- Potentiality, Actuality, and Reality
Potentiality, Actuality, and Reality
Abstract: The concepts of potentiality and actuality play an important role
in the philosophy of Hyponoetics. This essay discusses the etymology and meaning
of both concepts and defines the principles and factors of the two processes of
reality, i.e., actualization and potentialization.
- Initially from Aristotle: dÚnami$ (dynamis):
capability of existing
or acting, potentiality, power, faculty, capacity.
- Translated to Latin as potentia, from potere/posse
(be powerful, be able).
- Common usage:
Capable of being but not yet in existence, latent.
Having possibility, capability, or power.
Possessing the capacity for growth, development.
- Synonyms: dispositional, virtual, possible, unrealized, unexpressed, latent, potency,
- Philosophical usage:
Aptitude to change, to act or to be acted upon, to give or to receive some new determination
(capable of determination).
- Potentia = determinable being.
- Initially from Aristotle: ™neršgia
(energeia): activity, operation, performance, full reality, act, functioning, actualization.
- Also from Greek: ™ntelšceia
(entelecheia): full, complete reality; state of completion or perfection; the form
that is actualized, actuality, perfection.
- Translated to Latin as actus (act, motion, action), from agere
- Also from Latin: actualis (what exists in reality, effective, active),
- Common usage:
Existing and not merely potential or possible.
- Synonyms: real, occurrent, existent, realization, entelechy, substantiality, determination.
- Philosophical usage:
The fulfillment of the capacity to change, to act, or to give or receive some new
- Actus = determined being.
The Two Processes of Actualization and Potentialization
1. From Potentiality to Actuality (Actualize
- Principle: principium actualiationis
Factors of actualization: time, space (= matter). Matter is the finite and concrete
aspect of the human being.
- Action translates to motion, which is fundamentally action in time and space. To
act means to exist, to sustain its own being and existence. There is no life without
acting. Action as the transition from potentiality to actuality means change, both
quantitative and qualitative change.
2. From Actuality to Potentiality (Potentialize
- Principle: principium potentialiationis
- Factor of potentialization: mind. Mind is the infinite and universal aspect of the
human being. Mind has the capacity to transcend itself, to go beyond its individuality
to the universal ground of reality, which is pure potentiality.
Figure 1 - Actualization and Potentialization
Note the prefix 'en-' (in, into) in en-ergeia and en-telecheia: it
could be translated as in-actuality or in-actualization. I also described
this process when discussing in-formation, the process of instantiating form
from the potentiality of the ultimate reality 'into' the actuality of the perceived
reality of our universe (see Essay Knowledge and Information).
Similarly, the process of actualization is a process of initiating action into the
time-space continuum, which causes change and transition from potentiality to actuality.
To exist is the same as to act. Acting is not just considered the outward, expressed
form of action or activity that is observable, but also the cognitive activity of
our mind. Anything that happens or occurs in time and/or space, any event is a determined
Acts are determined, concrete, and individual(plurality of phenomena). Since acts
are the result of actualized potentiality, they are at the same time also potentialized
actualities, i.e., the refer back to the unitary potentiality out of which they
were en-acted. In other words, although acts are the result of the actualization
process, acts also are the initiators of the reverse process: potentialization.
Mind, as the factor of potentialization, moves in two dimensions: a) the actual
dimension of noetic activity (rationality) and the b) potential dimension of
Paranoesis , which consists not
in a form of activity or action (which is always concrete), but in a state of non-activity
(compare Taoist concept of 'wu-wei' = non-action) that transcends the individual
form of our mind in order to become universal and therefore potential (an-energeia).