this it is clear that truth has
to do with actuality; for immobile things as such are always actual.


Accident: Habit
Substance: Form