Definitions of Act, Potency, and Being (Agency part 3)

Before we can begin to support the case for agency, it is likely wise to cover a few foundational points.

  1. Any effect is the result of a potential being moved to an actual. The effect of a
    house is when a pile of wood is moved to become a house. Thus a pile of
    wood is a potential house, and the act of building is when the potency is moved
    to actual.
  2. Nothing in potency can be moved to act except by
    something already in act. No potency can move itself into act.
  3. There is a distinction in types of actual (act). The act of one thing is distinct from the act of another; not all things in act are identical.
  4. Potency is a limiting factor. I am limited in how high I can jump by my potential to jump.
  5. All composed things have both act and potency. All things which are composed of parts have the potential to come apart, or the potential for the parts to change relation.
  6. If a being were possible to be uncomposed and pure act, it would have no mixture of potency.

We must also affirm that the basic laws of thought apply to
all meaningful communication. The law of identity (A is A) and the law of
noncontradiction (A is not non-A) apply in all cases of logic and reason. However, in order for them to apply, we must use the same terms univocally, without equivocation. We
cannot say “A is not non-A1” since A1 could be an equivocation.  For example, we cannot say “That chair cannot hold heavy things, and Bob is a heavy smoker, therefore that chair cannot hold Bob.” In such a case, ‘heavy’ has equivocated and changed meanings.

Further, when we speak of an act moving something to potency, we must be
sure we are speaking of the same act and the same potency, or we have
equivocated on the meaning of the terms, and the conclusions will not follow.

Next, we must distinguish between a being, which is a noun,
and being (like running, jumping, sleeping), which is a participle.  All currently existing beings (noun) are currently being (participle). Similarly, we must distinguish between the

  • Action, which is a potential moving to actuality,
  • Act (actual) which is currently existing in reality.
  • Being (participle) which is the ongoing act of existing.

Thus we can speak of something in act, after it has been moved from potency to act by something which is already in act. We can also speak of something in act, though limited by its potency, since it is a composed being. And we can speak of different things in act having different capability to cause different potentials to move into act. Lastly, as a concept, we can speak of pure act with no potency.

With these foundational definitions, we can proceed to the
case to support agency.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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