From Wikipedia:

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural".

I have a metametaphysical question. What is meant by the potentialities and actualities? What is actual and what is potential? Can the potential becime actual and the actual potential? How are they connected?

Ii read this questioon:

What exactly is the 'potential' that is actualized in Aristotelian metaphysics?

It's about the potentiality as used by Aristotle. It is that how matter (the actuality) can be potentially (like saying that we are all potential killers). I am not sure if the Aristotlean view is the only view though.

  • A marble statue od Dionysos is actually a statue while a piece of raw marble is only potentially a statue. Jul 4, 2021 at 14:28
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA But the raw marble is actually raw marble. Jul 4, 2021 at 15:16
  • @DescheleSchilder Not "but...": what you say does not contradict what Mauro says, but what you say is irrelevant. Fallacy: you are introducing an unnecessarily Red Herring to win (?) the argument. A statue is actually a statue, but a block of marble is potentially a statue. Best answer.
    – RodolfoAP
    Jul 6, 2021 at 2:39
  • @RodolfoAP But the statue is potentially just marbe too. You can make a block of it. Actuality in time would be right to say. Like potentiallity in time. Not about what it actually or potentially is. What you consider a statue I can consider just a bkock of marble. Jul 6, 2021 at 7:40

1 Answer 1


Looks like they're connected by mistranslation, from Greek to Latin, described here:

“On the Essence and Concept of Physis in Aristotle’s Physics B, 1” from Sheehan's Translations, 1998

It roughly says energia (like eidos) - the idea - and dunamis (ability) in Greek were (apparently) reversed in sense to actus (actuality) and potentia (potential) in Latin. So the Greek sense that the idea is made real by ability is reversed to a passive sense where the actuality of something bears its idea upon your senses to make its essence (potential) known.

n.b. eidos = form or essence

In Greek thought energeia means “standing in the work,” where “work” means that which stands fully in its “end.” But in turn the “fully-ended or fulfilled” [das “Vollendete”] does not mean “the concluded,” any more than telos means “conclusion.” Rather, in Greek thought telos and ergon are defined by eidos; they name the manner and mode in which something stands “finally and finitely” [“endlich”] in its appearance. ...

Aristotle says this in his own way in a sentence we take from the treatise that deals explicitly with entelecheia (Meta. , 8, 1049 b 5): fanerin oti proteron energeia dynameis estis: “Manifestly standing-in-the-work is prior to appropriateness for....” In this sentence Aristotle’s thinking and pari passu Greek thinking, reaches its peak. But if we translate it in the usual way, it reads: “Clearly actuality is prior to potentiality.” Energeia, standing-in-the-work in the sense of presencing into the appearance, was translated by the Romans as actus, and so with one blow the Greek world was toppled. From actus, agere (to effect) came actualitas, “actuality.” "Dynamis became potentia, the ability and potential that something has. Thus the assertion, “Clearly actuality is prior to potentiality” seems to be evidently in error, for the contrary is more plausible. Surely in order for something to be “actual” and to be able to be “actual,” it must first be possible. Thus, potentiality is prior to actuality. But if we reason this way, we are not thinking either with Aristotle or with the Greeks in general. Certainly dynamis also means “ability” and it can be used as the word for “power,” but when Aristotle employs dynamis as the opposite concept to entelecheia and energeia, he uses the word (as he did analogously with xathgoria and ousia) as a thoughtful name for an essential basic concept in which beingness, ousia, is thought.

  • Very good observation! The ideas of energy and dynamics in physics are made clearer too. +1! Jul 5, 2021 at 10:38
  • The SEP has a different account: "Since Aristotle gives form priority over matter, we would expect him similarly to give actuality priority over potentiality. And that is exactly what we find ..." Actuality & Potentiality Jul 5, 2021 at 12:21
  • But isnt form a potentiallity existing in the actualty of matter? And dynamics the potentiallity of energy, the actuallity?Or is energy the potentiality (potential energy) and dynamics the actuallity (of matter)? Is maybe the cause the actuallity and the effect the potentiallity? Jul 5, 2021 at 12:45
  • On Wikipedia - Potentiality and actuality - "While actuality is linked by Aristotle to his concept of a formal cause, potentiality (or potency) on the other hand, is linked by Aristotle to his concepts of hylomorphic matter and material cause. Aristotle wrote for example that "matter exists potentially, because it may attain to the form; but when it exists actually, it is then in the form".[27]" Jul 5, 2021 at 13:13
  • So matter doesnt exist before it has a form? Like in Kaos? Jul 5, 2021 at 13:24

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