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Metaphysics   


which comes to be, a thing is potentially all those things which it
will be of itself if nothing external hinders it. E.g. the seed is not
yet potentially a man; for it must be deposited in something other
than itself and undergo a change. But when through its own motive
principle it has already got such and such attributes, in this state
it is already potentially a man; while in the former state it needs
another motive principle, just as earth is not yet potentially a
statue (for it must first change in order to become brass.)
It seems that when we call a thing not something else but
'thaten'-e.g. a casket is not 'wood' but 'wooden', and wood is not
'earth' but 'earthen', and again earth will illustrate our point if it
is similarly not something else but 'thaten'-that other thing is
always potentially (in the full sense of that word) the thing which
comes after it in this series. E.g. a casket is not 'earthen' nor
'earth', but 'wooden'; for this is potentially a casket and this is
the matter of a casket, wood in general of a casket in general, and
this particular wood of this particular casket. And if there is a
first thing, which is no longer, in reference to something else,
called 'thaten', this is prime matter; e.g. if earth is 'airy' and air
is not 'fire' but 'fiery', fire is prime matter, which is not a
'this'. For the subject or substratum is differentiated by being a
'this' or not being one; i.e. the substratum of modifications is, e.g.
a man, i.e. a body and a soul, while the modification is 'musical'
or 'pale'. (The subject is called, when music comes to be present in
it, not 'music' but 'musical', and the man is not 'paleness' but
'pale', and not 'ambulation' or 'movement' but 'walking' or
'moving',-which is akin to the 'thaten'.) Wherever this is so, then,
the ultimate subject is a substance; but when this is not so but the
predicate is a form and a 'this', the ultimate subject is matter and
material substance. And it is only right that 'thaten' should be
used with reference both to the matter and to the accidents; for
both are indeterminates.
We have stated, then, when a thing is to be said to exist
potentially and when it is not.
8

From our discussion of the various senses of 'prior', it is
clear that actuality is prior to potency. And I mean by potency not
only that definite kind which is said to be a principle of change in
another thing or in the thing itself regarded as other, but in general
every principle of movement or of rest. For nature also is in the same
genus as potency; for it is a principle of movement-not, however, in
something else but in the thing itself qua itself. To all such
potency, then, actuality is prior both in formula and in
substantiality; and in time it is prior in one sense, and in another
not.
(1) Clearly it is prior in formula; for that which is in the
primary sense potential is potential because it is possible for it
to become active; e.g. I mean by 'capable of building' that which
can build, and by 'capable of seeing' that which can see, and by
'visible' that which can be seen. And the same account applies to
all other cases, so that the formula and the knowledge of the one must
precede the knowledge of the other.
(2) In time it is prior in this sense: the actual which is
identical in species though not in number with a potentially
existing thing is to it. I mean that to this particular man who now
exists actually and to the corn and to the seeing subject the matter
and the seed and that which is capable of seeing, which are
potentially a man and corn and seeing, but not yet actually so, are
prior in time; but prior in time to these are other actually
existing things, from which they were produced. For from the
potentially existing the actually existing is always produced by an
actually existing thing, e.g. man from man, musician by musician;
there is always a first mover, and the mover already exists

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