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Section 1

1. A distinction is made between things existing actually and things existing potentially; a certain Actuality, also, is spoken of as a really existent entity. We must consider what content there is in these terms.

Can we distinguish between Actuality [an absolute, abstract Principle] and the state of being-in-act? And if there is such an Actuality, is this itself in Act, or are the two quite distinct so that this actually existent thing need not be, itself, an Act?

It is indubitable that Potentiality exists in the Realm of Sense: but does the Intellectual Realm similarly include the potential or only the actual? and if the potential exists there, does it remain merely potential for ever? And, if so, is this resistance to actualization due to its being precluded [as a member of the Divine or Intellectual world] from time-processes?

First we must make clear what potentiality is.

We cannot think of potentiality as standing by itself; there can be no potentiality apart from something which a given thing may be or become. Thus bronze is the potentiality of a statue: but if nothing could be made out of the bronze, nothing wrought upon it, if it could never be anything as a future to what it has been, if it rejected all change, it would be bronze and nothing else: its own character it holds already as a present thing, and that would be the full of its capacity: it would be destitute of potentiality. Whatsoever has a potentiality must first have a character of its own; and its potentiality will consist in its having a reach beyond that character to some other.

Sometimes after it has turned its potentiality into actuality it will remain what it was; sometimes it will sink itself to the fullest extent in the new form and itself disappear: these two different modes are exemplified in (1) bronze as potentially a statue and (2) water [= primal-liquid] as potentially bronze or, again, air as potentially fire.

But if this be the significance of potentiality, may we describe it as a Power towards the thing that is to be? Is the Bronze a power towards a statue?

Not in the sense of an effectively productive force: such a power could not be called a potentiality. Of course Potentiality may be a power, as, for instance, when we are referring not merely to a thing which may be brought into actualization but to Actuality itself [the Principle or Abstract in which potentiality and the power of realizing potentiality may be thought of as identical]: but it is better, as more conducive to clarity, to use "Potentiality" in regard to the process of Actualization and "Power" in regard to the Principle, Actuality.

Potentiality may be thought of as a Substratum to states and shapes- and forms which are to be received, which it welcomes by its nature and even strives for- sometimes in gain but sometimes, also, to loss, to the annulling of some distinctive manner of Being already actually achieved.

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