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Potential and Potentiality

  1. Oct 4, 2003 #1
    After looking into the concept of Potential I've found that the equations describing electrical, kinetic, gravitational, light and wind and bubble tension etc.. potentials do not fully describe what potential is... on its own. They simply describe the possiblities that are inherent with the elements of light etc... as "potentials".

    For instance a spring that is compressed has the propensity to "spring" back into its original shape or back to a shape that we would consider a spring at rest. But the potential that spring has to "spring back" into its original shape or to "be compressed" again does not have an equation. It is simply called potential.

    In Neuroscience there are "evoked potentials". Evoked potential describes a stimulus that stimulates a potential in to being or into actualization in the brain and eventually the rest of the body.

    When the sun rises it evokes the potential in our brain to a. realize its morning... b. have a pleasant sensation... c. come out of a state of rest or sleep.... etc....

    When the sun sets there is a completely different set of evoked potentials that are stimulated in our brain.

    Each stimulus we are able to perceive holds the potential to evoke a potential in our brain.

    For now, I am going to include the concept of VALUE as a potential that is evoked by stimulus. If there is another way to understand value and all its implications I would like to see them in this thread so that we can explore the "meaning" of value and its implications as well as perhaps understand potential a little better.

    Thank you!
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2003 #2
    Aristotle's "Entelechia "

    Here are some ideas from Aristoles on this subject... and related subjects:

    Aristotle (384-322 BCE.)
    Motion and its Place in Nature


    Aristotle defines motion, by which he means change of any kind, as the actuality of a potentiality as such (or as movable, or as a potentiality - Physics 201a 10-11, 27-29, b 4-5.) The definition is a conjunction of two terms which normally contradict each other, along with, in Greek, a qualifying clause which seems to make the contradiction inescapable. Yet St. Thomas Aquinas called it the only possible way to define motion by what is prior to and better known than motion. At the opposite extreme is the young Descartes, who in the first book he wrote announced that while everyone knows what motion is, no one understands Aristotle's definition of it. --------------------------------------------SNIP-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Energeia and Entelechia

    The word entelecheia was invented by Aristotle, but never defined by him. It is at the heart not only of his definition of motion, but of all his thought. Its meaning is the most knowable in itself of all possible objects of the intellect. There is no starting point from which we can descend to put together the cements of its meaning. We can come to an understanding of entelecheia only by an ascent from what is intrinsically less knowable than it, indeed knowable only through it, but more known because more familiar to us. We have a number of resources by which to begin such an ascent, drawing upon the linguistic elements out of which Aristotle constructed the word, and upon the fact that he uses the word energeia as a synonym, or all but a synonym, for entelecheia. --------SNIP---------------------

    Energeia, then, always means the being-at-work of some definite, specific something; the rock cannot undergo metabolism, and once the fish does no more than fall to earth and remain there it is no longer a fish. The material and organization of a thing determine a specific capacity or potentiality for activity with respect to which the corresponding activity has the character of an end (telos). Aristotle says "the act is an end and the being-at-work is the act and since energeia is named from the ergon it also extends to the being-at-an-end (entelecheia)" (Metaphysics 1050a 21-23). The word entelecheia has a structure parallel to that of energeia. From the root word telos, meaning end, comes the adjective enteles, used in ordinary speech to mean complete, perfect, or full-grown. But while energeia, being-at-work, is made from the adjective meaning at work and a noun ending, entelecheia is made from the adjective meaning complete and the verb exein. Thus if we translate entelecheia as "completeness" or "perfection" the contribution the meaning of exein makes to the term is not evident. -----SNIP-------

    The Standard Account of Aristotle's View of Motion

    We embarked on this quest for the meaning of entelecheia in order to decide whether the phrase "transition to actuality" could ever properly render it. ---SNIP--

    Sir David Ross, certainly the most massively qualified authority on Aristotle of those who have lived in our century and written in our language, the man who supervised the Oxford University Press's forty-five year project of translating all the works of Aristotle into English, in a commentary, on Aristotle's definition of motion, writes: "entelecheia must here mean 'actualization,' not 'actuality'; it is the passage to actuality that is kinesis" (Physics, text with commentary, London, 1936, p. 359). In another book, his commentary on the Metaphysics, Ross makes it clear that he regards the meaning entelecheia has in every use Aristotle makes of it everywhere but in the definition of motion as being not only other than but incompatible with the meaning "actualization." In view of that fact, Ross' decision that "entelecheia must here mean 'actualization'" is a desperate one, indicating a despair of understanding Aristotle out of his own mouth. It is not translation or interpretation but plastic surgery.

    Ross' full account of motion as actualization (Aristotle, New York, 1966, pp. 81-82) cites no passages from Aristotle, and no authorities, but patiently explains that motion is motion and cannot, therefore, be an actuality. There are authorities he could have cited, -----------------------------------------------------------------------------SNIP-------------------------------------------- and Ross amounts to saying "whatever motion is, it results always in an actuality." An accurate rendering of Aristotle's definition would amount to saying (a) that motion is rest, and (b) that a potentiality, which must be, at a minimum, a privation of actuality, is at the same time that actuality of which it is the lack. There has been one major commentator on Aristotle who was prepared to take seriously and to make sense of both these claims.
  4. Oct 10, 2003 #3


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    I'll bite. Who's that?
  5. Oct 13, 2003 #4


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    So what does exein mean? It looks like the adverb exe- turned into a verb. To put out? to bring out? Latin evolvo means literally I roll out, or I unroll. Could entelechy mean the out-coming of purpose?
  6. Oct 14, 2003 #5
    That's not an x but a chi, pronounced as in Bach or TeX. :)

    "echein" means something like "to hold" or "to have" or "to be able to", as far as I can tell.
  7. Oct 14, 2003 #6


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    I finally broke down and went to my old Zondervan Lexicon. It agrees with you. So what then does entelechy mean, Goalability?
  8. Oct 14, 2003 #7
    "Potential is as potential can (or might) do".

    Forrest Lump
  9. Nov 26, 2003 #8
    Potential Energy:

    Potential energy exists whenever an object which has mass has a position within a force field. The most everyday example of this is the position of objects in the earth's gravitational field.

    The potential energy of an object in this case is given by the relation:

    PE = mgh


    PE = Energy (in Joules)
    m = mass (in kilograms)
    g = gravitational acceleration of the earth (9.8 m/sec2)
    h = height above earth's surface (in meters)

    Kinetic Energy:

    Kinetic Energy exists whenever an object which has mass is in motion with some velocity. Everything you see moving about has kinetic energy.
    The kinetic energy of an object in this case is given by the relation:

    KE = (1/2)mv2

    KE = Energy (in Joules)
    m = mass (in kilograms)
    v = velocity (in meters/sec)
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