22 June 2012

Potentiality and Actuality

Responses to an inquirer:

1) Already with two entities there is the question as to interaction or interplay, the former between things, the latter between human players who are the origins of their own free movements. Therefore I distinguish between interaction and interplay to allow for the spontaneous nothingness of Dasein.

2) Very interesting that you distance yourself from predictability and calculability, a hallmark of all modern science, for this would be a major point of agreement between us. All modern physics is at core a mathematical calculus for the linear causality of movement/change (including many-body interactions). Hence Newtonian, Lagrangian, Hamiltonian classical mechanics, Schrödinger quantum mechanics and also quantum electrodynamics. Physicists absolutely strive for equations of time evolution for the dynamic system. All operate with linear, real time t, basically with partial differential equations. Otherwise they would not be modern physiciists and hence fall out of this historical epoch, i.e. lose their identity in this world, this time..

3) In Aristotle's ontology of movement, the actualitas (_entelecheia_) of a potential (_dynamis_) is movement (_energia_) itself, since the _dynamis_ is then 'at work' (_en ergoi_). The pro-ductive (forward-leading) movement, however, only comes to its end in the perfected presence of the finished product -- hence _en-tel-ech_eia_ = literally 'having-(itself)-in-its-end-ness'. Insofar I agree that there's a certain one-sidedness in Aristotle's ontology of movement, which accounts only for pro-ductive movement from an origin (_archae_). This ontology captures quite a few phenomena, however, e.g. chemical reactions. What is worked upon in a productive movement is the material, which suffers itself (and has the passive power to suffer) to be transformed by the active power/potential/potency at work on it.

4) Of course, even with Aristotelean ontology of movement, you can have chains of productive movements in which the outcome of one movement is the starting-point for the next. Insofar, the finished presence of the product is AS starting-point the absence of a further product. Is this what you mean? In the case of a conversation, however, even between two interlocutors, there is an interplay between them, since each is a starting-point for a movement, namely, to say something. If I am out to persuade you of something, and I manage to achieve this, then this is, in Aristotelean terms, a rhetorical movement that 'produces' your change of viewpoint. In fact, this is how Aristotle attempted to conceive rhetoric itself, namely, productively which, in my view, doesn't hold water. Rather, a dialogue is open-ended, never achieving a final, perfected presence, even when points of agreement along the way may be reached. All dialogue is subject to re-vision, i.e. the matter at hand can be re-seen in another way, from another angle.

So, in that sense, there is always something lacking in movements of all kinds, which Aristotle captures with the term _steraesis_ -- a full presence is lacking because something or other is lacking, wanting. As Aristotle saw, anything physical at rest is also a kind of movement because anything physical is, by definition, capable of movement/change, and hence is potentially something else which is still absent. Hence everything physical, including ourselves, is marked by both presence and absence, and the absence itself is present as a lack! Absence comprises both what was and what could be. Hence it is impossible to conceive the phenomenon of movement/change properly without a well-worked-out conception of three-dimensional time. This is still missing in Aristotle who, fatefully, takes time to be a counting number (_arithmos_) lifted off movement. Thus the 3-D temporal clearing remains hidden in metaphysics, and time is confused with clock-time, which is merely derivative.

Further reading: Commutative and distributive justice.

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