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Headword: Δύναμις
Adler number: delta,1573
Translated headword: capability, capacity, ability, potentiality, power
Vetting Status: high
Suppose someone should represent the ability of one of the persons to be avoided, as if in defining a thief or a sophist or a slanderer he would say that the slanderer is someone able to slander and to make friends into enemies,[1] and that the thief is able to secretly make off with others’ property, and that the sophist is able to profit by his apparent wisdom. No one, you see, is this sort of person by being able to be such but rather by choosing such behavior, for the good have the ability to do evil but do not do it because they choose not to. Capability is an effective good chosen for the sake of something else. In potentiality, or in actuality, or in full reality.[2] Instead of 'body' Aristotle uses 'potentiality', and instead of incorporeal he uses 'full reality' [entelechy] when deciding on a definition concerning soul.[3] And some of the bodies are potentially in a state of becoming and of dissolution both respecting their being and their quality and their quantity and their transference from place to place.[4] Now we are potentially humans in the sperm and in the menstrual flow, and as children we potentially have the size of a man; likewise concerning quality we are potentially cold when we are warm and we potentially move when we are sitting. The heavenly bodies have potentiality only in their local movement.[5] When the sun rises it is potentially in the mid-sky, and in mid-sky it is potentially setting. And as regards its other movement and that of the other heavenly bodies, it is possible to view their potentiality. Potentialities are prior in time to actualities, but in definition they are secondary, for the actualities are prior to the potentialities in instruction and clearer to us respecting knowledge in their completeness.[6] For actuality is the completeness of what is potentially. For the potentiality (exists) for the sake of this (actuality), but the thing for which something exists has priority over that which exists for the sake of something. And the goal of everything is later in time, but in definition it is prior, for when we set the goal in definition, we thus seek and prepare what makes for it.
5 geometric powers. The Pisidian[7] [says]: "contracting the five dynameis of Archimedes into one whole, for moving with difficulty the burdens from the stubborn wagon."[8]
Philo said that two potentialities meet in every soul, a salvific and a destructive. This man did not sense even a dream of the salvific, but, being wholly helpless, subsisted out of the destructive.[9]
Greek Original:
Δύναμις: εἴ τις τῶν φευκτῶν τινος τὴν δύναμιν ἀποδοίη: οἷον ἄν τις τὸν κλέπτην ἢ σοφιστὴν ἢ διάβολον ὁριζόμενος λέγῃ τὸν μὲν διάβολον τὸν δυνάμενον βάλλειν καὶ ἐχθροὺς ποιεῖν τοὺς φίλους, τὸν δὲ κλέπτην τὸν δυνάμενον λάθρᾳ τὰ ἀλλότρια ἀφαιρεῖσθαι, τὸν δὲ σοφιστὴν τὸν δυνάμενον ἀπὸ φαινομένης σοφίας χρηματίζεσθαι. οὐδεὶς γὰρ τούτων τοιοῦτός ἐστι τῷ δύνασθαι, ἀλλὰ τῷ προαιρεῖσθαι τοιαῦτα. δύναμιν μὲν γὰρ καὶ οἱ ἀγαθοὶ ἔχουσι τοῦ τὰ φαῦλα δρᾶν, ἀλλ' οὐ δρῶσιν αὐτὰ τῷ μὴ προαιρεῖσθαι. ἔστι δὲ δύναμις ὀργανικὸν ἀγαθὸν δι' ἄλλο αἱρετόν. δυνάμει, ἢ ἐνεργείᾳ ἢ ἐντελεχείᾳ. ἀντὶ μὲν τοῦ σώματος ἐχρήσατο Ἀριστοτέλης τῇ δυνάμει, ἀντὶ δὲ τοῦ ἀσωμάτου τῷ ἐντελεχείᾳ, περὶ ψυχῆς τὸν λόγον διαιρῶν. καὶ γὰρ τῶν σωμάτων τὰ μὲν ἐν γενέσει καὶ φθορᾷ δυνάμει ἐστὶ καὶ κατ' οὐσίαν καὶ κατὰ ποιότητα καὶ ποσότητα καὶ τὴν ἐκ τόπου εἰς τόπον μεταβολήν. δυνάμει γάρ ἐσμεν ἄνθρωποι ἐν τῷ σπέρματι καὶ ἐν τῷ καταμηνίῳ, καὶ δυνάμει παῖδες ὄντες ἔχομεν τὸ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς μέγεθος: ὁμοίως καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ ποιοῦ, δυνάμει ψυχροὶ θερμοὶ ὄντες καὶ δυνάμει κινούμεθα καθήμενοι. τὰ δὲ οὐράνια ἐν τῇ κατὰ τόπον μεταβολῇ μόνον ἔχουσι τὸ δυνάμει: ἀνατέλλων γὰρ ὁ ἥλιος δυνάμει μεσουρανεῖ, καὶ μεσουρανῶν δυνάμει δύνει. καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς ἄλλης αὐτοῦ κινήσεως καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἀστέρων ἐν τῇ κατὰ τόπον μεταβολῇ τὸ δυνάμει ἐστὶ θεωρεῖν. ὅτι αἱ δυνάμεις τῷ χρόνῳ μὲν τῶν ἐνεργειῶν πρότεραι, τῷ λόγῳ δὲ δεύτεραι: πρότεραι μὲν γὰρ τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ καὶ σαφέστεραι ἡμῖν εἰσιν εἰς γνῶσιν αἱ ἐνέργειαι τῶν δυνάμεων τῇ τελειότητι: τελειότης γὰρ τοῦ δυνάμει ἡ ἐνέργεια: ταύτης γὰρ ἕνεκα ἡ δύναμις, τὸ δὲ οὗ ἕνεκα πρότερον τοῦ οὗ ἕνεκά του. καὶ παντὸς δὲ τὸ μὲν τέλος τῷ χρόνῳ ὕστερον, τῷ δὲ λόγῳ πρότερον: προτιθέμενοι γὰρ τῷ λόγῳ τὸ τέλος, οὕτω τὰ πρὸς αὐτὸ ζητοῦμεν καὶ παρασκευαζόμεθα. δυνάμεις γεωμετρικαὶ ε#: Πισίδης: τὰς πέντε δυνάμεις Ἀρχιμήδους εἰς μίαν συνάψας ὅλην, εἰς τὸ κινῆσαι μόλις τῶν δυστραχήλων ἐξ ὀχῶν τὰ φορτία. ὅτι Φίλων ἔφη δύο δυνάμεις εἰς πᾶσαν ψυχὴν συνέρχεσθαι, σωτήριόν τε καὶ φθοροποιόν. οὐδ' ὄναρ οὗτος τῆς σωτηρίου ἐπῄσθετο, ἀλλ' ὅλος ἄκρατος ἐκ τῆς φθοροποιοῦ ὑπέστη.
The principal part of this entry derives from two of the ancient commentators on Aristotle. In sequence: Alexander of Aphrodisias, On the Topica 348.24-32, 349.18-19; John Philoponus, On the de anima 34.6-19, 265.12-20.
[1] Copied to delta 508, where the present entry's βάλλειν 'to throw" is correctly διαβάλλειν "to slander". Etymologically the Devil -- upper-case Diabolos -- is in Christian discourse "the Slanderer".
[2] An Aristotelian trinity: δύναμις, ἐνέργεια, ἐντελέχεια . See Metaphysics 1017a35-1017b8; Physics 255a33-255b12.
[3] Aristotle offers three definitions of soul in his De anima: (a) the form of a natural body that has life potentially; (b) the first actuality of a natural body that has life potentially (412a27-28); (c) the first actuality of a natural body that has organs (412b5-6). In sum the soul is understood as a form, i.e. the form of the body (414a14-19).
[4] These are the sorts of "movements" or changes distinguished by Aristotle: (a) according to substance (generation-destruction), (b) according to quality (alteration), (c) according to quantity (growth-diminution), and (d) according to the place (see Categories 15a13-15; Physics 200b33-34; see also kappa 1640).
[5] "Local movement", meaning their delimited, defined and predicable orbits. From antiquity through the Middle Ages and on to Galileo, everyone believed that the heavenly bodies could never vary. Comets and meteorites were regarded as atmospheric phenomena.
[6] cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1028a31-b7, with the illuminating commentary by Alexander of Aphrodisias on Aristotle’s logical priority: "but substance (οὐσία ) is not only prior in time but also in definition (λόγῳ ), such as has been said before. For if things that are apprehended in the definition (ὁρισμός ) of something are prior to what is defined with regard to its definition, and if nose is apprehended with the definition (λόγος ) of snub, and blood with the definition of rage, it is clear that the substance is also prior to its accidental determinations (συμβεβηκότα ) in its definition. And this is so not only in the case of snub and blood, but, as [Aristotle] himself will say later, in defining both 'white' and the rest of [the accidental determinations], since we do not explain properly or accurately their definitions, we do not apprehend the substance [of these things] in their definitions. Since if one had accuracy, one might capture [the substance] in the definition of such things' (Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics 461.11-19). See also Physics 184a16-18. The Aristotelian implicit distinction in the Suda passage is that of 'what is clearer and more knowable to us' (i.e. what is prior in time) and 'what is more knowable and clear by nature' (i.e. what is prior in definition or by nature, nature meaning 'form').
[7] George of Pisidia, Byzantine poet (fl.610-664), deacon of St. Sophia in Constantinople, chartophylax (i.e. imperial archivist), and historian of the wars of the emperor Heraclius. See Bréhier (below) 373; Nicol (below) 43 and 48-49; CMH 2.288 ad 298-99. Perhaps Archimedes' 'five geometric powers' are related to the five regular solid geometric figures, on which see theta 93.
[8] The passage, which with a transposition of two words becomes iambic verse, probably refers to the siegecraft of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius in his war against the Persian king Chosroes (628 CE). The text and the interpretation are both in doubt. See Bekker (below) col. 1742 note to ll. 74-76. For Heraclius see also web address 1 below.
[9] An anti-Semitic dig at the great first-century-CE Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (phi 448).
Immanuel Bekker, ed., Georgii Pisidae, Expeditio persica, Bellum avaricum, Heraclias, Corpus scriptorum historiae byzantinae 38. Berlin, 1836, not available to me, but incorporated entirely in PG 92.
Louis Bréhier, La civilisation byzantine. Paris, n.d.
Donald Nicol, A Biographical Dictionary of the Byzantine Empire. London, 1991.
Associated internet address:
Web address 1
Keywords: biography; children; Christianity; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; dreams; economics; ethics; history; medicine; military affairs; philosophy; poetry; religion; science and technology
Translated by: Oliver Phillips ✝ on 11 February 2002@15:33:19.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (added cross-reference) on 12 February 2002@00:55:50.
Catharine Roth (added a note on geometry -- other suggestions are welcome) on 21 February 2002@16:39:21.
Catharine Roth (added cross-reference) on 15 March 2002@13:29:31.
Catharine Roth on 5 September 2002@11:21:32.
Marcelo Boeri (Augmented notes, added notes, translated an untranslated sentence.) on 4 October 2002@17:41:53.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 5 October 2002@08:47:55.
Marcelo Boeri (Corrected the Greek in one note.) on 28 June 2003@18:01:07.
Catharine Roth (added keyword) on 1 October 2005@16:31:02.
David Whitehead (more keywords) on 28 November 2005@08:32:51.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 30 November 2005@09:33:01.
Raphael Finkel (Fixed spelling.) on 5 June 2008@12:26:32.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 5 June 2008@15:45:47.
David Whitehead (tweaks to tr; added primary note and tweaked others; more keywords) on 19 July 2012@04:15:43.
Catharine Roth (tweaked note, deleted a link) on 25 August 2013@21:00:22.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 1 February 2015@23:03:25.
David Whitehead on 16 November 2015@05:03:01.
Catharine Roth (tweaks and cosmetics) on 1 October 2016@01:46:06.


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