Michal Glowala

What is it for a power to be triggered and exercised? Poiesis-pathesis identity in Aristotelian ontologies of powers

According to the analysis presented in Physics 202a13-b22 (and applied to sense perception in De an. 425b25-426a27) when A causes B to change in some way, one and the same process (kinesis) is the exercise (energeia) of both A and B: one and the same process is A’s poiesis and B’s pathesis (they are not two distinct causally connected processes). For example, when one is throwing a clay pot on a potter’s wheel, one and the same process is the exercise of some power of the potter and of some power of the clay: as the exercise of the potter it is his throwing a clay pot, and as the exercise of the clay it is being fashioned into a pot. By contrast, when a doctor applies some treatment to himself (Phys. 192b23-26), it is his treatment in these two distinct ways corresponding to distinct powers. I propose to treat this analysis as a paradigm of Aristotle’s thinking about powers and their exercises or manifestations in general (including the key issues of polygeny, mutual manifestation or powers’ working together, “the problem of fit”, power directedness towards manifestations, etc.) On such an account one and the same process may be an exercise of various powers according to its various aspects, and in case of various powers we have various senses in which it is an exercise of a given power – various relationships between a power and its exercise. After a presentation of this general framework I would like to sketch its prospects in one area of metaphysics of powers: in thinking about various forms of activity, activation, triggering and readiness of powers. The key point is that there are various kinds of activity and passivity of powers corresponding to various sorts of relationship between a power and its exercise; I am going to present some of them.

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