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Joe Sachs renders it with the phrase "being—at—work" and says that "we might construct the word is-at-work-ness from Anglo-Saxon roots to translate energeia into English".


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Two examples of energeiai in Aristotle's works are pleasure and happiness eudaimonia. Pleasure is an energeia of the human body and mind whereas happiness is more simply the energeia of a human being a human.

11. Aristotle's Metaphysics

Kinesis , translated as movement , motion , or in some contexts change, is also explained by Aristotle as a particular type of energeia. See below. According to Sachs , p. This is a three-ring circus of a word, at the heart of everything in Aristotle's thinking, including the definition of motion.

Sachs therefore proposed a complex neologism of his own, "being-at-work-staying-the-same". Entelecheia , as can be seen by its derivation, is a kind of completeness, whereas "the end and completion of any genuine being is its being-at-work" energeia. The entelecheia is a continuous being-at-work energeia when something is doing its complete "work". For this reason, the meanings of the two words converge, and they both depend upon the idea that every thing's "thinghood" is a kind of work, or in other words a specific way of being in motion. All things that exist now, and not just potentially, are beings-at-work, and all of them have a tendency towards being-at-work in a particular way that would be their proper and "complete" way.

Sachs explains the convergence of energeia and entelecheia as follows, and uses the word actuality to describe the overlap between them: [2]. Just as energeia extends to entelecheia because it is the activity which makes a thing what it is, entelecheia extends to energeia because it is the end or perfection which has being only in, through, and during activity. Aristotle's definition of motion is closely connected to his actuality-potentiality distinction. Taken literally, Aristotle defines motion as the actuality entelecheia of a "potentiality as such". A major difficulty comes from the fact that the terms actuality and potentiality, linked in this definition, are normally understood within Aristotle as opposed to each other.

On the other hand, the "as such" is important and is explained at length by Aristotle, giving examples of "potentiality as such". For example, the motion of building is the energeia of the dunamis of the building materials as building materials as opposed to anything else they might become, and this potential in the unbuilt materials is referred to by Aristotle as "the buildable".

So the motion of building is the actualization of "the buildable" and not the actualization of a house as such, nor the actualization of any other possibility which the building materials might have had. In an influential paper Aryeh Kosman divided up previous attempts to explain Aristotle's definition into two types, criticised them, and then gave his own third interpretation. While this has not become a consensus, it has been described as having become "orthodox". Kosman and Coope associate this approach with W.

Sachs points out that it was also the interpretation of Averroes and Maimonides. The argument of Ross for this interpretation requires him to assert that Aristotle actually used his own word entelecheia wrongly, or inconsistently, only within his definition, making it mean "actualization", which is in conflict with Aristotle's normal use of words. According to Sachs this explanation also can not account for the "as such" in Aristotle's definition. Motion is therefore "the actuality of any potentiality insofar as it is still a potentiality". Or in other words:. The Thomistic blend of actuality and potentiality has the characteristic that, to the extent that it is actual it is not potential and to the extent that it is potential it is not actual; the hotter the water is, the less is it potentially hot, and the cooler it is, the less is it actually, the more potentially, hot.

As with the first interpretation however, Sachs objects that:.

Doing and Being. An Interpretation of Aristotle's Metaphysics Theta

One implication of this interpretation is that whatever happens to be the case right now is an entelechia , as though something that is intrinsically unstable as the instantaneous position of an arrow in flight deserved to be described by the word that everywhere else Aristotle reserves for complex organized states that persist, that hold out against internal and external causes that try to destroy them. In a more recent paper on this subject, Kosman associates the view of Aquinas with those of his own critics, David Charles, Jonathan Beere, and Robert Heineman.

Sachs , amongst other authors such as Aryeh Kosman and Ursula Coope , proposes that the solution to problems interpreting Aristotle's definition must be found in the distinction Aristotle makes between two different types of potentiality, with only one of those corresponding to the "potentiality as such" appearing in the definition of motion. He writes:. The man with sight, but with his eyes closed, differs from the blind man, although neither is seeing. The first man has the capacity to see, which the second man lacks.

There are then potentialities as well as actualities in the world.

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But when the first man opens his eyes, has he lost the capacity to see? Obviously not; while he is seeing, his capacity to see is no longer merely a potentiality, but is a potentiality which has been put to work.

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The potentiality to see exists sometimes as active or at-work, and sometimes as inactive or latent. Sachs , pp. The genus of which motion is a species is being-at-work-staying-itself entelecheia , of which the only other species is thinghood. The being-at-work-staying-itself of a potency dunamis , as material, is thinghood.

The being-at-work-staying-the-same of a potency as a potency is motion. The actuality-potentiality distinction in Aristotle is a key element linked to everything in his physics and metaphysics. Aristotle describes potentiality and actuality, or potency and action, as one of several distinctions between things that exist or do not exist.

In a sense, a thing that exists potentially does not exist, but the potential does exist. And this type of distinction is expressed for several different types of being within Aristotle's categories of being.


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For example, from Aristotle's Metaphysics , a : [24]. Within the works of Aristotle the terms energeia and entelecheia , often translated as actuality, differ from what is merely actual because they specifically presuppose that all things have a proper kind of activity or work which, if achieved, would be their proper end. Greek for end in this sense is telos , a component word in entelecheia a work that is the proper end of a thing and also teleology. This is an aspect of Aristotle's theory of four causes and specifically of formal cause eidos , which Aristotle says is energeia [25] and final cause telos.

In essence this means that Aristotle did not see things as matter in motion only, but also proposed that all things have their own aims or ends. In other words, for Aristotle unlike modern science there is a distinction between things with a natural cause in the strongest sense, and things that truly happen by accident. He also distinguishes non-rational from rational potentialities e. 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.

When the Eleatic Visitor put forward the idea that one might think of being as having a capacity for action or passion, it was unclear what ought to count as having a capacity.

Aristotle’s Metaphysics

Aristotles phrase capacity con- nected with change picks up this idea of Platos. His discussion of capac- ities connected with change develops and claries it further. For instance, Plato treats knowing as an action in the relevant sense, so that there are capacities for knowing and being known. Aristotle thinks there is something importantly correct about this proposal, but also that Platos formulation of it requires important correction.

On Aristotles view, it seems that there will be capacities, but not capacities connected with change, for knowing. For knowing is not a case of one things bringing about a change in another poiesis. All this makes Metaphysics Theta a rare occasion in Aristotles work. While Aristotle is not beholden to ordinary language, he usually develops technical terms by beginning with ordinary language, and allowing the more rened meaning of the term to emerge in the course of the argument.

Con- sider, for instance, the way in which he regularly introduces the notions of form and matter with reference to a bronze statue. Here in Metaphysics Theta, unusually, the introduction of the terms already presents a problem. He wants to introduce technical terms that are not renements or elaborations of ordinary usage. His indirect strategy is his response to the concomitant difculties. Aristotle does, in fact, carry out the strategy he advertises here in the opening lines of Theta 1.