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[1048a] [1]

Since anything which is possible is something possible at some time and in some way, and with any other qualifications which are necessarily included in the definition; and since some things can set up processes rationally and have rational potencies, while others are irrational and have irrational potencies; and since the former class can only belong to a living thing, whereas the latter can belong both to living and to inanimate things: it follows that as for potencies of the latter kind, when the agent and the patient meet in accordance with the potency in question, the one must act and the other be acted upon; but in the former kind of potency this is not necessary, for whereas each single potency of the latter kind is productive of a single effect, those of the former kind are productive of contrary effects,1 so that one potency will produce at the same time contrary effects.2But this is impossible. Therefore there must be some other deciding factor, by which I mean desire or conscious choice. For whichever of two things an animal desires decisively it will do, when it is in circumstances appropriate to the potency and meets with that which admits of being acted upon. Therefore everything which is rationally capable, when it desires something of which it has the capability, and in the circumstances in which it has the capability, must do that thing.Now it has the capability when that which admits of being acted upon is present and is in a certain state; otherwise it will not be able to act. (To add the qualification "if nothing external prevents it" is no longer necessary; because the agent has the capability in so far as it is a capability of acting; and this is not in all, but in certain circumstances, in which external hindrances will be excluded; [20] for they are precluded by some of the positive qualifications in the definition.)Hence even if it wishes or desires to do two things or contrary things simultaneously, it will not do them, for it has not the capability to do them under these conditions, nor has it the capability of doing things simultaneously, since it will only do the things to which the capability applies and under the appropriate conditions.

Since we have now dealt with the kind of potency which is related to motion, let us now discuss actuality; what it is, and what its qualities are. For as we continue our analysis it will also become clear with regard to the potential that we apply the name not only to that whose nature it is to move or be moved by something else, either without qualification or in some definite way, but also in other senses; and it is on this account that in the course of our inquiry we have discussed these as well.

"Actuality" means the presence of the thing, not in the sense which we mean by "potentially." We say that a thing is present potentially as Hermes is present in the wood, or the half-line in the whole, because it can be separated from it; and as we call even a man who is not studying "a scholar" if he is capable of studying. That which is present in the opposite sense to this is present actually.What we mean can be plainly seen in the particular cases by induction; we need not seek a definition for every term, but must comprehend the analogy: that as that which is actually building is to that which is capable of building,

1 Cf. Aristot. Met. 9.2.4, 5.

2 sc., if every potency must act automatically whenever agent and patient meet.

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