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[1050b] [1] (and hence also happiness, since happiness is a particular kind of life). Evidently, therefore, substance or form is actuality. Thus it is obvious by this argument that actuality is prior in substantiality to potentiality; and that in point of time, as we have said, one actuality presupposes another right back to that of the prime mover in each case.

It is also prior in a deeper sense; because that which is eternal is prior in substantiality to that which is perishable, and nothing eternal is potential. The argument is as follows. Every potentiality is at the same time a potentiality for the opposite.1 For whereas that which is incapable of happening cannot happen to anything, everything which is capable may fail to be actualized.Therefore that which is capable of being may both be and not be. Therefore the same thing is capable both of being and of not being. But that which is capable of not being may possibly not be; and that which may possibly not be is perishable; either absolutely, or in the particular sense in which it is said that it may possibly not be; that is, in respect either of place or of quantity or of quality. "Absolutely" means in respect of substance.Hence nothing which is absolutely imperishable is absolutely potential (although there is no reason why it should not be potential in some particular respect; e.g. of quality or place); therefore all imperishable things are actual. Nor can anything which is of necessity be potential; and yet these things are primary, for if they did not exist, nothing would exist. [20] Nor can motion be potential, if there is any eternal motion. Nor, if there is anything eternally in motion, is it potentially in motion (except in respect of some starting-point or destination), and there is no reason why the matter of such a thing should not exist.Hence the sun and stars and the whole visible heaven are always active, and there is no fear that they will ever stop—a fear which the writers2 on physics entertain. Nor do the heavenly bodies tire in their activity; for motion does not imply for them, as it does for perishable things, the potentiality for the opposite, which makes the continuity of the motion distressing; this results when the substance is matter and potentiality, not actuality.

Imperishable things are resembled in this respect by things which are always undergoing transformation, such as earth and fire; for the latter too are always active, since they have their motion independently and in themselves.3 Other potentialities, according to the distinctions already made,4 all admit of the opposite result; for that which is capable of causing motion in a certain way can also cause it not in that way; that is if it acts rationally.The same irrational potentialities can only produce opposite results by their presence or absence.

Thus if there are any entities or substances such as the dialecticians5 describe the Ideas to be, there must be something which has much more knowledge than absolute knowledge, and much more mobility than motion;

1 Cf. 19.

2 e.g. Empedocles; cf. Aristot. Met. 5.23.3 n.

3 Cf. Aristot. De Gen. et Corr. 337a 1-7.

4 Aristot. Met. 9.5.2.

5 For this description of the Platonists cf. Aristot. Met. 1.6.7.

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